The product development of Horse Academy (for SmartGames) 

Raf Peeters, January 2022

Horse Academy

Horse Academy - Jumping, la Compétition - Swing die Hufe

The theme for Horse Academy was chosen by my German colleague Markus. For many years he wanted me to design a game around horse jumping. So I did… eventually.


Initially I wanted to make a sequential movement puzzle. But I couldn’t find the right game mechanics. In a sequential movement puzzle I prefer to use a mechanism that prevents you to make mistakes and therefor enforces the game rules. But with a horse that jumps over obstacles this is impossible. The fact that the horse can jump, means that it needs to be a loose part, so there is nothing technical that prevents you from doing something wrong. So instead I changed the concept to a connection game. You can still use the figurine of the horse to jump over the obstacles if you want to check if your solution, but moving with your horse is no longer the core element of the game. There are some similarities with the old connection game Metroville I designed many years ago. In that game you needed to create a track so that the metro passes the stations in a specific sequence. What I liked about that game concept, is that you often use the same tracks more than once, sometimes even in a different direction. I wanted to do something similar here. The object of Horse Academy is to build a horse jumping track, so that your horse will canter the jumps in the right order. The problem was that in order to get 80 challenges with a lot of variation, I needed many different puzzle pieces with paths and obstacles. The first version did have more than 12 pieces, but no game board. It used a special puzzle piece that combined the function of the start and finish. I always prefer to do more with less. The fact that the game board is often the most expensive part in a classic SmartGame, made this choice necessary in this case. It worked for the challenges, but it didn’t look like a jumper course for show jumping at all. 


So we started all over and included a rectangular game board after all, but we worked hard to find a set with only 10 puzzle pieces. The border of the game board has openings on different places, so that you can make different combinations of start and end positions, without adding too many extra parts. This also simplifies the setup. You place the horse at the starting point and the gate at the finish by sliding it in-between the fences on the border of the game board. This way you can also have your start and end point on the same place (like in the first version of this concept). In simple challenges you only need to connect the start and end point using the puzzle pieces with the paths in one single (curved) line. The only “difficulty” here is that the horse should jump the obstacles in a specific sequence. But this rather gives you hints and makes finding the solution easier. The challenge shows you which obstacles you need and their order. It’s very important to note that the information in the challenge only refers to specific obstacles and NOT to specific puzzle pieces. This becomes evident once you start using the piece with the purple obstacle (G). This piece has 2 paths, but only 1 obstacle. In your solution you will need to use both paths, but only when you jump over the obstacle this will be indicated in the challenge (checkout the example of a starter challenge and solution on this page). Later in the game you will also use pieces with forks, which have a similar behavior. They make it possible to create loops in your track, so that you can go over the same path more than once, similar to Metroville. Another resemblance with Metroville is that you need to “go with the flow” when you use a fork in the path. Although the game looks like it’s only for younger kids, eventually the challenge become very hard. Therefor it does include a Wizard level and is also perfectly suitable for teens and adults. In some challenges there are so many obstacles you need to jump over, that the challenge needs to show them in 2 or 3 lines.  So the shape of the line in the challenge does not reflect the shape of the actual path in the solution.

easy challenge
easy solution

Example of a STARTER challenge and solution of Horse Academy.

difficult challenge
difficult solution

Example of a MASTER challenge and solution of Horse Academy, where the start and finish are on the same place.

Horse Academy, designed by me for SmartGames


1) Choose a challenge. Set up the game board by placing your horse at the starting point and placing the gate at the finish (both indicated by letters T, U, W, X, Y or Z on the border). Note that sometimes the starting point and finish will be the same.

Select the puzzle pieces indicated in the challenge: each puzzle piece has an obstacle with a specific color (letters A to J). You only need the puzzle pieces with obstacles mentioned in the challenge.

2) Create a path from start to finish. The challenge shows the sequence of the obstacles. Puzzle pieces must be placed so that your horse jumps over the obstacles in the order shown in the challenge:

A) Your horse must follow the path without changing course. However, when the solution includes a loop or U-turn with multiple puzzle pieces, it is possible to steer your horse over the same path again (in either direction). Sometimes you will jump the same obstacle more than once!

B) There are 3 puzzle pieces that include a fork in the path (with obstacles I, H and J). When you approach a fork you can choose where you steer your horse. However your horse must ‘go with the flow’. You are not allowed to make sharp turns that cross the small grooves in the middle of the path.

C) Remember that the colors/letters in the challenge refer to the order of the specific obstacles along the path, NOT the order of the full puzzle pieces. For example: the puzzle pieces with obstacles G, H, I and J have two possible paths. Sometimes you will place these pieces so that the empty path is used before your horse comes back to jump the obstacle in the sequence of the challenge!

D) Challenges in the Wizard level do not indicate the start or end position (they show a question mark for the horse and the gate). The correct placement of the puzzle pieces will reveal the start and finish.

3) There is only one solution, found at the end of the challenge booklet.

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