Try These Games With Your Horse!
Riding in the arena day in and day out might get a little dry, and adding in new activities to try with your horse can be fun and refreshing for both of you. There are endless combinations of games you can play in the saddle with teams, partners, and even by yourself.
What are some mounted games that you can try with your horse? Your creativity is your only limit when coming up with games to play with your horse, but some of the most popular games to try are:
- Flag Fliers
- Red Light, Green Light
- Egg Spoon
- Water Cup
- Dollar Bareback
In this article, I’ll share instructions for each of these games so you can give them a try! Besides being fun, these games are also designed to test your skills as a rider and help you develop better communication with your horse. Some of these games you can play in a group while others can be played as a single rider. Keep reading to get started!
Mounted Horse Game #1: Balloon
The first game is called Balloon. This is a popular relay race that can take up the size of an arena, and the game will be played from one side of the arena to the other.
- placing a single board with six inflated balloons secured to it in the middle of the arena or your playing field.
- The first two riders will line up on one side of the arena, with the other two riders lined up on the side opposite them.
- The first rider will depart from their side of the arena. Holding a 4’ dowel with a pointed end, they will ride in a straight line toward the other side of the arena, popping one balloon on the way.
- The rider will hand the dowel to a rider waiting at the opposite side, who will travel back toward the other side, popping the second balloon on the way. This will continue until all riders have taken a turn and all balloons are popped. The fastest team to accomplish this feat is the winner.
This game requires a level of skill from the rider, as they will have to ride with one hand, be accurate enough to pop a balloon, and then hand off the dowel to another rider. This game requires responsiveness and bravery from the horse, as they will have to navigate through the game as well as face a popping balloon.
Mounted Horse Game #2: Litter
The “litter” in this game is usually a simple water bottle with its top cut off – four of these will be placed on the far side of the arena. This game will also be played across the arena, with a trashcan placed in the middle of the playing field.
- In this game, all four riders line up and depart from the same side of the arena, opposite of the “litter.”
- The first rider is given a 4’ dowel, and races to the litter, picking up the litter with the dowel.
- Heading back, the rider drops the litter into a trash can that is set in the middle of the arena before racing back to the starting line and passing the dowel on to the next rider, for the next piece of litter.
- The team that deposits all of their litter in the trash can first is the winning team.
Litter tests many of the same skills that the previous game did as well. The rider will have to ride with one hand and have the accuracy to collect the trash with a dowel and place it in the trashcan. Speed is required if you want to win this game, making riders get out of their comfort zone as they navigate the obstacles.
Mounted Horse Game #3: Flag Fliers
In this game, there will be an empty cone on the far side of the arena and a cone holding four flags in the middle of the arena.
- All riders will line up and depart from the other side of the arena.
- The first rider is handed a flag from the center of the arena and then races to the far side, dropping the flag into the empty cone.
- On the way back, the rider will grab a new flag from the cone in the middle of the arena, handing that to the next rider at the starting line, who will repeat the task until all four riders have had a turn and all four flags are in the cone at the end of the arena.
- The first team to accomplish this will win.
Even without other riders, this is a fun game to try yourself. Being able to lean over in the saddle and grab a flag while your horse races by requires good timing and accuracy. These flags are usually four feet tall, so the rider can actually grab them from on the horse.
Mounted Horse Game #4: Joust
This game is exactly as the name implies; however, you aren’t jousting against another rider! In Joust, a board with four metal targets will be set in the center of the arena.
- Two riders will start on one side of the arena, and two riders will start on the opposite side of the arena.
- The first rider, departing from one side of the arena, will be handed a lance with a rubber tip and will race toward the opposite side.
- On the way, they will knock down one of the targets while passing the board.
- The rider then hands the lance to a rider on the opposite side of the arena, who repeats this task until all four riders have had a turn, and all four targets have been knocked down.
- The fastest team to accomplish this task will win.
This game is a lot of fun and takes me back to the medieval days with knights, kings, and robbers. This could be a fun game to add to a Halloween costume contest to complete the look!
Mounted Horse Game #5: Sock
This game involves vaulting on and off your mount. To set it up, there will be three socks placed on the ground on the far side of the arena and an empty bucket in the middle of the arena.
- All four riders will depart from the other side of the arena.
- The first rider is handed a sock and must race to the far side, dropping his or her sock in the bucket in the middle of the arena.
