Summer is the perfect season to spend some quality time with your equine friends at horse camp! There are plenty of activities to keep your campers busy and improve their horsemanship skills. Here are 29 fun horse camp activities, designed for a variety of ages and skill levels.
Red Light, Green Light
This popular playground game works on horseback too! One person (the leader) calls out the directions and acts as a judge. Riders must move around the arena at the command of “green light,” and stop when the leader calls for a “red light.”
If your arena is large, you can play the traditional way: riders line up at one end with the leader at the other. The first rider to reach the leader wins! If your horse is still moving after “red light” is called, you must return to the starting line.
If your arena is small and horses must travel in a circle, the last rider to halt during a round will be eliminated from the game. Continue until all but a winner is eliminated.
Notes and variations: Any rider caught yanking on their horse’s mouth should be penalized. Riders should use only quiet halt cues. More advanced groups could use different gaits; riders can practice transitions instead (walk to trot, canter to trot, halt to trot, etc).
Musical Ground Poles
This game is like musical chairs but on horseback. Begin by placing a number of ground poles randomly around the arena. There should be one pole for each horse to start.
Play some music (or sing, if you lack a good music system) – when the music stops, riders must position their horses over a ground pole.
Remove one pole from the arena with each round. Any horse caught without a pole is eliminated from the game.
Follow the Leader
Select one rider as the leader, and the rest of the campers must follow. Maneuvers could include gait changes, directional changes, diagonal changes, dropping stirrups, or anything else that’s suited to your campers’ abilities.
Egg and Spoon Race
In this game, two riders are armed with an egg balanced on a spoon. They must successfully carry the egg to the finish line. Variations include:
- Relay: Riders must pass the egg and spoon to another team before continuing.
- Glass of water: Instead of an egg and spoon, riders carry a glass of water. The team with the fullest cup wins.
- Walk, trot, canter race: Try this game at different speeds for an extra challenge!
Riders who drop their eggs must halt, dismount, and retrieve a new one! The first team across the finish line wins.
Advanced Riding Ideas
Teach your campers a drill team pattern: this could include pinwheels, crisscrossing across the arena, interlocking circles, figure-eight maneuvers and more!
Riders could perform the finished pattern at the end of their camp time, to show their parents what they’ve practiced.
“Chase Me Charlie”
This game is usually played over a single jump. Riders attempt the jump in a single-file line, one at a time. After the last rider clears it, a helper raises the height of the obstacle.
If a horse knocks the jump down, they are eliminated. The last rider left is the winner!
Depending on your setup, this game could be played “camas prairie stump” style (with 3 barrels for each rider to attempt simultaneously). Or, riders can navigate around a single barrel and race to the finish line. Limit speed to walk or trot, if necessary.
You could also use cones or other objects if you’re short on barrels. For another variation, try a “keyhole” race instead.
Remember to check out my article: Beginners Guide to Barrel Racing for tips and patterns.
This game is a classic! There are many different variations, depending on supplies and rider skill levels. The sky is the limit when it comes to your imagination.
Lead a Horse Through an Obstacle Course
Set up various obstacles based on the participants’ skill levels: navigating opening/closing a gate, backing up between poles, weaving around cones, performing tight circles, retrieving objects, etc.
Mounted Obstacle Course
You can make your obstacles as easy or as difficult as you want, and tailor your obstacles to your campers’ abilities. Use jumps, ground poles, barrels, cones, pool noodles, gates, or anything else you have handy around the barn!
Ride a Pattern
Select a riding pattern for your campers to execute. Depending on your discipline, this could include circles, gait transitions, diagonal changes, jumps, flying lead changes, or advanced dressage or reining moves!
For a fun twist, have your barrel racers try a saddle seat equitation pattern, or give your jumpers a reining pattern.
If your group includes many beginner riders, or you’re short on willing horse participants, these are some activities on the ground that you can do with one quiet pony.
Campers can practice bathing, grooming, braiding, and tacking up as though preparing for a show. Have them take turns exhibiting their mounts in-hand for a judge.
Campers can fashion a costume for themselves and their horses. Provide props or other materials and let the creativity flow!
Paint a Pony
Use animal-safe paints (diluted bingo stampers or drink mixes are popular choices) and let your campers go wild. This works the best on light-colored horses, and make sure you don’t have a show coming up – just in case the paint lasts longer than you were anticipating.
Around the World
This is technically a mounted game, but the horse isn’t in motion. Riders begin in a normal riding position astride their mounts. They then attempt to rotate their bodies 360 degrees in the saddle until they return to the starting position.
Make sure to have someone holding the horse and provide a spotter for the rider, just in case!
Bob for Apples
Fill two kiddie pools with water, and toss in a few apples. Have your campers race against a hungry pony!
No horses? No problem.
There are many different craft ideas for a rainy camp day or if you’re short on horses.
- Decorate horseshoes: Ask your local farrier if they have any extra shoes for your campers to decorate.
- Tie-dye or painting t-shirts: Have campers bring a shirt from home, or pick some up in bulk. Use paint, tie-dye, or fabric markers to decorate.
- Stall signs: You can find wooden plaques at any craft store, or use extra wood you may have laying around the barn. You can also use cereal boxes in a pinch. Check out my tutorial for DIY Hand Painted Stall Signs.
- Picture frames: All you need is glue, popsicle sticks, cereal boxes, or twigs from the woods! The possibilities are endless.
- Christmas ornaments: It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas! Supply some horse figurines for your campers to paint, add some string and voila!
- Horse masks: Use a paper plate and cut a basic horse-shaped template. Add string and let your campers decorate with markers or paint.
Topics can include horse care, riding terms, tack information, or anything else you can think of. Write down a series of questions on flashcards and have your campers “buzz in” with the answers by raising their hands.
For a fun twist, you can make a “Jeopardy” style game with poster board, and cover the topics with post-its. Have prizes ready for the winners!
What is this?
Have campers grab unfamiliar objects from the tack room – and then guess its purpose. Those who guess correctly win a prize.
What doesn’t belong?
Campers hide objects in a stall or paddock. The goal is to find objects that don’t belong, or that could cause injury to their horses. Just make sure to retrieve all objects at the end of the game!
Have your campers bring a binder to decorate. Each day, have a lesson prepared with topics such as veterinary care, bathing techniques, nutrition, training ideas, or general horse breed information. By the end of the week, campers will have a full binder of helpful horse information!
There are many different games you can play with a blindfold and objects around the barn.
- Assemble/disassemble a saddle or bridle
- Identify different pieces of tack
- Identify grooming tools
- Scent or taste test: Use apples, carrots, molasses, sugar cubes, etc.
Note: You can also play blindfolded games with horse participants (tacking up, untacking, identifying equine body parts), but use discretion and good judgment. Safety is most important!
Have fun, but be safe!
Any of these activities can be adapted for the skill levels of your horses and campers. Mounted games can easily be done on foot or with hobby horses. Remember to use good horse sense, make sure that your campers are wearing their helmets, and have fun!