Horse Sense

Horse Sense

Diana Jones

James White

Educational Purpose
Time Required
Number of Players
Learner Description/Context
Pieces and Equipment
Rules and Procedures
How to Win
Graphic of the Board
Design Process
Additional Subject Resources

Educational Purpose

The game is designed for veterinary students in the clinical, applied phase of their training after completing the theoretical component of their course.

The goal of the game is to help students practice the process of solving diagnostic challenges by using previously learned information. The game accomplishes several purposes simultaneously. Students recall and review information, correct their misconceptions, and solve problems.

Time Required

Horse Sense requires 1-2 hours to play and may be played more than once.

Number of Players

Tactical options (and consequently the fun potential) are maximized when there are four players, but as few as two people can play the game. More than four people can play, if they form teams.

Learner Description and Context

The learners are veterinary students studying equine diseases. They are learning how to diagnose and treat medical and surgical problems of client-owned horses. They are also learning how to work together and listen to the medical opinions of their colleagues. As students and later as practitioners, they balance their camaraderie with competitiveness. They need to know the correct treatment at the time the opportunity presents itself. Knowledge and chance play a role in keeping clients happy and resolving clinical problems. Learners need to understand the client's point of view.

Clients seek veterinary assistance to resolve their horse's problem. Horses problems often result from the strenuous events in which they compete or the stress of a demanding schedule of events in their life. Clients often spend time at a referral hospital when their regular veterinarian can no longer respond to the problem at hand.

Pieces and Equipment

Horse Sense consists of:

Rules and Procedures

How to Win

The first player to have two horse tiles covering his or her horse icons next to the four category pictures on the board wins.

Getting Started

  1. Open the board to display the referral hospital, the stable, four category pictures, four sets of 12 client boxes, and the card box space. Each side of the board has a different colored fence; red, white, blue, or yellow.
  2. Each player selects one of the four horse tile breeds, Draft, Thoroughbred, Tennessee Walker, or Paint, to use.
  3. Each player sits on the side of the board that displays two black and white drawings of the horse tile type they selected. The horse tile indicators are above two groups of six client boxes lined by colored fences.
  4. Each player places four client markers, of any occupation, on any of their 12 client boxes. The remaining client markers are placed on the referral hospital picture on the board.
  5. Question cards are thoroughly shuffled and placed in the box. The cards are placed face down on the card box space.
  6. All horse tiles are placed on the picture of the stable on the board.
  7. The bell is placed in the center of the board.
  8. The initial question reader is determined by a high die roll. The question reader cuts the cards and places them in the card box to obscure the answer segment of the card.

Asking questions

  1. The reader holds the card box so the answer on the bottom half is covered.
  2. He/she selects who may answer the question. He/she may elect one, two, or three other players.
  3. The reader states the category; rodeo, show, race, or polo, and then reads the question for the other players.
  4. The reader determines if the answer described by the player is sufficiently correct. The reader doesn't read the answer aloud until play is complete.
  5. After a correct answer is given, the card is placed at the rear of the pack. The question box is then passed clockwise. The next player becomes the reader.

Answering questions when 2-3 responders are nominated

If a correct answer is provided:

  1. If more than one person is selected to respond, then the first person to ring the bell has the privilege of voicing his/her answer.
  2. If a player answers correctly, he/she places one of his/her horse tiles on the corresponding horse tile drawing adjacent to the category picture, rodeo, show, race, or polo, mentioned in the question. He/she also gains a client marker from the referral hospital to place on his/her side of the board.

If the answer provided is wrong:

  1. If the person who hits the bell first provides a wrong answer, he/she loses a client marker and places it on the referral hospital picture.
  2. As soon as the reader says "wrong,", the remaining players may ring the bell to attempt to answer correctly.

Answering questions when one player is nominated to respond

  1. If only one player is nominated to answer, there is no need to ring the bell. He/she may either answer, or "turf" the question.
  2. If he/she gives a correct answer, he/she gains a horse tile and a client. If he/she gives a wrong answer, he/she loses a client and the remaining players can compete for the right to answer by hitting the bell.


A sole nominated player can turf the question by selecting another player to answer the question. The cost of turfing is the loss of a client marker. The nominated player must then answer or turf the question. If the question is turfed to the final player, he/she must answer or lose a client. Whenever an answer is attempted, the player either gains or loses a client marker, and either succeeds or fails in placing a horse tile adjacent to the category picture.

If nobody rings the bell to answer:

When 2 or 3 players are selected to respond and no player chooses to ring the bell, then the answer is provided by the reader and the card is placed at the back of the pack.

If a player loses all their clients:

If a player loses all his/her clients, then he/she is barred from active participation in the game. However, under circumstances described below, he/she may regain a client and participate in the game again.

