There are many ways to have fun on horseback with your students or campers. Here are 17 entertaining mounted games that will keep students occupied during lessons, horse camp, or just a rainy day in the indoor!
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A quick note about safety.
Safety is paramount when it comes to equestrian activities. You know your students’ skill levels best. Most of these games can be adapted to suit the needs of your students or horses. Have fun, but be safe!
Also, most of these games are suitable for beginners, but there are plenty of modifications you could add to challenge advanced students. Use your discretion and adapt the game according to your needs.
Make sure that your horses are having fun as well – watch out for anyone yanking on their horse’s mouth, or kicking too hard. Nobody wants a sour pony at horse camp!
Red Light, Green Light
This is one of my favorite mounted games. It’s quick, easy, requires no set-up, and can be played on its own or at the end of a lesson.
One person calls for a “green light” and riders move around the arena (or from end to the other). When “red light” is called, all riders must stop. The last person to halt is out (or, the first person to reach the other end of the arena wins).
Follow the Leader
One rider is chosen as the leader. The others must follow them around the arena and copy the leader’s movements: gait changes, dropping stirrups, diagonal changes, arm movements, etc. You could also add various obstacles, such as jumps or ground poles.
This game is handy if you have trouble getting your students to listen. Designate someone to call commands. The last rider to properly obey a command is eliminated!
Riding a Pattern
This game requires some creativity, but it is suitable for all skill levels and disciplines. Select a flat arena exercise pattern for your students.
This could be anything from a simple figure eight around the arena, to a full dressage test or reining pattern. Add in maneuvers such as diagonal changes, gait changes, or anything else you can think of that would be suitable for your students.
Egg and Spoon Race
This popular game only requires a hefty supply of eggs and a few spoons. Advanced riders could try this game at a trot or canter.
There are a few common variations:
- Egg relay. Riders pass the egg to one another without dropping it. The first team to cross the finish line wins.
- Egg race. Each rider carries an egg on a spoon as they race towards the finish line. Anyone who drops their egg has to turn around and begin the race again.
- Other variants. If a spoon would be too tricky for your riders, you could use a basket or bucket. You could also substitute a glass of water – the rider with the fullest glass at the end wins!
Place a dollar bill between your student’s leg and the saddle. They must hold it there while they complete a lesson, pattern, jumping course, or similar riding test. The rider who holds on to their dollar bill the longest gets to keep them all!
You can also play this game with slips of paper if you’re short on cash – or bareback if you want a real challenge!
There are plenty of variations of different racing games that you can play, depending on the skill levels of your students.
- Classic horse race. Match two riders, and race from one end of the arena to the other. This can be done at any gait – and horses that break their gaits must return to the beginning!
- Gait race. Riders must perform laps around the arena at the desired gait, as fast as possible: one lap at a walk, one lap at a trot, and one at a canter. The rider with the fastest time wins, but horses who break from the desired gait must perform a small circle and try again.
- Relay race. Have riders pass a baton or other object to each other in a relay race. Design the course any way you like – you could even do it out on a trail!
- Slow race. This race can also be performed at any gait – the slowest horse to cross the finish line wins. No halting or breaking gait!
Agility Aces or “Stepping Stones”
Set up a row of stepping stones using buckets, mats, towels, or anything else handy that can be safely stepped on. Riders begin at a starting line, race towards the stones and dismount once they reach them. Then, they lead their mounts as they cross the line of “stones”, and re-mount once they’ve finished. You can play this game as a relay, time your riders individually, or set up several stations of stepping stones and race simultaneously.
The object of this game is simple – drop the item in the bucket. Riders begin at the starting line and race towards a bucket while holding an item. This could be a flag, bottle, ball, etc. They drop the item into the bucket and race back towards the starting line.
Set up two small tables a decent distance apart (you can also use tall mounting blocks, an oxer, or other taller flat surface). Place a sturdy reusable bottle on top of one of the tables. Riders reach down and grab it from one table and set it down on the other.
If it falls, riders must dismount and try again. A variation of this game can be played using a tennis ball on top of a cone, a large cup of water, or a small pumpkin.
This game is traditionally played with bending poles, but you can just use cones. Set up a row of cones, and riders should weave their horses between them at different speeds, depending on ability. You can set it up as a race, or part of an obstacle course.
Riders should execute a cloverleaf pattern around 3 barrels. If you don’t have barrels, you can use cones instead. The rider with the fastest time around the objects wins. You could also just use a single barrel, especially if your ponies aren’t barrel racers.
This popular gymkhana game can be set up with poles, cones, or lines drawn with flour. Create a keyhole shape at one end of the arena. Riders must race into the marked area on the ground, halt their horses inside, turn around, and race back – without stepping outside of the boundaries of the “keyhole”.
This game requires two horses. Two riders each hold on to one end of a long ribbon (or toilet paper, if you need an extra challenge). The team that makes it across the finish line while still holding on to both ends of their ribbon is the winner!
High Jump aka “Chase Me, Charlie”
Riders approach one standard jump, one at a time. After all the riders have either cleared it or been eliminated, raise the height incrementally. The last pair able to clear the jump wins!
Set up obstacles for your students and send them through the course. Make the course as hard or as easy as you want! Consider using jumps, gates, or ground poles. Ask students to perform maneuvers specific to your discipline and skill levels.
Fill the Pitcher
This one is great for a hot day if your horses (and riders!) don’t mind getting a little wet. Set up a bucket for each team at opposite ends of the arena. Riders carry a dry sponge or cup to the bucket of water, fill it, and then ride back. Then, they dismount and fill the empty bucket. The first team with a full bucket is the winner!
There’s no end to the different variations of these games that you could play – use your imagination! Remember, don’t allow your students to get caught up in the excitement and pull on their ponies’ mouths, or kick them too hard. Mounted games should be fun for both your campers and your horses. Have a blast!
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