Puzzle Game

What You Need:
Puzzle Board
Puzzle Pieces
*can make or buy

Puzzles are a great activity for fine motor skill development and cognitive development. Puzzles require matching, memorization, and manipulation of fingers and hands. Oftentimes, we play with puzzles off the horse but here’s a way to play on horseback!

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Trick Or Treat

What You Need:
Buckets
Small objects (toys, horse treats, etc.)

Here’s a fun seasonal game to play with clients on horseback! This is also a great way to use extra volunteers. It requires a little bit of setup but clients of all ages and riding ability will love this game.

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The Saddle Game

What You Need:
English saddle
Western saddle
Pictures of saddles
Toy saddles

This game can really be played with any piece of tack, but saddles are easy to start with. This game teaches riders horsemanship skills and jargon (tacking is an important part of riding and ‘saddle’ is a word used in the equestrian field).

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Distance Games

What You Need:
Small cones
Poles
Large cones or barrels

With the state of the world, I wanted to come up with a couple ideas to incorporate “social distancing” into our riding lessons. I am offering a few lighthearted ideas here, but feel free to take these on and make them your own. Adjust to each rider’s skill level as needed.

  1. Six Feet Apart: Here is a good way to socially distance volunteers if riders are balanced enough to not need hands-on contact. Ask sidewalkers to stand around the arena and have riders ride toward the volunteer and stop six feet away. At that distance, have riders complete a task, like throwing/catching a ball or do a scavenger hunt -style ride and volunteers give out clues to the next location. It will be helpful to have a marker for six feet – a pole or cone should be enough.
  2. Lava/Alligator Water: Another fun game to talk about distance. Set up barrels and tell riders they cannot ride off the set path because there is lava! Provide a clear path, six feet wide, that the rider needs to stay on to get to the barrel safely. Lining a path with poles or cones provide a good visual marker. Make the path as straight or curvy as your riders can handle.
  3. Pole work: One of my favorite activities to add in lessons are poles and cavaletti. I have done entire sessions (multiple weeks of lessons) on pole work. Set up poles that range from 3-12 feet apart (base this on your horse’s stride) and discuss the spacing of poles in relation to the spacing of people. Ask clients to think about “horse lengths” when out in public.
  4. Dress Up: Have riders pick up different objects around the arena to “dress” their horse. Clothespins with ribbons, hats with long straps, boas, or whatever else you have on hand. Make it fun and have objects for the rider too, including face masks, bandanas, or neck scarfs.

These are all small ideas to make the “new normal” feel a little more accessible. If you want therapeutic riding and your programs to be an escape from these norms then continue with your regular lessons! If you want to help clients adjust to the current times, these are some fun ideas to make it seem less scary. As always, these are just my thoughts and opinions so please use your best judgment in your own situation.

How have lessons changed for you with COVID-19? Let me know in the comments below!

Patterns: Circles

A quick note before I dive in to today’s blog. I try to write and schedule my blog posts ahead of time as much as possible. I have a baby, a busy job, and a busy life so I write and schedule whenever I can. I wrote the next few weeks of lesson plans before the COVID-19 pandemic happened so you will not see any references to it in these posts. For my thoughts on the pandemic and how the therapeutic riding industry is stepping up, see my post here.

Back to our regular programming… The next few weeks will focus on patterns. We use a lot of pattern work at our center because it is easily adaptable to any client and it is the basis of all horseback riding. I rode dressage for years so I love pattern work! One of my favorite patterns is the basic circle.

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