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I'm looking for new ideas to teach the basics of horsemanship to absolute beginner riders and was hoping you could suggest some reading material and other references for me. I'm looking to create a fun and dynamic program for our camp this year instead of the same old, "sit quietly and listen". Also, if there are any suggestions for games on horseback for beginners that would be appreciated too.




Your best resource is the CHA Composite Manual of Horsemanship. It is very comprehensive, with a progressive skill building content, which includes safety, ground lessons and "classroom" lessons and riding skill. It is over 200 pages and beautifully illustrated by Susan Harris, renowned equine artist and clinician. It is only $39.95 for members. You can order by phone, (800) 399-0138, fax (903) 509-2474 or in our online store located here.

Your instructors should look at each topic in the table of contents and try to come up with a game that would address that skill or knowledge. Jeopardy, Charades, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, skits, cutting up old horse magazines, "pin the tail on the horse" for learning parts, horse painting and horse dress-up, are all good standbys. There are many great ideas on the CHA website.

Also, on the CHA website, you'll find tons of information on ideas for lessons, teaching techniques and games to play in lessons. Additionally, there are articles for professionals on risk management, business management and operations.

Many of the ideas I have gotten for lessons I have learned from attending CHA clinics, where you have 12 instructors working together and sharing ideas. When I operated my horse camp, I sent my instructors to a CHA clinic every year, even if they were already certified, because they got great ideas and a tune-up on safety awareness at the same time. Remember, you can attend a clinic as an auditor for a fraction of the cost of attending for certification and still get the knowledge, training and ideas for lessons.

Here are some other resources on the market that may be useful for you.

  • 101 Arena Exercises, by Cherry Hill (an excellent website too www.horsekeeping.com)
  • Games on Horseback, by Betty Bennett-Talbot
  • Centered Riding, by Sally Swift (will give you ideas for mental images in your teaching)
  • Zen and Horseback Riding, by To Nagel, www.zenandthehorse.com, (great exercises to do on the ground to improve your riding)