Here’s a fun STEM project – make a paper horse that walks on its own!

A few months ago, I saw this really interesting project on Pinterest where you can make a horse out of paper that really walks on its own down an incline, and I’ve been wanting to try it. Well, our mandatory time at home right now provided just the opportunity! 

We found this paper horse project on this website via Pinterest. The video in the post showed us how to cut and fold the horse, but there were no further instructions. 

After trying it out, here’s what we think:

The project takes a little fiddling, but it’s SO FUN when you get your horse walking! Amazing! 

This project is best for middle school and up, but younger kids will LOVE watching it! Most younger kids will probably not be able to cut/fold it as precisely as it needs in order for it to work. However, it’s perfect for a parent or older sibling to make together with a younger child.

This project has some really great PHYSICS LEARNING to it! I’ll explain more further down. Definitely a great STEM project.

We made our horses out of construction paper. You can cut 2 or 3 out of one piece of paper.

Use a metric ruler to draw the shape below. Start with a rectangle that is 15 cm by 4.5 cm. Then divide it up as shown. Cut around the perimeter of the rectangle. Then cut the DOTTED LINES inside the rectangle.

I labeled the legs, head, body, and tail for your benefit, but you don’t need to do that, obviously!

Cut out your horse as shown.

Curl the tail (I know horses tails aren’t curled like that, but it seems to make it balance better) and fold the head.

Now it’s time to make your horse walk!

Here’s how it works:

The paper horse walks by rocking back and forth on its curved feet. As the horse rocks from one foot to the other, gravity pulls the feet down the incline.

So it rocks to the right, and the left foot (which is no longer touching the board) moves forward. It rocks to the left, and the right foot moves forward. It’s pretty cool to watch!

Here’s a photo that shows the shape of the feet:

The surface that the horse walks on is important! It needs to have enough friction, but not too much.

We first tried a large picture book with one end propped up. The horse just slid right down it, no matter the height of the slope!

Then we tried putting a piece of felt on top of the book. This increased the friction, and the horse did a little bit of the correct motion. However, it was too much friction.

So then we tried a sheet of craft foam, and it was just right!

You can see our setup below. Your ramp doesn’t need to be this long! A shorter ramp will still allow the horse to do plenty of walking. We just build a long ramp in order to get good photos and video for you.

Want to see it in action? Here’s a video demonstration!

Click the play button to start the video.

Troubleshooting:

If you can’t get your horse to walk, make sure that the legs are nice and straight.

Try adjusting the height of the head. For whatever reason, our horse walked the best when his head was up high.

Adjust the height of your slope. If the horse won’t walk, make it higher. If the horse tips forward, make it lower.

If your horse is not rocking back and forth smoothly, try trimming the feet to make them rounded. They should work like rocking chair runners! The outside edge should be the highest point.

Need more STEM ideas? We’ve got lots!

You might want to try making Hot Ice out of baking soda and vinegar.

We also have 10 LEGO STEM Projects that every kid should try!

17 Comments

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  1. Sue Suplicki Mar 26, 2020

    I don't see a play button?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Mar 26, 2020

      I am seeing a white triangle play button on the video screen at the very bottom of the post. Do you see that?

      Reply
      1. Jackie Mar 26, 2020

        I don't see a play button or a white triangle either.

        Reply
      2. Angela Mar 30, 2020

        I don't have a play button either on my Mac. Strangely enough, when I opened the same thing on my phone, there is a play button.

        Reply
        1. Sareli Apr 10, 2020

          oh in the second paragraph it shows a blue link that says " the website " i think you have to click on it to see the video :) hope it works for you.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Apr 11, 2020

            No, that's not it. There's a large video screen at the bottom of the post that has a play button in the center. I truly don't know what to do for people who can't see it. Maybe try a different browser.

            Reply
          2. Sarah May 3, 2020

            For everyone who can't see a play button - I found out that you cannot play the video if you are running an ad blocker on your device.

