Ride Playfully, Learn Effectively

Photo by Adam Hill.

BY Hannah Fichter

Just because summer is drawing to a close doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. There’s a plethora of engaging activities you, as a trainer or rider, can dive into to liven up your riding experiences. We’ve curated a list of unique challenges for you to explore, ensuring you keep the excitement alive in your riding escapades. 

Don’t be fooled; these games aren’t just about fun, they’re designed to enhance rider awareness and improve your horse’s obedience. They’re a delightful way to hone your skills. 

Stop On A Dime 

Choose a specific fence post or spot on the arena wall and practice stopping precisely in line with it. Start with a leisurely walk, then work up to stopping “on a dime” at a trot or canter. 

This activity hones your halting skills. 

Red Light, Green Light 

One person shouts “green light,” prompting riders to move around the arena (or from one end to the other). At the call of a “red light,” all riders must halt. The last to stop is out. The first to reach the opposite end of the arena wins. 

This activity refines listening skills, awareness, and halting.

Follow the Leader 

One rider is chosen as the leader. The rest follow suit, mimicking the leader’s movements: gait changes, dropping stirrups, diagonal changes, arm movements, etc. You can introduce various objects like jumps or ground poles to spruce things up. 

This activity boosts a rider’s confidence and leadership skills. 

Simon Says 

Assign someone to issue commands. The last rider to execute a command correctly is out. 

This activity sharpens listening skills and concentration. 

Riding a Pattern 

Unleash your creativity with this game that’s suitable for riders of all skill levels. Choose a flat arena exercise pattern, from a basic figure eight to a full dressage test, incorporating maneuvers like leg yielding or gait changes.

This activity adds a fresh twist to the rider’s routine and potentially the horse’s too. 


Tuck a dollar bill between the rider’s leg and saddle. They must hold it there while completing a lesson, pattern, or jumping course. The rider who keeps their dollar bill the longest gets to keep them all. 

This activity enhances concentration and leg stability, as it encourages the rider’s leg to maintain contact with the horse to keep the dollar in place. 

This activity is occasionally featured as a class at local horse shows. 

Cone Bending 

Traditionally played with bending poles, you can easily substitute them with cones. Set up a row of cones, and guide your horse to weave between them at varying speeds, based on capability. You can make it a race or part of an obstacle course. 

This activity focuses on fluid horse body movement.

Obstacle Courses 

Set up an obstacle course and guide your horse through it. Modify the course’s difficulty as you please. Consider using jumps, gates, or ground poles. Perform maneuvers tailored to your discipline and skill level. 

A great one if setting up poles in an “L” shape with 2 poles on each side of the “L”. Riders must walk through the “L” without hitting a pole, then back out of the exercise without hitting a pole.

This activity exposes both rider and horse to new objects and movements. 

These activities are excellent for mixing up the usual routines and injecting some fun into lessons and hacks, all while still enhancing riding skills. They’re enjoyable for all ages and can be adjusted to match the skill level of both rider and horse.