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Games Book: Ideas for Mounted and Unmounted Meetings
Copyright (C) 1992 Jessica Jahiel. All Rights Reserved.
Table of Contents
Teaching for Success 1
Adding to the Fun 3
General Notes 5
Mounted Sessions 6
Unmounted Sessions 24
At the Barn 25
Note: Each game or activity is listed on a separate page, so that you can use the remaining space for your own notes, variations, or reminders for the next time!
Teaching for Success
The basic idea of our instructional/educational program is that we should set kids up to succeed. We can do this very effectively just by teaching to the standards, but -- as we have already discussed -- a lot of our clubs need help in doing this.
At our last meeting, we identified problems at both ends and in the middle of the Pony Club system: at one end, we have As who are effectively quitting Pony Club when they get that A rating or turn 21. At the other end, we have children who are (a) not being encouraged to join Pony Club, (b) leaving before they get their first rating because they aren't having a good time, and (c) failing their D1 rating, which is simply unthinkable. It may be possible for us to legislate (c), but (a) and (b) can't be legislated, and will have to be solved. In the middle, we have kids who are quitting as C1s and C2s, as well as those who give up after failing their C3. I don't intend to discuss the C3 testing issue or the reliability of D1-C2 ratings; this isn't the place for that. But I do have the following to offer as a suggestion to help deal with the ends-of-the-spectrum attrition problems.
At the Top
Upper-level Pony Clubbers should be so involved with teaching younger PCers that they never really leave; Pony Club should be a lifetime commitment. As it is, it's beginning to remind me of the hunter ranks, where thousands of kids hang up their tack and their spurs, never to ride again, on the first day after their last Junior year. The solution to this, I think, is to ensure that their involvement with Pony Club go beyond their own ratings and their personal and team performance at rallies and other competitions. All Pony Clubbers must be involved in the teaching process, starting as Ds explaining things to other Ds, and increasing the scope and impact of their teaching as they move up through the ratings. We want the riders of today to be the teachers of tomorrow, but this will happen only if we begin as we mean to go on, and involve our Pony Clubbers in the teaching process from the very beginning.
At the Bottom
Young children should have so much fun, in a safe environment, that their education will progress without them even noticing it. Education needs to be a participative process, not something that we inflict on them. Even the youngest, unrated children should be active, although there are any number of activities which don't involve real horses and don't require to be held at a barn. Older Pony Clubbers can be absolutely invaluable teachers or teaching assistants for many mounted and unmounted activities. All too often, the older children are encouraged to think only in terms of regular uprating and competitive success. Those things are important, but Pony Club is first and foremost and educational organization. Altogether too many Pony Clubbers do almost no teaching at all. This is counterproductive, and it's also a waste of a badly needed resource. Especially when the riding instruction is provided, as it frequently is, by persons otherwise unconnected with Pony Club, using Pony Clubbers for teachers and teaching assistants is the only way to ensure that learning goes on outside the riding arena. For the sake of unrateds coming in, As going out, and everyone in between, we need to tap this under-used teaching resource.
Joining Pony Club should not depend on a child being a certain age or owning a certain sort of horse, or even owning a horse at all. Staying in Pony Club through the C3 should not depend on a child's ability to focus exclusively on competition. Some young children's ideas about horsemanship will be formed long before they own their own horses; many older children are alienated by a hardline competition orientation, either because they do not have a suitable horse, or because they are simply not terribly interested in competition.
Adding to the Fun
There is a "Having Fun in Pony Club" category in the Activities section of the DCs' manual. Many of the suggested activities require that all participants be mounted; many also assume the availability of woods, large fields, trails, ponds, etc. Many of our clubs have no access to any of these things: some have regular access to no more than an outdoor arena year-round, and possibly an indoor arena in the winter, with occasional special-treat trips to a farm with a hunt course. The following is an attempt to provide additional, more detailed suggestions, ideas, and blueprints for a large number of "fun" meetings, both mounted and unmounted, which will be appropriate for unrateds as well as for Ds and up. Many of these activities can be taught by one adult with the assistance of one or more Pony Clubbers rated C-1 or higher. Many of the indoor activities involve children teaching each other, with older Pony Clubbers on the spot to supervise, and to provide additional information, explanation, and guidance.
