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There are many wonderful ways for kids to spend quality time with their friends and their horses. Both kids and horses tend to get bored when they do the same thing day after day, and these games are an excellent way for riding instructors to reward their students for all their hard work. Learning proper equitation and horsemanship is vital, but having fun is important as well. By designing various games, horse owners can kick back and enjoy their time in the saddle.
Polo has been a favorite equine activity for hundreds of years, but most of us do not have a polo mallet lying around the barn. However, chances are good that there is an extra broom around somewhere. To get a game of broom polo going, all you need is a set of brooms and an inexpensive plastic ball. The kids can choose up teams, or they can practice their accuracy by shooting their "polo" ball through various goals and obstacles.
Jumping can be a lot of fun, but not every horse is cut out to jump a set of 4-foot fences. The scurry race provides a way for everyone to enjoy the thrill of jumping without being quite so far off the ground. All it takes to set up a scurry race is a set of six milk crates and three jump poles. Lay the milk cartons on the ground and place the jump pole on top. Measure about 20 feet and set up the next small jump. A barrel or cone can be placed at the end of the arena to finish the course. Each horse and rider team runs down the arena, jumping each obstacle as they go. They then run around the barrel and back down the course of small jumps.
Kids can pretend they are knights riding into battle with a ring spearing course. To set up a simple course tie plastic rings of various sizes to the posts along the riding ring or pasture. Use a small piece of string that will break easily when affixing the rings. The kids can use just about anything as a lance, from a riding crop or longe whip to a stick. The game can start with the kids walking around the course, then trotting and finally cantering around the course picking up rings as they go. Each ring can be assigned a point value, with extra points for completing the course the fastest. As the kids get better at their new game, the rings can be made smaller and smaller to provide more of a challenge.
While riding skills are important, a great deal of the foundation for safe and enjoyable horsemanship takes place on the ground. Any child who wants to be around horses, whether she plans to ride or not, should take the time to learn proper ground work. These learning exercises can be a lot of fun, and they are an excellent way for children to bond with their horses as well. Something as simple as learning to put a halter on properly can be a big accomplishment for little ones. Parents, riding instructors and other adults can work with the kids to make sure they are working safely, then let the kids halter the horses and lead them around a safe and enclosed area.
- horse image by Penny Williams from Fotolia.com