Off Horse Activities: Gross Motor Skills

Last week we talked about developing fine motor skills through off horse activities. Today, we are going to discuss the other main motor skills: gross motor skills. Gross motor skills help us walk, throw, catch, and balance. These motor skills form the basis for fine motor skills so it is just as important to focus on gross motor skills as fine motor skills.

Luckily, the horse helps develop gross motor skills. The balance, posture, core strength and horse movement all positively impact gross motor skills. However, today is about developing those gross motor skills off the horse so let’s get to it!

As with the fine motor skill development, there are a ton of activities that help develop gross motor skills. Below are a few of my favorite suggestions, but you can adjust these however it works best for your situation.

  1. Labyrinth
    1. Not every center is lucky enough to have a labyrinth, but if you are, or if you can make one, I highly recommend it. Labyrinths are beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. We will focus on the physical benefits. The continuous spiral into the center forces the rider to focus on his feet and requires a mind-body connection to stay on the path. The ability to move through a pattern without tripping or falling off the path helps work on balance and walking or running. You can repeat the pattern with the rider as often as you’d like, making it easier by stopping or more difficult by running through it.
  2. Follow the Leader
    1. This is a “Simon Says-esque” game that can be combined with an obstacle course, scavenger hunt, or whatever else works for your center. The point of the game is to get the rider(s) to follow in a single line through any movement. It can be snaking through a pasture or walking and stopping through a barn. It can get more difficult if you add obstacles, like climbing over a fallen tree or crossing a bridge on a sensory trail. The more difficult the obstacles get, the more gross motor skills will be required.
  3. Ball Toss
    1. You can either do this by having riders toss the ball back and forth to you, to each other, or into a bucket. All you need is something to toss! Have riders stand in a circle or across from each other/the bucket and throw the ball. The partner needs to catch the ball and toss it back. If riders are throwing into a bucket, retrieve the item and toss it back to the rider. Again, this activity can be easily scaled by making the item heavier or lighter, standing further apart, or adjusting the speed.
  4. Sing & Dance
    1. This is particularly fun for young riders, but I’ve had adults enjoy it as well. Pick a song with movement to it, like The Hokey Pokey or I’m a Little Teapot. Have the riders stand in a circle (or stand across from you if it’s just one) and sing and dance along to the song. The movements often require balance, like turning to the side and sticking out an arm or bending your body to the side. This is an entertaining way to work on gross motor skills.

I hope these sparked some ideas for you! What other activities would help develop gross motor skills? Let me know in the comments below!

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