I hope that all of you will add a few lesson plans for mounted and unmounted meetings, and a few ideas for unmounted activities for younger children. Please suggest anything you have done, seen, heard about, thought of, or would like to see attempted. I am especially interested in what works, what doesn't, which of your unmounted meetings were wildly successful, and how you would improve the ones that were less than wonderful.
Please keep in mind that children need age-appropriate lessons.
Some age-related issues are:
- attention span
- energy level (sustainable)
- physical strength and coordination
- emotional security
- grasp of concepts
For the sake of consistency, it would help if you would allow one page per activity, and begin at the top of the page by listing the following:
Activity classification: is this a mounted or an unmounted activity? If it can be either, use two pages and describe each separately.
What equipment is needed?
How many adults and/or older PCers are needed?
Send suggestions to: Jessica Jahiel, 114 Paddock Drive East,Savoy, IL 61874
Reminders for anyone (instructors, older Pony Clubbers, parents, siblings, random relatives, generic helpers, old family retainers) involved in working with children of any age, rated or unrated:
1) Don't let any child put herself or another child or an adult or an animal in danger, either by an act of commission or by an act of omission. Have eyes in the back of your head; you will need them.
2) Always talk normally; never squeak or talk down to children.
3) Always have a snack on hand, and be sure that it gets eaten sometime during a break (if a mounted meeting) or halfway through an unmounted session. Food is very important. Plummeting blood sugar can make things go wrong when they shouldn't, and a timely snack -- even if it's just milk and Rice Krispie treats -- can turn an otherwise lackluster session around.
All of these games can be repeated and/or made more elaborate; many can go from extremely simple to very intricate, as the riders become able to deal with increasingly complex concepts and patterns.
Exercises on horseback:
These exercises are to be done by beginning riders at the halt (horses may be on the longe line, or they may be held for this), then at the walk (preferably on the longe).
stretching: sides, back, groin, thighs
shoulder shrugs (chest stretches)
Cones are wonderful all-purpose items. They can be set in an arena and used for pole-bending exercises. Beginners can practice steering by walking or trotting their horses around the cones in various patterns; riders working on balancing exercises can drop rings onto the cones as they go by.
Round the World race:
Riders ride up the arena to a designated spot, where others will HOLD their horses for them while they drop the reins and go "around the world". They then pick up their reins (and their stirrups if they need them) and gallop (trot, canter) back to the starting line. This is a nice game for small riders, but it does require a number of helpers to hold the horses.
A good game for small riders: each one walks or trots to a designated mail pick-up spot, takes a "letter", and trots to the "mailbox" to deliver it. Small riders who are just beginning to learn to steer may do this at a walk, and it can be as simple as picking up an envelope at "A" and walking it around the arena to drop it in a bucket at "C". As riders gain confidence in their steering and balancing abilities, the "route" can be made more complicated by having them take a particular path, go around obstacles, or go over poles.
This is a one-child-at-a-time exercise. One by one, each child will prepare for and perform an emergency dismount by first dropping her stirrups, then leaning forward, looking ahead, with her arms around her pony's neck; finally by sliding off, facing forward, and running with the pony for a few steps. It can be helpful to use two jump standards to mark the spots where riders should (1) drop their stirrups, and (2) dismount. This is first performed on a horse that is standing still, then at a walk, then at a trot, and finally at a canter*.
* there is one problem that I have never figured out how to solve: after a few practice sessions, the horses learn to go from walk, trot, or canter to a standstill as soon as the rider begins the dismount!
This requires the presence of an instructor with a competent (and patient) longe horse. Riders are longed one by one, and practice basic position and balance exercises. Riders past the beginner stage can do more complicated exercises, and some can be introduced to the ideas of pace control through use of weight and balance.
Use folding chairs for older children who will get off their ponies when the music stops and dash (leading their horses) to the chairs. Use a grid made of poles for younger children who will steer their ponies into the open end of the wide "stalls" when the music stops.
