As your horsemanship skills improve, it will benefit you and your horse to find ways of putting things into practice by playing with more obstacles and challenges. Below are some ideas photographed at various fun days and tournaments.
Before trying the advanced versions such as at liberty or bareback/bridle-less, try them online and with headgear/saddle on first. Remember to approach things casually, and break the task down into smaller, achievable steps so your horse isn’t over-faced.
TEAM TASKS – these tasks are a good way for all levels to interact together while riding their horses.
1. CARROT STICK CATCHING – ride with saddles and 1 rein.
Have more riders than carrot sticks and toss the carrot stick to each other like its hot. Do this at the walk then try trotting. Don’t hold onto the carrot stick for more than 10 seconds. Its handy to have someone on foot to pick up dropped carrot sticks.
This game helps the horse become calmer and the rider to develop an independant seat and focus.
2. LA BAMBA SQUEEZE – ride bareback or with saddles and 2 reins.
Place 2 44′ gallon drums 22′ apart and have 2 people stand on the drums, holding the 22′ rope up high. Riders have to squeeze under the rope as it gradually gets lower. Riders are out when they touch the rope. See who can go the lowest! (Usually the smallest pony!)
Develops rider focus and flexibility and is a good emotional squeeze game for the horse.
3. BULLFIGHTER GAME – ride with bareback or saddles and 1 rein.
Have people on foot with carrot sticks pretend to be bulls. They can only charge (slowly) at zones 2 and 4 with the riders using either an indirect or direct rein to avoid being ‘horned’ by the bull.
Great for controlled catastrophe and mental, emotional and physical fitness.
4. HANDSHAKES – ride with saddle and 2 reins.
Ride straight towards someone and as you meet, shake hands while turning a full circle then ride onto the next person. Develops an independant seat, mental, emotional & physical fitness.
5. FIGURE 8 – ALTERNATE CROSSOVER – ride with saddle & 2 reins.
Evenly space riders on a circle and walk then trot while staying evenly spaced. Then have a lead rider start the 2nd circle of a figure 8. Riders should crossover alternately as they walk then trot.
Develops focus, Don’t change gait and look where you are going.
6. HORSE SHOE CANTER WITH LEAD CHANGES – ride with saddle & 2 reins.
Form 2 even groups of riders with one group at each end of a horse shoe. One rider at a time canters around in a horse shoe shape towards the other group, bends to a trot then canters back to their group on the correct lead. Riders from each group take turns. Try this at the trot first.
Develops focus, independent seat and drop to trot changes.
7. PASSENGER RIDING – Bareback or with saddle and 1 rein or no reins and carrot stick.
In an enclosed area, practice being a passenger. Ride at all paces, practice transitions of gait without touching the reins unless you need to avoid a problem situation. Let the horse go wherever he wants but keep moving at the pace you want.
Develops Don’t change gait, look where you are going (horse), independent seat.
8. CARROT STICK POLO – ride with saddle & 1 or 2 reins + carrot stick. Large ball required.
Starting slowly, everyone to take turns at hitting the ball with the handle of the carrot stick.
Once mastered this can be developed into a game of 2 teams with goals and a goal scoring area marked out. Develops focus, independent seat, mental, emotional & physical fitness.
9. HORSEMAN’S STRING CONNECTION – ride bareback or with saddle and 2 reins.
Riders form pairs, connected by holding (easier) or sitting on a horseman’s string while negotiating a course at various paces. Develops focus.
10. CLOVER LEAF WITH SENTRY – ride bareback or with saddle & 2 reins.
One rider at a time is to stand in the centre while all the others ride around in a cloverleaf pattern. The ‘Sentry’ (standing rider) must keep horse still and relaxed while others ride close by. Swap riders after 2 – 3 minutes so everyone takes a turn at being the sentry.
Develops emotional fitness for the horse and don’t change gait or direction + focus for the rider.