Reining in learning: Equine virtual worlds for kids

Many kids have a love of horses from a young age. Being outdoors on their favorite pony, learning how to look after their animal, and organizing feed and tack are all great transferable life skills. However, owning a pony is a huge (and costly) responsibility, which most families would find difficult to manage.

We have come across three virtual worlds that use kids love of all things horse-like, to give everyone the chance to learn how to look after, ride and manage a horse. Equine virtual worlds combine the skills of stable management, the fun of riding a horse (albeit in a virtual world) and an online community for members to interact. The skills used in these virtual worlds are very useful for kids to learn about business management, organization, critical thinking and problem solving.

Club Pony Pals is an equine virtual world based on the Pony Pals books created by Jeanne Betancourt. Players take care of their own pony by managing its nutrition, health and grooming, and can ride the ponies on virtual roads and trails. The aim of the game is to maintain a healthy balance by keeping a good score for their ponies health, energy and hunger points. As well as learning about pony management, there are also educational games to learn about math, english and science. Some of the pony management games in this virtual world are excellent, and give the player a real feel as to how managing a real pony would be like.

Horseland is another virtual equine community that allows players to breed and trade horses with each other. The aim of the game is to maintain the health and well being of horses, and participate in activities that will increase your points and status in the community. This world teaches players the fundamentals of business and stable management, and the basics of animal breeding. For example, a player can buy a horse at a low price and after some showing and training, sell it again at a higher price.

Other nice features that add to the game play include bringing horses to the vet and the farrier, understanding horse pedigree charts, booking a horse trainer, showing your own horse, hosting shows for other players, and boarding horses for a weekly fee.

For players who enjoy equine management rather than riding virtual horses, Howrse is a popular horse breeding and management game. The aim of the game is to grow and develop the quality of horses from generation to generation, and try and create a famous equestrian centre. The horses can be trained to enhance their skills and be bred with each other to create better and stronger horses. Players can also employ staff, organize competitions and lodge breeders horses in their own equestrian centre. All of these features contribute to an engaging gaming experience.

These equine virtual worlds can be a great way for older kids to learn that caring for a horse is a big step, and to teach them that managing virtual horses can be a fun, educational and rewarding activity.