DIY Obstacles! January 22, 2020 January 28, 2020 Kerrie Garvey

We really enjoy mixing up normal ring riding in the winter with obstacles. These obstacles do a number of things:

  • help us build trust with our equine partners,
  • break up the routine ring work, and
  • help desensitize our horses to new and potentially scary objects.

Our general go-to obstacles in our ring are fairly limited. We mostly use a combination of tarps, poles, jump standards, and sometimes things we have laying around like lunge lines to simulate opening and closing a gate. Check out this short video below to see some of our obstacles.

Obstacle day with the Horse Trail Chicks and friends.

However, when you check out the obstacles that my friend Sabrina has created, we definitely look like amateurs! I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the great obstacles she has built at her farm. The obstacles shown below are only a subset of her impressive array of horse obstacles! (I know, it’s impressive!)

While many of these require a lot of work to construct, most of these obstacles can be modified to meet your needs.

A log jumble that can also be recreated using jump poles.
A little course made out of poles and cinder blocks where you can push a large ball around with either your horse or the broom in the trash can.
A standard gate that you can practice opening and closing.
This one was an old mattress covered in trash bags. It made a crinkly noise but also was squishy to step on!
A hanging curtain made out of strips of tarp.
A mock apple tree! This one was impressive.
A kid’s ball pit that certain horses really enjoyed stomping through.
A fairly narrow bridge that could be converted into a teeter totter with a log.
A metal sheet (no sharp edges!) boarded by colorful cones.
A neat small jump with faux greenery.
Pool noodles attached to jump standards. These can be moved so the distance between the noodles can be changed.
A set of horse stairs. These were made very sturdy!
A kid’s sand box.
A “spider” made from a barrel, pool noodles, and paint.
An arch that dripped water with a flag waving in the breeze and a mailbox element.
A squirt gun fight on horseback is always fun!
A pvc pipe that swings around when the horse pushes on it. In this case, the horse gets a small dragon pursuing them! (This one scared my horse a bit at first!)
A large tire with a platform. It squishes down when the horse steps on it (even small horses).
A tarp within a wooden box that can be filled with water.
A cheap truck bed liner can be walked through or even…
filled with things like plastic bottles and then stomped through!
Even a fake turkey on a stick!
A tarp tunnel with and without a hanging pool noodle curtain.
A collapsible dog agility tunnel can be dragged around, walked over, or pushed around with your horse.
We call this one the tummy tickler. It is a basic wooden stand with vertical pool noodles.

If you really want to go for it, you could even try things like smoke and fire. Check out the drone footage from Sabrina’s Equine Sensory Day Clinic this past summer below!

Colored smoke bombs and lines of gasoline that can be lit on fire were just a selection of the obstacles we had to conquer! Video by Kelly Schulze.

Please be sure to use your best judgement when introducing your horse to new obstacles. Some of these obstacles may be too challenging for certain horses depending on their comfort level with these types of things.

I generally suggest approaching an obstacle from the easiest way possible and working your way up to more challenging approaches. For example, don’t start going the long way down the teeter totter – start with it flat on the ground and ask your horse to step over it until they can do so in a relaxed way.

If you’re interested in learning more about the construction of any of these obstacles, let us know and we can provide details. A big thank you to Sabrina of Sweet Moon Stables for allowing me to share all of her impressive work!

Happy Trails!