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How to Give Unmounted Horsemanship Lessons on Stormy Days When You Can't Ride

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

Rainy and stormy day leaves us stuck in the barn for unmounted horsemanship lessons on days like today.

Rainy and stormy day leaves us stuck in the barn for unmounted horsemanship lessons on days like today.

Know Your Objective

First, choose a topic that is appropriate to the age and skill set of the students you are teaching. I like to choose things that I can build on progressively over time.

Define your goal:

For example today, I'm doing basic horse colors. Next time we have a rainy day, I can easily go right into planning a lesson about markings.

Write Your Lesson Plan and Schedule

The main objective of this lesson is to learn to identify the different colors of the horses. I only used the horses in the green barn since we are assuming the weather will not be appropriate for them to go out to the fields or old barn if it's raining.

Instructions for the Color Identification Lesson

  1. First, I have the "Draw and Pass" game just to get them settled in and focused; this requires more than one person so if it is a private lesson, then you can participate with them or get one of the working students to participate.
  2. Now that everyone is in horse mode and hopefully ready to listen, you can let them know that they are going to be learning about the proper names for horse colors today. Again, I just used the horses in the big barn so the activity doesn't require anyone to go outside in the rain and mud.
  3. I have flash cards made up with the color and the description of the color on them. You can either just read the definitions off of the cards or if you think you can describe them better on your own feel free.
  4. After you have gone over the colors, give them each a set of the definition cards. Then they can use the magazines to find a horse of that color to put on the front of the flash card. If for some reason you can't find any of that color in the magazine, they can draw a horse of that color on the front of the card instead.
  5. Once the flashcards are done, they can work with a partner and use their cards together to do a match game. One partner has the picture side up and the other the definition side; they will match the picture of the horse to the right definition.
  6. Next, they can either work individually or with a partner to complete the worksheet listing the color of each Dun-Pikin horse. Again, we are only using the horses in the big barn so in case the weather is bad, they don't have to go outside.
  7. If you still have time to fill, then you can have them groom and have it be a grooming contest to see who gets their horse the cleanest. Or, you can play the crazy questions game.
  8. The crazy questions game is just a bunch of funny and silly questions I have written on index cards; they can take turns picking one and giving their answer. It's not a win/lose kind of thing, just something fun to get them talking to each other and having a good time.

Instructions for the "Draw and Pass" Game

This is just a fun warm-up activity. Discuss that even though the lesson today will not be mounted, being around the horses on the ground still requires us to be aware of the safety rules on the ground.

  • Make sure each participant has a piece of paper and something to draw with. Emphasize that it's just for fun, and it's no big deal if you aren't a great artist!
  • When you are ready to start, you will set a timer and call out the first instruction. I would say maybe a minute would be plenty of time if for some reason someone isn't done you can always give them a few more minutes.
  • When the timer goes off, they pass their picture on to the next person. Then, when the next instruction is called, they work on the picture they just got. When the timer goes off, they pass it again. So draw, pass, draw, pass, etc.

So everyone will be contributing to each picture. It will make for some interesting artwork. I have never done this without getting a few laughs out of everyone.

It's up to you whether they keep the picture that they started with or the last picture they worked on.

Drawing Instructions:

  1. Draw a barn
  2. Draw a rider inappropriate riding gear outside the barn
  3. Draw a rider with appropriate riding gear inside the barn
  4. Draw a horse tied up in the barn
  5. Draw a person passing safely behind the horse.
  6. Draw another person passing unsafely behind the horse and what happens to them
  7. Draw another horse in the barn
  8. Draw a person running up to the other horse
  9. Draw what happens when the horse sees the person running
  10. Give your artwork a cool name and sign it. It might be worth millions someday
I have index cards with the color and color definition written on them. The kids will use the old horse magazines to cut out a horse of each color and glue it on the front of their card.So the finished product is horse color flash cards.

I have index cards with the color and color definition written on them. The kids will use the old horse magazines to cut out a horse of each color and glue it on the front of their card.So the finished product is horse color flash cards.

Using the Flash Cards They Made

Using the flash cards you made, we are going to use this worksheet to identify the colors of all the horses in the green barn. Below, you will see the colors and then the number of horses that we have of that color in the green barn. Fill in the horse's name under the correct color.

Black
1-

Paint
1-
2-

Chestnut
1-
2-

Bay
1-

Cremello
1-

Strawberry Roan
1-

Crazy Questions Game

Crazy Questions Game is always a fun and entertaining way to get the kids talking about horses.

Crazy Questions Game is always a fun and entertaining way to get the kids talking about horses.

Rainy Day Horseback Riding Activities and Tips

You want to make sure your students have fun even if they know they won't be able to ride due to weather or ground conditions. That is why I always include icebreaker-type games if it is a large group. If the group is small, you can still find simple and fun games for them to start the session with. It doesn't have to be anything crazy or take a long time, but it can set the tone for a fun session.

Also, doing activities that provide them with something to go home with makes parents happy. Like the horse color flashcards, they can take them home with them and use them to practice learning the colors. When the parents see the flashcards, they will be impressed that you are helping them to learn all these important things about horses besides riding.

They will also probably get a kick out of seeing the "Draw and Pass" picture that their child brings home and enjoy hearing them tell them about how the game was played to make the picture end up looking that way!

If you balance the fun activities with the learning activities, your students will stay enthusiastic about unmounted lessons, and you will be keeping parents happy by making them feel they are getting their money's worth!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.