One rider is "it" and tries to touch any one of the others: this is especially good for riders who "can't make their horses trot" -- they usually figure out exactly how to make their horses trot as soon as they see "it" coming towards them.
Walk, Trot, Canter race:
Riders start from the far end of the arena and walk their horses to the other end, then turn and trot back to the far end, then turn and canter back to the finish line. Riders who trot when they should be walking or canter when they should be trotting must turn a circle and pick up the correct gait, or be disqualified. This provides good practice for riders: using their legs to make their horses walk out; using legs and body to make smooth tight turns.
Walk and Trot race:
This is a variation of the Walk, Trot, Canter race for riders who haven't yet got enough control to do this at a canter. Riders start from the far end of the arena and walk their horses to the other end, then turn and trot back to the far end, then turn and walk back to the finish line. Riders who trot when they should be walking must turn a circle and pick up the correct gait, or be disqualified. This provides good practice for riders: using their legs to make their horses walk out; using legs and body to make smooth tight turns.
Relay races (teams of 3):
Advanced riders may gallop around a field, handing off wooden batons to teammates.
Intermediate riders, or advanced riders in an arena, can modify this slightly: first rider walks, second rider trots, last rider (anchor) canters. This is good for planning, teamwork, and strategy.
Beginner riders can do the same thing, but at walk or trot. It provides the beginning riders with scope to think about teamwork: the pony to go last should be the one least likely to stand still after a fast trot ( the last rider won't have to hand off the baton).
Pony Express race:
All riders race (trot or canter) to one end of the arena or field, change horses, and race back to the starting point.
This can be set up in any field or arena, using hay bales or trash cans in place of barrels. Riders walk, trot, or canter through the cloverleaf pattern: this is good for practicing smooth, accurate turns. For advanced riders, it can be a timed event.
Riders perform in pairs, with each rider holding one end of a short rope. They walk, trot, and (if appropriate) canter together, the object being to get to the other end of the field or arena without either rider letting go the rope.
Groups of riders will be divided according to stride length, and will practice trotting over poles to a cross-rail, then cantering a series of cross-rails. It is useful to build a sort of jumping lane along one wall of an arena for this; those riders who are just beginning jumping will be able to concentrate on something other than steering, and more advanced riders can go through the gymnastic without reins, and eventually without their stirrups.
Handy Hunter race:
Each rider completes a set course alone; winner completes every task (clear round) and has best time (if timed event). Course might include several jumps (or groundpoles for beginners), something to pick up and drop off elsewhere, a gate to open and shut (possibly including dismounting, leading the pony through, and remounting): things a handy hunter should be able to do in the hunting field. For intermediate and advanced riders, this can be a timed event.
Hunter Pairs, Hunter Team:
Riders in pairs or groups of three follow an indicated course, in a field or an arena. They follow the leader while they practice keeping a consistent following distance. This can be made very complicated and interesting by introducing patterns to be ridden, adding jumps, having each rider pass the others and be passed in turn, and by having the riders exchange horses and repeat the game.
These are divided into two sections (At the Barn and Anywhere) according to whether they must take place somewhere with actual horses present, or whether they can take place in someone's living room. The Anywhere section is especially useful for smaller children and for those parts of the country in which winter weather makes it impossible to hold mounted meetings for several months out of the year.
At the Barn
Age and height:
The age part of this is much more complicated than the height. Children may spend this session guessing ages and inspecting teeth to check; guessing heights and using a measuring stick to check.
Parts of the Horse:
Instead of doing this at an unmounted meeting using drawings of horses, line up a few real horses at the barn and identify their body parts by using stick-on labels. It's much more interesting than just looking at a chart, and it makes the children mark the part itself and not just a vague spot in the general vicinity of the part. Hips, for instance, are a great mystery to a lot of Pony Clubbers who can find them on a chart but not on a real horse. This allows the children to relate 3-d bones, muscles, etc. to what would otherwise just be arbitrary designations. This is sometimes more fun if it's a timed event for teams: three sets of labels, three horses, three teams.
