If you drive up to the barn on an afternoon when the Franklin County Horse Buds 4-H Club is having its meeting you will probably hear giggling and laughing and shouts of, "Find it! Quick, grab it, Katie!” coming from the barn. It might look like sheer bedlam when you peek inside. Two groups at opposite ends of the barn are jumping up and down and cheering, while two contestants are frantically searching through a pile of tack in the middle.
No, these kids are not out of control. They are learning to identify the various items found around the stable while playing the Tack Identification Game. A 4-H leader invented the game ten years ago when she needed an activity for a 4-H day camp. She shared the idea with other groups over the years and it has become popular with several riding clubs.
The Tack ID Game can be played with as few as four people, but the more the merrier. You will also need a "judge”, someone knowledgeable about horses and the equipment used to ride and care for them. The first step is to gather about twenty items. Have your adult leader help. There should be some familiar items like a currycomb, hoof pick, halter, lead rope and crop. Then dig deep down into the tack trunk for some not-so-familiar items like a twitch, unusual bits, cribbing strap, various leg wraps and boots, or maybe a head bumper.
Large items like an old saddle or small items like a mane comb make the game even more interesting. These items are placed in a pile in the middle of the playing area, which can be anywhere—in the pasture, arena, the barn aisle or your basement playroom.
Next, divide into two teams. There should be a balance of experienced and beginner players on each team. Each team then counts off, "One, two, three . . .” The teams go to the opposite ends of the playing area equal distance from the pile of tack.
The judge stirs up and rearranges the pile. Then, standing beside the tack, the judge calls out a number and the name of one of the items in the pile. If she says, "Number two! Running martingale!” then the member who is number two from each team races to the pile and tries to find the running martingale. The first one to find it takes the item back to their team.
If they both get their hands on the martingale the judge has to make a ruling on who touched it first. Otherwise there will be a tug of war and the martingale might end up in two pieces. Caution your players to be careful they don’t bump heads as they dive after the item.
If you want to make the game even more difficult, the player that grabbed the item first must explain what it’s used for. If he or she doesn’t know, it must go back on the pile.
After all the items in the pile are gone the teams count them, and the team with the most items wins.
The judge should call the numbers out in random order to build up suspense. Don’t be surprised if the losing team calls out that they want to play two-out-of-three games. By the end of two or three rounds everyone knows what all of the items are.
And next time your instructor says, "Please bring me the bridle with the D-ring snaffle bit,” or "This pony is getting fat, we’ll need to use the girth extender,” you will know exactly what she means.
In addition to being fun and a good way to learn your way around the barn, it is a great way to study for horse quiz bowl and hippology contests. The winning team doesn’t get a prize, but the losing team has to put everything back in its proper place, sort of like a treasure hunt in reverse.