Re-entering the game

If a player loses all his/her clients, he/she can not be nominated to answer a question. Whenever the reader says "wrong", the clientless player may ring the bell to volunteer an answer. Gaining a client by answering correctly allows the player to reenter the game.

Graphic of Board

Design Process

Making Horse Sense a non-trivial pursuit

Since Horse Sense is a question and answer game, there was a danger it would be too like Trivial Pursuits. The problem with TP as a model for an educational game is that it deals with fragmented knowledge, dished up in small morsels. We needed to encourage learners to recall and assimilate a range of knowledge systematically. TP also uses a dice-driven race format. At first such a format seemed potentially motivating, but in the end it was not a fruitful analogue for equine veterinary practice.

The game analogue

We came to think of the game as mimicking a free market where veterinarians vied with one another for the business of clients who were more than ready to switch animal care providers - a scenario that reflects the real world.

Strategies to maximize player learning and involvement

To maximimize player participation we invented the rotating questioner who could nominate any player or players to answer a question. When coupled with the opportunity to “turf” (the veterinary term for passing a client to another person), or the opportunity to offer the right answer following an incorrect reply, the game structure encourages player involvement by imposing a cost for various forms of non-participation.

While it would have been possible to make a given number of clients the means of determining a winner, this might have caused the game to become unpredictably long. Consequently, an alternative scoring system was introduced to decide the winner: the number of successful “cures” made by a player, represented by horse tiles. Players could progress steadily towards this figure, despite the penalties they picked up.

The problem of the player who prematurely exits the game was solved by offering restricted circumstances where that person could still answer questions.


Motivation theory suggests that successful games mix elements of control and randomness. Certainly the option for the rotating questioner to select who may answer offers the possibility of strategic gameplay, as does the opportunity to turf. Randomness in Horse Sense comes from the classification of questions under the four categories. The luck of the draw determines whether a player gets access to the categories which will enable him/her to most rapidly cover all eight vacant horse tile squares. The bell was first and foremost introduced to determine a right to reply, but it also functions motivationally by stimulating excitement.

The questions

Motivation theory also suggests that there must be challenge connected to a perception of a reasonable chance of achievement. Much of the success of this game depends on the set of questions devised. They should neither be too esoteric or too simple. Additionally they have to encourage not just recall, but problem-solving. Good questions are a key design issue.

The pieces

Because the game is likely to be reasonably boisterous, we needed to anchor the playing pieces firmly to the board. We chose, on the prototype, to do this magnetically. The design of the pieces reflect the learning context. Client markers are clearly identified as such on one side of the piece, while the other side shows four types of horse user, who might need veterinary service. (This latter feature is decorative only.) The horse tiles which are used to represent “cures” show four different breeds. Since one breed is associated with each playing position, their placement on the board is a clear tally of each player’s position in the game.

The board

The prototype board is metal to allow the magnetic pieces to attach to it. Since the game does not depend on moves in the conventional sense, the board primarily reflects the relative scoring situation of players. It is embellished with graphics that enable the organization of markers and that loosely reflect the learning context. Unused horse tiles are kept in an area labeled Stables. Unassigned client animals are held in the Referral Hospital. Four common equine environments - rodeo, polo, racing and show - are represented by graphics to which cured animals are returned. Client marker positions are grouped in front of each player in areas that in an earlier design more closely resembled farms along a road.

Field trials

The game was tested with eleven people. They were never once confused by the differently decorated client markers, nor did they confuse the client markers with the horse tiles as we thought they might. The most significant confusion was with the original first step in the directions under "Getting Started." It said each player would choose a "side of the board" from which to play. Several revisions were required to get players to stop thinking that the quadrant in each corner was their "side". The problem was caused by the gray metal divisions in the board. The solution was color coding each "side."
One tester only opened the board halfway and began to play. This was also corrected by color coding each side. A schematic of the game board was also displayed on the outside of the box. The first step in the directions under "Getting Started" was changed to "Open the board to show the ....".


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Enjoyment and the quality of life. In Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. (pp. 43-70) New York: Harper & Row.

Dempsey, J., Lucassen, B., Gilley, W., & Rasmussen, K. (1993). Since Malone's theory of intrinsically motivating instruction: What's the score in the gaming literature? Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 22, 173-183.

Ellington, H., Addinall, E., & Percival, F. (1982). How to design a board game. In A handbook of game design. (pp. 46-61) London: Kogan Page.

Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.). Aptitude, learning and instruction. Vol. 3. Cognitive and affective process analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Richter, A. (1990). Board games for managers. Training and Development Journal, 44,(7), 95-97.

Additional subject resources

Educational Net Games

Educational Games

Horse Show

Last updated by James White and Diana Jones on October 28, 1996.

Return to the Board Game Table of Contents.

Educational Technology 670, Fall 1996.