Off Horse Activities: Fine Motor Skills

Motor skills are the movements and actions of muscles. Typically, motor skills are divided into gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills require the use of large muscle groups to do things like walk or balance. Fine motor skills require the use of smaller muscles to do things like write or zip a jacket. Therapeutic riding can help develop both types of motor skills, but today I’m going to focus on developing fine motor skills off the horse.

People need fine motor skills to complete every day tasks like getting dressed, holding a pen, grasping small items, and much more. Creating fun activities that emphasize the use of fine motor skills can help develop those skills in our riders making them more comfortable in society, and better horseback riders. The benefit of doing these activities at a therapeutic riding center is the horse! Making the activities horse-related can help keep the rider engaged.

Here’s a few examples of off-horse activities that can help develop fine motor skills.

  1. Drawing & Coloring
    1. Print out pictures of horses and have riders color in their horse. Better yet, have riders draw a picture of their horse. This helps riders learn how to correctly hold a writing utensil and look at what they are doing to color or draw on the paper. It engages the necessary hand-eye coordination for fine motor skill development and the rider has a reward at the end of the lesson! Riders can either take their pictures home to parents, or hang it on their horse’s stall.
  2. Horse Feed Separation
    1. You will need an ice cube tray and small bowls for this activity. Pour different types of horse feed (or it can be all the same) into the ice cube tray compartments. Ask riders to separate the feed into the bowls by taking one piece out at a time. The rider can either use tweezers or fingers. The goal is to get the rider to remove one piece at a time, instead of a whole handful. This works best with bigger feed pieces so using grain, pellets, or corn works better than oats. This can also be done with beads, mini cotton balls, gems, or any other small art supplies you have.
  3. Puzzles
    1. Puzzles are great for hand-eye coordination! Having various types and difficult of puzzles can be useful for fine motor skills and also for calming a rambunctious rider. Puzzles require a high level of focus and engage the mind and body – which is why they are great for motor skill development. Horse-related or barnyard puzzles keep the equine connection.
  4. Clothespin Game
    1. This is another game that is demanding on the fine motor skills. You will need clothespins and some sort of line (rope, twine, yarn, thin wood, etc.). If the clothespins are different colors, ask riders to take the clothespins off the line and put them in color-coordinated buckets. If clothespins are the same color, you can number them, paint them, or find some other way to differentiate them. Differentiating clothespins means the rider needs to listen to and follow the instructions of the game, rather than taking any clothespin off at any time. This can also be done the other way around, where the rider needs to put clothespins on the line.

These activities can be repeated as often as the rider needs to keep developing fine motor skills. Spending a full lesson on coloring or puzzles is not a bad thing! It can even be done week after week.

What other activities do you use for developing fine motor skills? Let me know in the comments below!

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