- The rider then vaults off their pony at the far side, picks up a new sock, vaults back onto the pony, and races back to the starting line.
- At the starting line, the first rider will hand the sock to the second rider, and the task is repeated until all four riders have had a turn and all four socks are in the bucket.
I would prefer to use clean socks for this game! 😂 But, you all know how it goes at the barn…you use what you can find.
Mounted Horse Game #6: Red Light, Green Light
This is similar to the classic Red Light, Green Light played on playgrounds and in roller rinks, but here will be played in the saddle.
- The instructor will stand at the end of the arena and will call out cues of his or her choice.
- Red Light = Stop
- Green Light = Trot
- Yellow Light = Walk
- The first rider to reach the instructor (while following the cues accurately) will win.
Believe it or not, but I’ve also found this game useful to play with young or green horses, as it makes them pay attention and adds a bit of fun for them as they learn transitions. The horse can pick up on the rider having fun, so it’s a win-win!
Mounted Horse Game #7: Egg in a Spoon
In this game, each rider begins with a spoon in one hand. An instructor or other non-rider places an egg in each of the spoons.
- With the egg balanced on their spoon, riders must go around the area. The last rider with their egg left on the spoon wins.
- There are different ways to mix this game up. Have someone call out gaits that riders must move into as they go around the arena: walk, trot, canter, halt.
- Set up an obstacle course that the horse and rider must go through. This will challenge the rider to steer and communicate with their horse using only one hand.
If you don’t want to deal with the mess of eggs, try using the circular Lindor Chocolates candy, or even a plastic egg. I actually just played this game by myself a few weeks ago; I wanted to see if I could still do it as well as I could years ago!
Mounted Horse Game #8: Water Cup
This game tests the same skills as the previous game, but instead of spoons and eggs, each rider is given a plastic cup that is filled with water.
- Riders must carry a cup full of water as they ride. This will challenge the rider to be subtle with their movements and aids.
- As with Egg in a Spoon, riders can be challenged by having to compete in different gaits or through obstacles.
- The rider with the most water left in their cup at the end of the competition wins.
This would be a good game to play in the Summer when getting a splash of water on you or your horse may be refreshing! I say the losers have to get dunked in a water trough afterward!
Mounted Horse Game #9: Dollar Bareback
For this game, you don’t have to use real dollar bills; although, may as well sweeten the deal and give people motivation to do better. In this activity, riders should compete bareback.
- Each rider will be given a dollar bill to stick in between one of their thighs and the horse.
- The riders have to compete at different gaits and through different obstacles, as with the previous three games, and the last rider to still have his or her dollar bill wins all of the money.
- Some things to note: Riders should not be allowed to wear shorts when they compete. I once lost this competition to someone who was wearing shorts and the dollar bill ended up sticking to her leg, which enabled her to win. When she got off the horse, the dollar bill was still stuck to her! Yes, I’m still salty about this.
This game is very useful in improving a rider’s seat, especially at the posting trot. Many Summer fun shows will have a Dollar Bareback Class, where the winner gets to keep all the dollar bills that were used to play the game. Better start practicing now!
Mounted Horse Games: Competitive or Casual?
The first five of these mounted games can be played at a competitive level. Organized mounted games started in 1957 when Prince Philip asked Coronel Mike Ansell, the Director of the Horse of the Year Show, to develop competitions that could be played with everyday ponies.
The idea was to provide an opportunity for children to participate in mounted sports, whether or not they had the means to spend a lot of money on an elite horse sport. Coronel Ansell went to task, and the first mounted games competition was held that very year in London. Today, there are several organizations that oversee these games, including the Mounted Games Across America (MGAA).
You don’t need to be training for competitive-level games if that isn’t your path. You can practice a version of these games in your own arena for fun, or you can try the last four games in this list, which are designed for individuals, friends, or even lessons.
Playing Games With Your Horse
Playing games in the saddle and in hand can be great fun for both you and your horse, and can increase the horse-rider bond. Horses are intelligent animals and using their brains and their physical prowess in the way of games can allow them to become engaged at a higher level than simply riding in the arena.
Adding mounted games into your regular schedule can bring great benefits to both you and your horse. If you end up really enjoying any of them, you can even play at a competitive level.
Looking for other fun things to do with your horse? Check out my article 35 Fun Things to do With Your Horse (Other Than Riding.)