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Old 05-16-2013, 05:25 PM   #1
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trail obstacle ideas

I have been asked to help design a trail class for a show in August. The club has NO obstacles, and will have to make them between now and then.

I am told that in the past the class was too easy, so they want it to be challenging, but possible for a variety of riders.

I am not the trail judge, but will be the regular judge, so may bring some of my plastic jump standards for them to use, and possibly pylons as I have quite a few and trail will be done before the regular classes.

Ideas on easy to make obstacles and challenging pattern ideas suitable for a club/open show?
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:00 PM   #2
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Gate (can just be a rope from the top of one post to the other)
Walk/Trotthru ground poles, can raise the ends of some to make more challenging
Walk thru tires
Bridge (can make it flat or make it a teeter totter or have smoke come up from underneath)
Water obstacle (4 poles and wrap black plastic around them to make a pool, add water and things like plastic bottles or the balls you see in the kiddie play areas.
Kiddie pools, fill them with things like shipping peanuts, plastic bottles,
Small jump
Ground tie/remount on opposite side
Sidepass an "L" or a box (can also add a 360*turn on the box- 2 obstacles in one)
(raise the above poles to make it challenging)
Drag a bag of cans TOWARD you vs from behind
Get an orange cone, put a golf ball on it and they have to lean down and pick it up and walk to the next cone and put it back. Or just have them stand between two cones, and pick up on one and change hands and put down on the other, can get the taller cones, but the smaller cones the more challenging due to leaning over/horse standing still).
Walk over a mattress (just be carefull the mattess isnt that old the metal coils are exposed). Pillow tops are the most challenging.
Open and close an umbrella.
Put a bucket on the ground (large tug, like a muck bucket) and fiill it with water. Take a regular bucket and tie a string to it, ride must dunk the bucket (holding the rope) in the water, raise it (this is usuallly hand over hand) and then dump the water in a bucket on top of a barrell.
Broom and a beach ball (or a kids ball). Walk and weave the beach ball thru cones while riding using the broom. Trotting is extra points.
On a pully system, walk towards a garbage holding the pully, and at the same time the garbage can lid is coming up with balloons tied to it. Can substitude balloos with a big stuffed bear or something.

I could go on and on. I do obstacle challenges. Each obstacle can be made more challenging with just some subtle changes like adding pinwheels, clower boxes, etc.

Last edited by BarnBum; 05-16-2013 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:44 PM   #3
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BarnBum - You had some really great ideas! I have done a few obstacle challenges and some of yours I haven't encountered. Very cool. Where do you do yours? I might be able to come and try a couple
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:49 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Stormy's Human View Post
BarnBum - You had some really great ideas! I have done a few obstacle challenges and some of yours I haven't encountered. Very cool. Where do you do yours? I might be able to come and try a couple
This is nothing. I could go on and on and on. Its the imagination. You can really add level of difficulty easily. My g/f has a 2 acre pasture just obstacles and it never ends. She holds play days all the time. We travel all over doing obstacle challenges. These challenges really bring horse/rider together as a team.

Like say the kiddie pool, put a black mat on the bottom of it
and the bridge, install a metal grate in the center of it (like what you see in pkg lots).
The smoke is the best !!

The orange cone is fun. Usually they have three size cones, the smaller cone being the most difficult due to reaching so low (literally sliding down the side of your horse). Switching hands is challenging too, people are usually "one handed" and to put a golf ball back with an off hand is tough.

Last edited by BarnBum; 05-16-2013 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:50 PM   #5
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Simple ones that require communication and control...
1) think SERPENTINE; tight back & forth through 3 up/down then into a box, reverse out of the box to stand square and quiet.
2) 3 barrels: barrel pattern but real tight together, each barrel must be circled even distanced circle then walk out the pattern, turn around bring back in and square halt. (about ten feet between each barrel and riding the pattern, slowly!)
3) Elevated jump poles off the ground about 6", the horse must pick-up their feet for and step over without hitting them, dead center down the middle...
4) Mailbox... pick up the mail, put the flag up or down then go deliver the mail into another box around a sharp turn or on a bend opposite what you expect or are preparing for, again flag goes up or down.
5) Pick up rings off of hanging pipes(we use hanging flower poles for practice) put the rings on a cone... you may not dismount but must lean over and balance to get them done correctly... no excessive time allowed.
6) Before leaving the ring after the last physical "obstacle" is completed, the horse must trot 30 feet and come to a dead halt, squared stop immediately. Stand for a quick 3 second count then leave the ring on a loose rein, quiet and slow walk! This is done right directly heading toward the exit gate... not so simple, the gate is open!
All of these obstacles should be done at a working walk, open to any riding discipline, rider control and exactness is what counts most.
The more experienced riders in upper levels can attempt to do these at a faster gait, but the faster the harder they are to complete properly.

These may not be "typical" trail course obstacles of walking through water, opening/closing gates astride etc.., but if a "real" trail course you can and do encounter these ideas on actual trail rides.

Amazing how many people can't do a true circle, round not egg-shaped! Can't do a tight serpentine then halt and reverse, straight line back not wiggly or off-set.

You don't need speed, you need communication and responsiveness...

Have fun doing the show.

Last edited by horselover4life; 05-16-2013 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:56 PM   #6
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Do you have a copy of the governing association rules?

