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An Unmounted Horsemanship Lesson for Beginners

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

Many horsemanship lessons are learned not on the horse, but on the ground.

Many horsemanship lessons are learned not on the horse, but on the ground.

Unmounted Horsemanship Lessons Are Always Needed

As I have mentioned in other articles, I believe in teaching overall good horsemanship skills. It doesn't matter if you can ride if you don't know anything about the animal you are riding. We must respect the horses and learn as much about them as we possibly can.

5-E Instructional Model

I got into the habit of writing my curriculum in the 5-E instructional model. This is an instructional model for experiential science education. I learned about this at a farm-based education seminar. If you can provide lessons in this format, you can attract school groups to do field trips as an extra income stream. The school teachers have to use these plans, and to have field trip activities already written in that fashion is a bonus for them.

The five E's are "Explain, Explore, Engage, Elaborate, and Evaluate." You can put the E's in any order you'd like to make your program work as long as you have all five of them.

At first, I thought it would be hard to write in what I thought in a strict format, but it actually has been a big help for me to make sure I'm writing good lesson plans that anyone could teach as well as making it easiest for the kids to learn.

What Is the Objective?

The objective is to familiarize participants with basic safe horsemanship practice while interacting with horses on the ground. Who could use this? An orientation for new clients, a girl scout troop horse badge program, the first day of summer camp, or rainy day lessons for your lesson program.

Task 1: Explain

Have your group divide into pairs, and if they don't know each other, help them pick partners or do it randomly. You will need to have your horses in the barn for this activity.

  1. Welcome the students and give them two slips of paper.
  2. Assign them the names of two horses in the barn.
  3. Tell them what they are going to be doing is just a fun game in which you guess how much the two horses weigh that they are assigned.
  4. Emphasize that it is just for fun—your best guess is totally fine!
  5. Then have them hand back in their guesses and you should hold them for later.

Task 2: Explore

Discuss why we would need to take into consideration how much a horse weighs. Let the students take guesses, but prompt them towards getting to the point that horses are much bigger than us. Even the smallest horses are way bigger than us, so we need to be safety-conscious around them at all times.

The 5-E model is a lot easier to work with than you might think.

The 5-E model is a lot easier to work with than you might think.

Task 3: Engage

Give each student a piece of paper and drawing materials. Tell them that they are going to draw a poster for one of the safety rules. You will have prepared all the safety rules you want to cover on slips of paper in a hat.

  • Each student will pick a rule out of the hat at random and read it aloud to the group.
  • Once everyone has their rule and understands what their rule means, give them however much time you think they should need to get the safety poster done.
  • Once finished, post them in an easily visible place in the barn as a reminder.
Safety posters are always a fun project

Safety posters are always a fun project

Task 4: Elaborate

Have the students find a safe place to stand and watch you as you demonstrate each of the safety rules that you had them make posters for. Put a quiet horse on crossties for this demo because the kids will be interacting with the horse too. Make sure you emphasize the safety rules. I would do all the rules on both sides of the horse that is tied up so you demonstrate them twice.

Safety posters always turn out interesting. I normally hang them up for the duration of the class, but then they can take them home if they want!

Safety posters always turn out interesting. I normally hang them up for the duration of the class, but then they can take them home if they want!

Task 5: Evaluate

Next, each child will take a turn demonstrating the safety rule they drew on a poster. The other students should be watching attentively because they will be grading the demonstrator on how well they demonstrated the rule. They will give each demonstrator A, B, or C and then tell them why they gave them that grade.

We want them to explain themselves to prove they truly grasp the rules and the importance of them. Once everyone has had their turn to demonstrate the rule and get graded, you will hand back out the weight guesses that they did first thing.

Now, you will go stall to stall, the students will read out what their guesses were. The other students will guess whether they think the real weight is higher or lower, then you will use the weight tape on the horse to tell them the actual weight. Make sure that as you are getting the weights you are mentioning the safety rules as you do so and also that you are writing down the actual weights.

Now Wrap It Up and Send Them Home

Once everyone knows the actual weights of the horses, if you'd like, you can give a prize to the partners who guessed the closest! In closing, ask them if they all had fun and feel that they learned safety rules? Then say something along the lines of how this weight exercise went along with the safety, to be a reminder of how much bigger even the smallest horse is than we are and that we must be aware of our safety at all times!

Happy unmounted horsemanship!

© 2018 Ellison Hartley