A simple game can give your students the opportunity to practice skills while having fun in their riding lesson. The Bandana Game can be played with all ages and skill levels.  I’ve included the basics in this post but there are lots of ways to use this game. Play is only limited by your imagination.

Benefits to Students

  • Students will practice control of direction and speed requiring cooperation between horse and rider.
  • Tying the bandanas in order exercises critical thinking and ordering skills.
  • Students will have to stretch, reach and balance which encourages independent movement in the saddle
  • cooperation between horse and rider will develop

theridinginstructor.net the bandana game A stack of folded bandanas, purple, lavender, red, teal, burgundy, white, green, yellow, black, blue, light blue, and redYou will need:theridinginstructor.net A stack of white file cards

  • 5 bandanas (5 different colors) you can use pieces of thin cotton fabric if you can not find bandanas)
  • White file 3”x5” file cards
  • Clear plastic shelving paper (found at most grocery stores or Wal-Mart, target, K-Mart etc)
  • 5 Markers 1 to match each color bandana


  • Put 5 – 1/2 inch dots in a row down the center of the file card as shown below. Each dot should be a different color that corresponds to a bandana color. Number the dots from 1 to 5. Make multiple cards, each with the dot colors in a different order.
  • Cover the cards, front and back with the clear plastic shelf paper. Trim them so no sticky edges are exposed. This will preserve your cards so that they can be used over and over
  • Using a hole punch make a hole in the top center of each game card. (Be sure to do this after covering with the clear contact paper)
  • Next tie a ribbon (or string or large rubber band) loop in each game card. Make the loop large enough that it will easily fit over the hand or saddle horn. The purpose of the loop is so a beginner can carry the game card with them and still manage the reins.
  •   Make as many different game cards as you want to use.

theridinginstructor.net  The Bandana Game Cards with a row of colored dots, red, blue, green, yellow, gray. Each dot has a number next to it from 1-5


Set Up:

Tie the bandanas in various places in your arena. Make sure they are reachable from a horse.  Tie them securely enough that they will stay but loosely enough that small hands can undo them easily.

Game Play:

For 1 Student:

Hold the game cards, colors facing away from your student, as if you were playing a game of cards. Let the student choose a card. If you are not timing her, she may look at the card right away and begin to collect bandanas in the order that they are shown on the card, starting with #1. If you are timing your student have her keep the game card face down until you say go.

When you say go:

  1. Student turns the card over to see the order of the colors.
  2. Student rides to bandana color #1 and unties it.
  3. Student rides to color #2 carrying bandana #1 with her.
  4. She unties bandana #2 and ties it to bandana #1.
  5. Student rides to bandana #3, unties it and ties it to bandana #2.
  6. Student continues in this fashion until she has collected all of the bandanas and tied them  together in the order that matches her card.

How to Play Bandana Game in Group Lessons

Divide into teams and appoint a captain for each team. Have the team strategize by letting them look at their card before you say “go”.


  1. Each team uses one card and one set of bandanas per team.
  2. The first player has the card and rides (at your specified gait) to get the first bandana.  She brings it across the finish line and hands it and the card to rider number two who retrieves the second bandana and knots it to the first bandana. Rider two passes the two knotted bandanas and the card to rider three who rides for the third bandana, knots it on two the number two bandana and passes it to rider 4 along with the card. This continues until all the bandanas are knotted together in the correct order and the entire team is over the finish line.
  3. The winning team is the first team over the finish line with each rider’s bandanas tied together to match their card. If anyone’s bandanas are out of order that team member may go back into the play area, re-tie her bandanas and then join her team over the fish line. First team with all bandanas tied correctly and over the finish line wins.


  • In all games it is wise to be sure that your horses will accept the activities before you attempt to teach beginners a game.
  • Children get very excited during team competitions. You will want to remind them to be considerate of their horses.
  • Give the students a designated place to wait and only allow the next up rider near the finish line. This will help prevent congestion and arguments between the horses.
  • Always be careful about horses approaching the finish line too fast. Herd animals tend to get very excited when headed toward a group.
  • Be sensitive to children who are not naturally competitive.
  • Do not let the students wrap the tied-together bandanas around their necks

This game is especially good for children but it can also be a challenge for beginner/intermediate adults. The game can be played in an English or western lesson, even bareback. Give it a try. Have fun with your riding lessons.

Barbara Ellin Fox

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • Hi there, I just read how to play the Bandana Game and love it! I teach therapeutic riding for the disabled as well as able bodied lessons.
    For my private disabled riders who range in age from 2 and upwards I can see this being so much fun and beneficial!

    • Hi Pat – Thanks! I’m glad the Bandana Game will be fun for your students. Thanks for the encouragement. Barbara

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