Favorite Horse Obstacles: Pick Four

If someone asked you to name your favorite four obstacles, what would you say? I’ll let you fudge a little and allow for multiples of the same item in “sets”. But otherwise, you have to name four separate obstacles.

For those of us who love to incorporate obstacles in our horse work, it is hard to choose. Right? But here are mine:

  • Set of traffic cones
  • Set of ground poles
  • A tarp
  • A large horse ball

So why these four? They are

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Simple to obtain
  • Moved easily around a riding area (you don’t need a crane or four people to lift them)
  • Easy to store because they don’t take up much space
  • Super versatile!

While I do have more obstacles in my arsenal than “the big four” named here, these are the four that I’ve used the most consistently over the years. And with the greatest variety of horses.

For example, these four photos in this post were taken in 2010, 2016, 2019 and 2021 respectively. They feature four different horses, including one of my former foster horses named Bitsy (the bay mare).

There’s so much you can accomplish with these four obstacles. It is exciting to provide a fun challenge for you and your horse without needing an elaborate trail set up (you might still WANT an elaborate trail set up, but you don’t need one to get your horse used to negotiating basic obstacles).

You can set out each obstacle separately to practice them one at a time. Or set up a simple course where you move smoothly from one obstacle to another like you would in a horse-show trail class. You can also stack or combine obstacles to make something more challenging. For example, you could place a ground pole(s) across a tarp and ask your horse to cross them together.

You can of course use these obstacles in groundwork, too. Doing in-hand trail obstacles is a lot of fun and great for horses who are too young/too lame/too old to be ridden. And if you like to pony one horse from another, you could add in some obstacles to test everyone’s skills at leading/following through them.

Speaking of obstacles, I have been wanting to obtain some more formal obstacles for some time now. I am not, however, handy with tools. I knew I would need to pay someone to make them. So over the Winter, I put a few pieces on a zero-interest layaway plan and recently had them declared “paid in full” and delivered!

Once the weather in my area is set for me to start riding regularly again (will the yo-yo weather with plenty of wind, precipitation and resulting mud ever stop?), I plan to introduce you to my new toys in an upcoming post with photos.

Spoiler alert, one of my new toys is a set of actual ground poles, not the old fence posts repurposed into ground poles that you see in the photos above (or the PVC poles that I also sometimes use). Since I now have a set of evenly shaped and sized ground poles, I finally felt comfortable attempting to trot my horse, Shiloh, across one for the first time.

On our initial attempt, he ticked it with three of four hooves, but didn’t trip or feel unbalanced. So I tried a second time from the opposite direction. I could feel him trotting a little more carefully over it this time.

That extra effort allowed him to trot right over it cleanly! I felt so proud and made much of him. You would have thought we just jumped a three-foot fence.

I don’t think the hunter/jumper circuit is in our future, but I am definitely looking forward to experimenting further with my new obstacles. 🙂

Want more ideas on incorporating obstacles in your horse work? You might enjoy checking out The Backyard Horse Blog’s “Horse Trail Obstacles” board on Pinterest:

4 thoughts on “Favorite Horse Obstacles: Pick Four

    1. It would be interesting to see Biasini’s reaction! For me, those big horse balls are one of the obstacles that easily reveal a horse’s personality. My nervous-nellies initially are afraid of it, my bold horses will attack it and my more laid-back horses will demonstrate gentle curiosity or completely ignore it. 🙂


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