Copper Boy_Sean gets mail 520If I had a dollar for every time one of our students was surprised that the lesson was over, our horses would never be out of carrots!

Especially with the therapeutic riders, I try to keep the same rhythm or structure for every lesson: groom, lead, warm-up, lesson, game and cool-down.

Now, admittedly, there are very few times that I’ve had an over-heated horse at the end of a class, but, the cool-down is as important as the warm-up for both the horses and the riders.

It gives them both a time to relax and get ready to complete the class. Most of the time we end the class with a game. It could be a ring-toss, bean-bag throw, scavenger hunt, or just a stop/start game like red-light, green-light.

Why games?

When I took lessons, our cool-down was just walking the horse. In circles, or down the path after cantering around the field. Five or ten minutes of slowing down and, if we were really running the horses, cooling them off. Boring!

Games, to me, is when everything comes together. It gives the rider a chance to relax after learning and practicing a new skill. Gives the horse time to regroup before the next riders come in. But, more importantly, it distracts the rider from the task of riding.

This is not counter-productive. This is often when everything comes together for the rider.

The game is now the focus, not the horse, not the skill. Even if the game practices the new skill, it is still not the same as the “lesson” itself.

Horse-rider skills

So one week I notice that the riders are having a hard time stopping their horses. Another time, the riders need to work on keeping their horses going straight. It’s game time! Nothing like ending with red-light/green light to get the riders to focus on stopping their horse. And yes, there is a three-step backward penalty if you can’t stop your horse! Funny thing, every rider can stop their horse within two steps of the call. A relay-type game of taking an object to the other end of the arena and returning is great for practicing keeping the horse on a straight line. The focus is on the target, not the skill.

Rider self-improvement

The riders improve their hand-eye coordination with a ring or bean bag toss game. Not to mention motor skills when they pick up an object and move it to another part of the arena. One of the attributes we look for in a rider is fluidity. Can the rider move one part of the body without moving the rest of the body, or move the body in a manner that would cause the rider to loose balance? We teach this with games where they have to grab something like a flag without stopping the horse and placing it in the target area.

So, in a sense, it’s all fun and games, and the lesson is over quickly. And the rider is gaining skills without even realizing the learning that is happening!

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

Advertisements

Friday was our first activity of the Golden Pony Club. What a great experience this was for those who participated. The theme was games – so we played Egg and Spoon, Flag and Sand, and Keyhole.

Egg and spoon game

Playing egg and spoon game

The evening was complicated by having the riders select a horse card to determine which horse she would ride. Oh, my! I’m not riding the horse I ride for lessons? Was the cry. No, you will choose a horse for each game and you cannot ride the same horse twice tonight. The gasps were quite audible. What if I get a horse I never rode before? Well, it happened and they got those horses.

Funny thing, the riders were so focused on the game that the horse was immaterial! Poppie, our most challenging lesson horse was ridden by the smallest riders. I’m not sure if they ever rode Poppie before, but Friday night, they did and they did a good job. Some of them even said they’d ride Poppie for a lesson!

One of our most advanced riders decided that she was not cut out for Gymkhana since she dq’d at least once in each game!

They rode for over two hours, but when I said game night was over, the girls were surprised that it ended so soon. I think every girl wanted to know if we could do this next Friday. Nothing like a good evening playing with horses!

Flag and Sand Game

Putting the flag in the holder

Keyhole Game

Turning Poppie in the keyhole

More pictures

 


The Renaissance Festival is in full swing here, so some of the kids are asking if they can joust with their horse. Of course, they are thinking horse-to-horse combat. Not here, but, what about spearing a ring with your lance? Surely that could be fun too!
Dustin_Lu-Rain Jousting_crThe first thing I need is some willing but unsuspecting parents. The kids love this part. Each parent is given a ring – the large ones that are used as diving rings in pools. Then each rider is given a lance – none other than a familiar pool noodle! Each rider is then challenged to walk their horse toward their parent and spear the ring without stopping their horse.

Paul lances the ring cr
The kids have a ball doing this while the parents remind them to aim for the ring not them!