Horseback Riding isn’t just about working on your position, polishing cues, jumping bigger and bigger jumps, or getting the perfect flying change in dressage. It is also about having fun! What better way to have some fun with your horse than to play some games with both your horse, and your friends?
In this article, you’ll learn a few of my favorite games for beginner riders. These easy and beginner-friendly mounted games are especially great for anxious riders in horseback riding lessons because they take the focus off “getting it right,” and instead help riders relax (and have fun!) while developing muscle, skill, and balance.
For Western and English Riding
The beauty of mounted games is that the style of riding takes a backseat to fun! Because these games focus on helping beginners riders learn basic skills like controlling their horse’s speed, directly their horse’s movements, and balance in the saddle, these games are perfect for both English and western riders. After all, games on horseback are all about the absolute best thing we can teach beginner riders: how to enjoy horseback riding as a relaxing and life-long hobby!
HINT: To keep everyone having fun, it’s best to set a “speed limit” gait that is appropriate to your rider’s skill. Riders who break out of the gait should be made to go back and start over at the beginning.
11 Beginner-Friendly Games on Horseback:
This list of 11 games on horseback are easy to modify for beginner riders and experienced riders alike.
Egg and Spoon
This popular party game can also be used as a horse-riding game. All you need for this is a starting line, a finish line, some spoons, and a few eggs (and of course, a horse!).
Riders are each given a spoon with an egg placed on it and their goal is to cross the finish line first without dropping or breaking the egg. Riders cannot hold the egg with their hand. Instead, they must balance it on the spoon.
This game on horseback can be altered for all skill levels by setting a top speed/gait. For example, you could set a gait limit of walking to ensure all riders can participate or trot when your intermediate riders need to work on keeping their hands steady at the trot. It is also a great way for riders to practice gait control: Like humans, horses can walk are different speeds, they just don’t want to!
This one needs a bit more equipment than an egg and spoon race. You will need poles or cones set out in a straight line. Make sure they are spaced far enough apart for a horse to get through.
To play this game, have the rider lead their horse on foot through the poles/cones. Once they get to the end, they will need to mount. Then ride back through the cones/poles as fast as possible. The person with the fastest time wins. Requiring riders to stay at a walk, trot, or canter helps make this game on horseback fun for all levels of riders.
Relay Quiz (team game)
This is a fun combination of trivia and racing. Divide your riders into teams. (There is no limit on the number of teams or size of the teams. Just make sure they are all equal size.)
Have the riders line up in their respective teams with a team steward standing on the opposite side of the playing area. The steward should have a list of questions that they will ask the rider. All stewards should have the same questions for their team.
One at a time, the riders will ride to the steward who will ask them a question about horse care, stable management, anything horse-related. Once the rider answers correctly, they return to their team. The next rider then repeats the process. The team that gets through all of their riders first, wins.
This game is just like the party game we all played when we were younger. To play this game oh horseback, one person stands in the middle of the group of riders and yells ‘Simon says’ with an action. It could be stop, trot, side-step, toe-touch, or any other movement appropriate to the riders’ skill level.
A rider is eliminated if they miss an action, or if they complete an action without ‘Simon’ saying ‘Simon says’ before the specified action.
Simon says is one of the first games that beginner riders can safely play on horseback- and you don’t even need a group! Simon Says is a fun way to help beginner riders experiment with balance in their first few riding lessons. It can even be played at a halt or in a lunge line lesson.
Red Light / Green Light is a game that can be perfectly adapted to a horseback riding game. Have your riders spread out in an arena or pasture. When the person in the middle yes greenlight, all riders must move their horse. When the caller yells ‘redlight’, all riders must cue their horse to whoa (i.e. stop). If a person fails to halt their horse, they are eliminated.
Riding in A Pattern that Gets Harder to Remember
Pattern games on horseback can be done with no additional equipment, just you and your horse!
To play, set a specific pattern and then navigate your horse in that exact pattern. It could be a figure 8, a zig zag, a letter, anything you decide. You can create as many patterns as you want. If you want to have a definitive winner of the game, eliminate players if they fail to correctly navigate the pattern.
Make this game on horseback more challenging for group riding lessons by having each rider add an additional movement at the end (sort of like a progressive making your own dressage test up as you go!). The first rider might ride a 20-meter circle at a trot, then add a walk up the centerline, the next rider repeats this pattern but adds a halt and back up after the centerline. The next rider repeats all the previous movements but then adds a walk to trot transition, etc. As the sequence gets more complicated, riders are “out” as they miss a step- until only one rider remains in this game on horseback!
This is almost exactly the same as the relay quiz game, but for this beginner-friendly game on horseback, set up teams, establish a start line and a finish line. Each rider navigates to the designated space, then back to the team as fast as possible (without breaking the gait the leader sets). The first squad to have every rider complete the task without breaking into a faster gait, wins.
Toilet Paper Race
All you need for this hilarious and rider-favorite game are riders, horses, and toilet paper!
This game is played in pairs. Each pair is given a length of toilet paper (make sure each pair has the same length!). Each rider holds one end and they must race from the start line to the finish line without dropping the paper, tearing the paper, or breaking gait. The first team to reach the finish line with their paper in tact is the winner.
Draw a very large keyhole on the ground. You can use cones, chalk, or simply use a stick to etch it into a well-tilled arena’s dirt.
The aim of the game is to enter the keyhole, walk to the circular part of the keyhole and have your horse turn around. The catch? If your horse steps even one hoof outside of the keyhole, they are disqualified! This is a fun beginner-friendly game on horseback that helps riders learn to control their horse’s movements more precisely.
Fill the Bucket
Fill the Bucket is a game on horseback for teams. Each team will need 2 buckets and a sponge, or cup.
Each team should fill one of the buckets with water and place it at the far end of the playing area. The other bucket should be left empty and placed at the starting line.
The riders then take turns racing to the water-filled bucket, filling their sponge/cup with water, then racing back to the empty bucket and emptying the water into it. The next rider in line then takes the sponge/cup and repeats the action. The first team to fill their empty bucket with water wins.
This one is a great game for every rider level and requires nothing but the rider and their horse. The steward of the game will select a gait, and the riders then have to race from the start line to the finish line in the gait requested by the steward. This could be a walk, trot, or canter (depending on skill levels). The challenge for this race is learning to rate a horse’s gate: i.e. speeding up their horse into a faster speed of that gait without entering the next.
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Final Thoughts on Games on Horseback for Beginners
Games on horseback help riders have fun and relax while learning valuable riding skills like controlling their horse’s gait or movements. Most of these games on horseback for beginners can have difficulty adjusted to accommodate beginners and advanced riders, just by limiting the gaits that riders are allowed to use without penalty. That means that as your skill gets better, you can make your games more challenging as well!
For more technical rules and regulations for mounted games, see the United States Pony Club Mounted Games Rule Book, available here in a PDF.
For even more suggestions, check out these two books. With one specifically geared for children, Games on Horseback and Games for Kids on Horseback have a wide variety of options for having fun while riding.
Now that you have a good knowledge of the games you can play while riding, have fun! And GOOD LUCK!