This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, and teaches children how to prepare for winter meetings, clinics, and ratings. It works especially well on turned-out winter ponies; even if they will be going back outside in two hours and you don't have any intention of clipping them, they can be cleaned up, trimmed, and generally made tidy and beautiful. If you run out of ideas for this, look at Grooming Your Horse (either edition) by Susan Harris. This is also a good time to practice picking a tail, pulling a mane (if it isn't too cold out), and braiding or banging a tail (but no pulling tails in winter: the horse needs the extra hair at the top of the tail for warmth).
Preparing A Horse for Travel:
Without the stress of actually having to go anywhere, it is perfectly possible to have a good time practicing getting horses ready for travel. Preparations might include:
- wrapping (or putting on shipping boots)
- loading and tying
- trailer safety
The trailer-loading should be a demonstration only: children can prepare the horses, but the group leaders should be the ones to prepare the trailer and demonstrate and explain the loading process.
Clipping a Horse:
This can be discussed in someone's house, using pictures and diagrams, but it's much more fun to schedule this session for a time of year when someone (the instructor, perhaps?) is actually planning to bodyclip a horse. The group leaders should explain the logic behind using different clips for different horses depending on their work, the weather, the time of year, their living conditions, the state of their coats, and their rugs wardrobe. If the horse is patient and the instructor is patient and there are lots of spare clipper blades, the same horse can be used to demonstrate many different clips and their purposes.
In this order (for obvious reasons), the person doing the clipping could demonstrate:
- strip clip
- low trace clip
- high trace clip
- hunter clip
- full body clip
Conformation: You Be The Judge:
Using pictures of horses, model horses, or toy horses, ask kids to choose which of 3-4 horses they prefer over the others, then ask them to give accurate reasons for their preference. This is like the Conformation Clinic in Practical Horseman, which is much more educational and useful than the usual drawings presented in books (equus perfectus vs equus horribilis). Any child knows that the drawing of the perfect horse is preferable to the one that illustrates every known conformation fault, but what about the plain-but-serviceable pony vs the dapple grey that has a beautiful head and is back at the knees?
Toy horses (as opposed to the Breyer models) are often wonderful 3-D examples of bad conformation!
Conformation: Do It Yourself:
Supply lots of paper, pencils, and erasers for this one. The children will draw horses from photos, models, or from their memory or imagination. This is a good indoor exercise for dead-of-winter unmounted meetings, and a wonderful way to teach structure and functional conformation; kids often don't really "see" a hock, for instance, until they try to draw one!
In summer, this can also be done at the barn, using real horses as models.
For this game, put letters on heavy card stock and cut apart. Then build a scrabble game of horse terms ONLY: children are expected to make words and to define them.
Horse For Sale:
This requires paper, pencils, and the classified-ad sections from some horse magazines and newspapers. This game involves describing horses accurately, including age, breed, sex, size, colours, markings, accomplishments, abilities. Group leaders provide real ads from magazines and newspapers, and children learn how to read and analyze them: what actual information is provided, what is left out, and why? Children practice using correct horse terminology by writing for-sale ads for their own horses (or the horses they lease or ride), and horse-wanted ads for the horse they would like to own: it's ok to say "Wanted: the Black Stallion", but they need to describe precisely what sort of black stallion they want!
Artwork: Creating a Horse Montage:
This requires some piles of old horse magazines and breed catalogs, as well as scissors, paste, and posterboard. Children cut out photos and make horse montages to take home. Older children can do something more practical, for instance, they might want to design posters for a show or event -- but in practice, most of the older ones want to do montages too.
This requires pencils, crayons, paper, and rulers. This can be a good all-afternoon project, with two rounds of drawing and a discussion in between. Children begin by drawing their ideal stable for however many horses they own or want to own. Group leaders then ask questions and make suggestions about stables and farms in general:
What is the stable for?
- your own horses?
- your own and some boarders?
- a riding school?
- a training stable?
What facilities will you need
- in the stable itself?
- arenas? indoor? outdoor?
