Nothing raises confidence levels and increases a a novice rider’s skills quicker than the challenge of playing a few games on horse back.  I’m not talking about the full blown competitive gymkhana games here.  I’m talking about ones that are well thought out for your beginner rider’s ability and confidence level with lots of safety nets worked in.  The kind of games I’m talking about will challenge your riders, give them lots of chances to problem solve, make them feel more “on their own”, and will develop their coordination. These kinds of games will put your imagination to the test while you figure out new twists in order to suit various levels of riders.  Games can be played by everyone from lead-liners to side-passers, and all the riders will have fun.

In this post I’m giving you one of the lesson plans that I’ve written for my curriculum arsenal called Basics and Building Blocks. It’s a very simple step by step plan to teach the weaving game from timid beginner to team play.  This first part is individual play. I’ll add the team play pieces in another post. This works for beginner riders or beginner horses.  And once everyone is used to it,  it’s great for ladies’ night or farm fun days, too

 Games Lesson Plan for Basic 1


control of horse or pony
coordination of aids for turning
Spacial awareness

Suitable for:
Horses of all sizes as striding is not an issue

All levels of riders but especially Basic 1 (Beginners)

Type of play:
Individual- skill and practice

Team- skill and practice, race, relay, thinking

Tools needed:
Markers can be: cones, jump standards, bloks, inverted buckets, barrels or weaving – see below for suggestions for markers

5 markers -individual play

10 markers- team play

Plus start and finish cones (2 for each set of markers)

Tape measure capable of measuring of at least 50’

Space required:
beginner play- minimum size of arena: a small dressage arena 66×132 feet (20 m x 40 m). An arena with a 3-4 foot perimeter fence is preferred. For faster games or more advanced riders, you will need a larger arena

Set Up:
Set up markers, distances, and finish lines before your lesson begins.

If you anticipate doing team weaving be certain markers are set up equally for both teams.

Suggestions for Markers
55 gallon barrels are about 3 feet high.  You can use metal barrels or plastic like this illustration.

Plastic is lighter and a little easier on horse and rider if they are bumped.




You can use jump standards but be certain to remove jumps cups  so nothing protrudes that riders can be caught on




Games poles that are used in pole bending work well.  You can make you own by inserting PVC pipe into coffee cans containing wet concrete. Make sure the poles are tall enough to prevent injury and be sure to let the concrete dry!



Bloks are safe and light weight and have no sharp corners, but a little pricey






5 Gallon buckets work well but be sure to remove handles so that hooves can not be caught




Soccer cones are safe and inexpensive.  Their small size makes them a little harder to navigate. 






 Lesson – Individual Play

 *It’s important for students to learn the skills and patterns  and be comfortable in them before  being even slightly competitive

To develop basic skills in a fun atmosphere.

Be sure to explain each pattern to your students.

Explain to the aides that you want them to use. Introduce aids gradually. Don’t overwhelm students with too many jobs at one time. If they can manage weaving using eyes first and their turning rein, you can add turning the hips on the next go.  Then add the inside leg followed by the outside leg. Take time adding the aids in.  It’s up to the

*instructors must be able  to evaluate students regarding how much they can concentrate on at one time.

Be sure that all horses and ponies are used to the equipment used in this activity.  Basic 1 students should not be given  unnecessary  challenges.

Be aware of:
ponies who do not want to leave the group

ponies who want to hurry back to the group

if you have several children in the group, be aware of the spacing of the children who are waiting for their turn to go.


If you have more than one student, set up two sets of markers so multiple riders can “go” at once. Be sure that they understand that they are NOT racing.

Method: Patterns:
Patterns are arranged with the safest and easiest first.  As soon as the students are able to execute each of the 4 patterns. mix the order of patterns up for variety. This will also help you to be sure that the riders are controlling their horsesPonies and some horses are very smart will quickly learn a pattern.

ALL PATTERNS BEGIN WITH THE STRAIGHT RIDE AWAY FROM THE GROUP AND FINISH WITH WEAVING.  Basic 1 riders should not be encouraged to “race “ towards the group.

Pattern 1:
This is the student’s first opportunity to ride away from the group.  This can be challenging depending on the size of horse and rider, experience and age and attitude of animal.

Weaving back gives the rider and pony more things to do  and avoids ponies rushing back to the group.

Pattern 2:
trotting away from the group, transition to walk before the turn, and weaving back at the walk

Pattern 3
walking up and trotting back toward the group requires control. Requires coordination to make the turns, which come up faster at the trot than they did a walk.

Pattern 4
Successfully trotting up and maintaining control while trotting back weaving is the culmination of the work practiced during the first 3 patterns. Success at this level should be acknowledged as a genuine achievement.

Last Word:
Going through all the patterns for individual play can well occupy an hour lesson , particularly if your students are quite young or if they are very new to riding.


This lesson plan is a good start toward having fun with games for your students.  In my next post I’ll add the plan for team play.  And I’ll show you how to make this simple set up challenging for your riders as they advance.

Have fun and enjoy each lesson you teach. And thanks for reading The Riding Instructor.

Barbara Fox
The Riding Instructor

copyright Barbara Ellin Fox Basics and Building Blocks 2009

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • What a great post! I’m a school teacher who started riding at 25. I now have a 3 year old who is beginning her own riding journey. I find being a teacher tricky when I watch my daughter ride – I just want to get in the school with her and work through games like the weave above. Thanks for such an incredible resource Barbara, I will continue to devour more of your wisdom as my daughter and I carry on on our riding journeys 🙂

    • Kirst,
      Thank you so much for your kind comment. Boy, teaching your own child is definitely a different experience than teaching other children. It’s hard to step back and not want to make things easier for them. It’s a much more personal connection. I hope you and your daughter enjoy a lifetime of riding together! Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara Ellin Fox

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}