You can do lots of obstacles with poles... walk overs, trot overs, lope overs, boxes to turn around in, Ls to back through, side pass over... make the obstacles work together.. lope through the box, and then later turn around in it, etc.

make the trot over or walk over in a fan shape so the horse has to curve while working over the poles...

set up a difficult section to walk through where the poles are propped up on one side, alternating sides every other pole, so the horse really has to carefully work its way through.

Jump standards can be used to make a rope gate. Again, incorporate it into other obstacles.

medium sized potted trees make good markers for a weave through.

bridges are pretty easy to make, and almost always a trail course element.

Small jumps are usually acceptable.

a tarp or a plastic grocery bag of cans to shake is a good spooker, or having the rider put on a plastic rain slicker.

have the rider mount and dismount, ground tie the horse and walk away..

AQHA has gone towards intricate pole work from the older style trail class with walking over tarps, shaking cans, etc, so you might want to talk to them about what they are looking for... IMO, the pole work is more difficult than having a quiet horse that will sidepass and back nicely, which was about all that was required for the older style courses.. you have to pay attention to stride length with the newer style courses, and some horses really are not good at not hitting ground poles!
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Old 05-16-2013, 10:29 PM   #7
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Horselover, your obstacles sound challenging yet easy to make...thanks! Of course I don't even know if there IS a ring vs just a marked off portion of the field, so there might not be an outgate!

Barnbum, some great ideas, but need to simplify a bit! I don't know what access we will have to water (I think they will just have a water truck for the horse water) so refilling spilled/used water may be a pita. Any obstacles not outlined in the rules have to be reasonably expected trail not sure if a broom and ball count

I am going to base the course on the NSBA rules, so no dismounting, ground tying, or rocking bridges allowed. This is a trail, not an obstacle course, so can't go quite as crazy.

I do know I have to have a gate, walk overs, jog overs and lope overs, as well as backing/steering. I forget what else is mandatory for a trail class. A mail box should be easy to make though.

Does anyone have a good design for a home made trail gate?
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:57 AM   #8
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Here are some pics of some pretty basic and mostly easy to make obstacles:

Then there's this guy - Mark Bolender who has created an entire park:

And you can see all the "approved" obstacles on the ACTHA site:

And then there's my fav - the Oregon Trail Horse challenge:

This video is from a helmet cam - this pony is amazing - no idea about the pink ear covers....

All have elements that you could possibly incorporate either as a "made" obstacle or create a more natural one with some imagination.
“Horses are consistent and logical. The horse will do what is easiest for him. If you make it easy for him to buck you off, kick you, and run away, that’s just what he’s going to do....But if you make it easy for the horse to be relaxed and calm and accurate...Whatever you make easy for the horse, that’s what he’s going to get good at.” Buck Brannaman
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:57 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by EquineAlberta View Post

Does anyone have a good design for a home made trail gate?
I would just use two posts and a rope.

You can really simplify my obstacles, alot are about control, steering, coordination and horse/rider communication. Thats what "obstacles challenges" are all about. Communication between horse/rider.

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Old 05-17-2013, 12:52 PM   #10
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yes, the two posts and a rope on that facebook page would be easy to make. The person making the obstacles can weld though, so may be able to do something more permanent. The solid gates are way more challenging than the ropes.
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Old 05-17-2013, 01:12 PM   #11
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Ah, traditional trail, I love it:

put down jump poles to make the L or T shaped chute, walk through, back back through.

You use the same poles for side passing, either just along the straight or around the corner as well.

More poles, or better yet sturdy wood planks nailed together to make a box, step in box, 360* turn step out.

pole jumble, poles laid out not as trot poles but just in random pattern, horse has to pick his way though with minimal help from rider.

Bridge and gate are always good.

Trail to me is far different from obstacle or extreme trail
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Old 05-17-2013, 09:37 PM   #12
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First, decide on type of trail class. Stock horse and NSBA have eliminated many of the former obstacles that were considered un safe, and instead have made trail courses difficult by how tight they are, esp for lope overs, with precision counting, and not seeing if you can 'scare' the horse
For those that like the more challenging type trial courses, there are extreme cowboy challenge type courses
I have seen a horse hung up in a free standing metal gate, with that gate tipping, esp in a back through. Thus, far as I know , those gates are no longer legal at breed shows, and why they have switched to rope gates
Teeter toter bridges are also no longer legal, and in fact a bridge has to have certain minimum dimensions. Dry ice 'water obstacles are also no longer permitted
Thus, for a basic breed type trail course, there are several things you need, to cover the mandatory obstacles
back through
all three gaits
so, lots of poles, a gate, abridge.
additional, but not madatory
barrels for back through
brush, vegetation (love to be put at gates, and Smilie who does not get to eat lots of green stuff, finds that vegetation very tempting, placed right where you have to stop and open the gate! )Sure get those horses that are used to being allowed to snack on a trail ride!
Slicker to carry from point a to b
Kim KImura is a very noted trail designer, just like I'm sure you are familiar with noted jump designers
By going to this link, you can see how technically challenging a trail pattern can be, with the main props-poles and lots of them!
Think 'tight, lots of gait changes and lope overs, versus lots of props!
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:18 PM   #13
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Thanks Smilie, great link!

I have the specs for the bridge from the NSBA website and will forward those to the builder. Good to know that rope gates are preferred. Also good to know that tight courses are good as I have a feeling we will have a small space.

I am pretty sure a mail box should be easy enough to make and a fun challenge.

I am oddly excited to learn about building trail courses...more fun than hunter/jumper courses.
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