- round pen? hotwalker?
- how much land will you need for stable, rings, turnout?
- discuss space, design, fencing, gates, access from road, trailer parking, riding areas, wash-rack, grooming areas
- what changes would you make if you moved to another part of the country?
.... and so on.
As an unmounted exercise, this takes an absolute minimum of material. Requirements: copies of dressage tests, letters (can be crayoned on paper), and a flat surface of some sort (the living room carpet is fine). Children set the letters out on the rug and practice walking through their test. It is also possible to walk, trot, and canter through the test, but only when the living room is not directly above someone's father's office-in-the-home.
Bridles are required for this game; children should bring their own and the group leaders should bring a few spares. Children play this game in pairs: one is the "rider", the other is the "horse". The "horse" is blindfolded, has bridle around her neck and holds the bit in her hands. The "rider" stays two or three feet behind the "horse" and uses the reins (not the voice) to tell the "horse" to stop and turn. This can be done in silence at first (the "rider" is only allowed to cluck or kiss to the "horse" to ask it to move forward), then let the child holding the bit react to the rein action by saying what she can feel, whether a signal is too subtle (not likely) or unnecessarily strong or sudden (all the time!). Cushions or other markers can be set up to mark a course for the "rider" to follow; whatever is used should be soft (cushions are ideal) because at some point during the game, some "horse" is guaranteed to fall over them.
This game can be combined with:
Again, children work in pairs. The "horse" is blindfolded and holds her hands together in front of her, arms bent and elbows at waist level. The "horse" will hold one end of a leadrope; the other end will be held by the second child, who is in charge of leading the "horse", asking it to move off, making it stop and stand, by using the leadrope for signals. Children are very good at learning to modify their signals when their "horse" begins to complain about being jerked around.
Exercises for Riders:
These exercises can also be done on horseback, and may include:
stretching: sides, back, groin, thighs
shoulders and chest
Tack and Clothing:
For older children, it is useful to bring piles of tack and riding clothes so that the various items can be inspected and discussed (and as we all know, the best way to become familiar with a piece of tack is to clean it). For younger children, it is also helpful to bring a stack of catalogs (that is to say, posterboard, pencils, scissors, glue and a lot of duplicate catalogs). Children can make their own posters by cutting out and pasting all the equipment they would need to keep a horse, or all the clothing they would need to ride or compete, and by writing the name of each item next to its picture.
For sophisticated older children who won't fall for the tack-cleaning gambit, a field trip to a tack shop is probably best.
This can be done at someone's home, although usually in a workroom or garage or basement in preference to a living room. Materials will vary according to the item being made.
Items to make include large and small projects:
There are really no limits on this, although it is best to decide in advance whether the desired result is a bridle rack for each child, or a tack trunk for the rally team.
Even quite small children can make a bridle rack, for instance, with a tuna tin and a couple of nails and a flat piece of wood.
Using photos in magazines or books, children can practice reading horses' body language and expression:
- attitude, posture, movements, facial expression
- eyes and ears
- way of standing
This can also be practiced at the barn, using real horses.
Competition and Rally Preparation: tips for success:
This is a great opportunity to sit down and discuss all the things that you wish you had discussed before the last rally, or that you need to discuss before the next one. Children usually feel much more confident working on their own if some of the "what if" questions have been discussed in advance.
Subjects may include:
- neat and tidy turnout
- warming up
- good manners
- know your rules
- take the going into account
- falling off
- conserving energy
- coping with nerves
- coping with a nervous horse
All field trips assume transportation, proper supervision of Pony Clubbers. All arrangements with farm owners, vet clinic, feed or tack store owners, etc. should been made well in advance.
animal shelter (HAHS)
horse publication - offices
trailer sales outlet
fences: different fencing for different animals and/or purposes
event or show
If possible, take children to see:
hay being cut and/or baled
farrier at work
vet at work (shots, floating teeth, deworming, etc)
Veterinarian: floating teeth, giving shots
Vet student: talk about vet school
Farrier: trimming and shoeing
Animal photographer: show how to take better pictures of horses