June 2019


It’s no surprise that people who laugh enjoy life and handle its challenges better than those that don’t know how to find the humor in everyday tasks. When giving riding lessons to students who already find life challenging or intimidating, making riding lessons fun and enjoyable can be difficult.

As an instructor, it is imperative that my students find learning to be fun in order to be memorable. If their lesson is memorable, then they will be able to build on it from week to week. Muscle memory will begin to take over allowing the brain to take in more information. In order to make the lesson memorable, I like to imbed a game of sorts into learning a new task. (Depending on the age of the students using the word game may not be appropriate. Instead, you might use the word contest, exercise, or challenge).

Many riding instructors get caught up in the technical aspect of the lesson which for many students is boring. Boring does not make a lesson memorable or enjoyable for the students or volunteers. I like to have fun with the students and volunteers during a lesson. As an instructor you are a teacher, actor, impressionist, comedian, and friend. Tying all of that together can be exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time!

When writing a lesson plan, try to make it visually stimulating as well as tactual. Include props, moving parts, silly sounds or voices, even music (if students are ok with music or loud noises). Many people are visual learners. Adding in colors and textures helps create a picture that a person can hold in their memory. Having fun and laughing creates dopamine, which will help regulate emotions and assist motor skills.

Here is a sample group lesson for beginning riders:

Objective: Steering horse at a walk to cone, turn one full circle around cone and back to barrel 3x’s, Steering horse at a trot to cone, turn one full circle around cone and back to barrel 3x’s

Arena set-up:

4 long poles set up like a box at one end of the arena about 10ft from fence

3 cones set up at opposite end of the arena set up about 12ft from fence

2 barrels set up in center of arena (home base for each rider)

4 volunteers to be cows or cats or dogs


After students have had their safety checks, stretched, reviewed previously learned tasks, teach new task of steering a straight line at a walk and trot. Each student will choose a barrel for their home base. From their barrel, they each will ride their horse 3x’s in a straight line to a cone at a walk, turn a full circle (either direction) around cone and return to base at a walk. Next, they will ride their horse 3x’s at a trot to a cone, turn a full circle (either direction) around cone and back to home base in a straight line.



Game – Moving Cows:

Students will each try to move volunteers who are acting like cows, following them at a walk/trot and try to move them into the corral created by the 4 poles. The “cows” will be moving in random directions and “mooing”. After all of the cows are caught the game is over.

No cows are to be touched or run over by horses in this exercise!


Benefits of this game: authentic steering, authentic turning, motor planning

Be creative! I’ve had students try to move volunteers who played dogs, cats, even chickens! Lots of clucking, barking and meowing by all!


As you can see in your minds eye, you were able to visualize this game while reading the instructions. You could hear the game in action because you know what a cow sounds like when it moo’s! And there will be LOTS OF LAUGHTER BY BOTH STUDENTS AND VOLUNTEERS! Do you think this will be a memorable lesson? Why yes, because it was created with humor in mind.

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