            Reply
          3. Nancy Kell Mar 26, 2020

            thanks so much for the cool ideas that I'm using for my grandkids through this difficult time! God bless you

            Reply
            1. Nancy Bynum Mar 27, 2020

              This is so much fun! I can't wait to share with my students. Thank you for sharing. Stay well!!

              Reply
              1. Sandy Mar 28, 2020

                This looks like so much fun!! I can’t wait to make the horses (and the hot ice) with my Cub Scout troop! Thank you so much for sharing all your great ideas. Sandy

                Reply
                1. Benjamin Mar 31, 2020

                  Fun

                  Reply
                  1. Hayley Apr 3, 2020

                    I like it. It's cool

                    Reply
                    1. Ainslee Apr 3, 2020

                      This was a super fun thing to do and I am glad my grandma gave me this website!!!😊

                      Reply
                      1. Denise Duckett Apr 3, 2020

                        I can't get the email button to work to get the instructions emailed direct to me. I have subscribed to your newsletter but it doesn't seem to want to send me the email. Am I doing something wrong???

                        Reply
                        1. Sarah Apr 4, 2020

                          I actually don't have instructions to email for this project. My email newsletter keeps people informed when I publish a new post on this blog - it takes people back to this site. Some of my blog posts have things to print, but those are mainly worksheets, templates, or LEGO building cards. You are seeing the instructions on this page for the horse project - that's all there is on this one.

                          Reply
                        2. Jay Apr 5, 2020

                          We made these tonight, using light card stock on a metre of plywood on a 20°angle.
                          Trimmed the snout a couple off mm to stop them falling on their faces.
                          Definitely fiddly but worth the effort.

                          Reply
                          1. Tamara Gutierrez Apr 8, 2020

                            All 4 of my kids loved this! We had pony races all afternoon. Thanks for sharing!

                            Reply
                            1. Lilah Apr 10, 2020

                              When it says to push the play button there is nothing on the video.

                              Reply
                              1. Sarah May 3, 2020

                                For everyone who is unable to play the video, it is probably being blocked by an ad blocker on your device.

                                Reply
                              2. Lilah Apr 10, 2020

                                The walking horse is a really cool idea its just that mine did not walk.

                                Reply
                                1. Sarah Apr 11, 2020

                                  Ours did not work at first either - we had to make some adjustments. Take a look at your horse and make sure that it can rock back and forth from side to side. You may need to trim a little off the feet if they are not rocking properly. Make sure that the horse is balanced, and that one leg is not longer than the other (even a TINY bit matters!). The front legs are the most important.

                                  Reply
                                2. Yumi Apr 10, 2020

                                  Hi, May I know if the thickness of the paper is important too?

                                  Reply
                                  1. Kayla Apr 14, 2020

                                    Hi Sarah!

                                    I am from LoveWay Inc, a nonprofit therapeutic riding center in Middlebury, Indiana. We are looking for ways to reach our participants who have not been able to come to us since the COVID 19 outbreak. I came across your activity on how to make a walking horse. We were hoping we could film ourselves using your activity and send it to our participants as a way to engage with them.

                                    If you could please let us know if that would be possible that would be greatly appreciated.

                                    Thank you,

                                    Kayla Abbott

                                    Reply
                                    1. Sarah Apr 15, 2020

                                      Yes, that would be great! I hope you all enjoy the activity!

                                      Reply
                                    2. Brian Apr 20, 2020

                                      I used a manila file folder - seemed to be right weight & strength. needed to tweak the feet but it worked great. I then doubled the dimensions and made another 30cmx9cm. it walked very well down a plank. again trimming feet just so made a difference. Many thanks!

                                      Reply
                                      1. Joel Ayala Jun 8, 2020

                                        this is soo cool

                                        Reply
                                        1. Paper craft geek Oct 19, 2020

                                          This was amazing I’m only ten but spend most of my time doing stuff like this or oragami

                                          Reply

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