GOALS: Your horse should be able to confidently and calmly go under/though an Archway. Your horse should have the skills necessary to accomplish this obstacle at any speed or direction that is asked for. GUIDELINES: Archways can be built out of anything. Round pen gates, doorways, or trees are all good options, but they cannot be moved. Drainage pipes or pool noodles attached over electric fence poles or pvc poles work great and are able to be moved. PROBLEMS: This obstacle usually ends up being easy for most horses. When you hang stuff from the top, on the sides, or on the bottom, it can become scarier. When you add the bottom jump to it it becomes the Hoop Jump. Make sure your horse is comfortable going through the Archway at a walk before adding speed. SUCCESS TIPS: Most horses are comfortable going through an Archway. This is due to the fact that they're use to going through them. Their stalls, round pens, barns, and trailers all require that horses go through an Archway to get into them. The smaller the Archway the scarier it will be for the horse.
GOALS: Demonstrate the horses ability to back away from their handler with cadence while remaining soft and straight. The horse should back willingly and lightly. When backing correctly the horse should pick up and move it's feet in diagonal pairs. The horse should be able to back up, down, or around obstacles. GUIDELINES: When number of steps are listed count only the front feet. PROBLEMS: Horse refusing to back up, backing up crooked, and diagonal pair of feet not moving together. SUCCESS TIPS: A horses's rear will go in the opposite direction that his/her head or nose is pointing, remember this while backing your horse up. There are several methods to que your horse to back up, the more of them that you practice with your horse and the more time you spend practicing backing up your horse the better they will get. Practice backing your horse into his stall, paddock, round pen...See how good he gets by just doing normal things backwards!
GOAL: The goal is to have your horse stand quietly while you bounce the ball over and around the horse. The horse should approach the ball confidently and willingly push it with either his nose or his feet/legs. The horse should continue to push the ball until the handler asks him to stop. GUIDELINES: Unless otherwise stated in the course any size ball is acceptable. Rubber beach balls, exercise balls, bouncy balls, or any kind of horse balls are acceptable. PROBLEMS: Horses may be afraid of the balls initially. If they are afraid of the balls they will not want to stand quietly beside them or touch/push them. SUCCESS TIPS: Start with a smaller ball if your horse shows any fear of a bigger ball. Move up to bigger, brighter balls as your horse gets used to them. Start by rolling the ball away from the horse. Allow the horse to follow the ball. Once the horse is confident following the ball you can start rolling the ball to your horse. Use lots of praise and encouragement. When your horse is ready start bouncing the ball lightly away from the horse gradually getting to the point of bouncing it over or off of the horse.
GOAL: The goal is to have your horse willingly and confidently ring a bell. GUIDELINES: Use your imagination on this! Any kind of bell will work. Make sure it is loud enough for it to be heard in the video. PROBLEMS: Horses may be afraid of a loud ringing bell. When the horse is frightened he will not want to make the bell ring. SUCCESS TIPS: Be patient on this one. It may take a while. Use lots of food and praise while starting to teach this.
GOAL: The goal is to be able to have the horse calmly accept being blindfolded and confidently and willingly follow the handler. This requires absolute trust on the horse part in it's handler. GUIDELINES: Use a soft towel, cloth, or tee shirt. The object is to have your horse place his trust in you. Using a soft material will be much more comfortable for your horse. Loosely tuck the blindfold under your horses halter so that you can quickly remove it if necessary. PROBLEMS: Horses are prey animals with a huge flight response. By blindfolding them a you are taking away their primary survival skill. Horses are very scared once blindfolded, so extreme caution should be taken while completing this obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: Always use a soft material with a familiar smell on it. Start out with a small piece of material draped over the top of your horse's halter. It should not cover their eyes to start with. When your horse is calmly and confidently leading with that, then it's time to pull it partially over one eye. Take this slowly and do not rush the horse. You are building his confidence and trust in you. Do not rush and ruin the beautiful relationship between you and your horse. This may take longer than one month to accomplish. Be proud of your progress, not perfection!
GOAL: Have the horse confidently enter and exit the box without touching the frame of the box with his feet. There should be no rushing or refusing when entering or exiting the box. The horse should never bump or crowd the handler. GUIDELINES: Box should be 6ft by 6ft or smaller. The box can be made out of poles (round or square), and the ends do not need to be attached, but must touch. Poles can be any diameter greater than one inch. They can be wood, plastic, pvc, pool noodles, etc. PROBLEMS: The horse bumping the box frame with their feet, the handler bumping the box, refusal to go through obstacle, or rushing through it. The horse must not push or crowd the handler at any time. SUCCESS TIPS: Start slow and increase speed. Give the horse time to become comfortable and check out the obstacle. Do not reward or punish a horse for touching the obstacle with it's feet. Just ignore that unwanted behavior. It will go away as the horse gains confidence and gets tired of bumping his feet!
GOAL: The horse is to step into the box bravely and without hesitation. Horse should not touch the box when entering or exiting the box. The horse should not appear startled or rush when stepping on/popping balloons. GUIDELINES: The box can be made of wood, plastic, pool noodles, etc. The box should be completely filled with balloons. Horse may examine the obstacle, but should not hesitate to enter it. PROBLEMS: Horse hesitating or refusing to enter the obstacle. Horse spooking, jumping, or running out of obstacle when the balloons pop. SUCCESS TIPS: Start by introducing your horse to the box with 1 or 2 balloons in it. Add a couple of balloons at a time until your horse is comfortable with them. Do not blow the balloons up all the way up to start with-their pop is much quieter that way.
GOAL: The horse should calmly and confidently enter the box with out hesitation. The horse should not rush into or out of the box. Horse should not crowd or bump into the handler. GUIDLINES: Box can be any size that is appropriate for your horse to fit in with all four feet. Box can be made of wood poles, plastic, pvc, pool noodles, etc. Box must be completely filled with bottles. Any kind of plastic bottles will work. Softer, crushable plastic is safer for horses and handlers to run over. Caps and lids should be removed to allow the bottles to flatten under the horses feet. PROBLEMS: Horse not wanting to enter the obstacle or rushing in or out of the obstacle will be the greatest challenge to overcome. Horses should not be allowed in their handler's space until they can calmly complete this obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: Start this obstacle slowly and increase speed only after the horse is completely confident at a walk. Start with one bottle in the box and continue to increase the number of bottles as the horses confidence grows. Do not add bottles so quickly that your horse becomes discouraged. You don't want him thinking that every time he does a great job his life gets harder. Enjoy your success without raising the bar every time.Take it slow and you'll get this before you know it. It's nice to know that your horse will not be afraid when he kicks a bottle or can hiding in the grass on your next trail ride.
GOAL: The horse is to step onto the bridge calmly and with confidence. The horse should enter and exit in the middle of the bridge. The horse should exit the bridge at the same speed that he/she entered it. The horse should be able to stop and stand still on the bridge if asked to. GUIDELINES: Bridge should be made of wood and should be sturdy enough to be safe for your horse to cross. Bridge should be long enough that your horse can get all 4 feet on the bridge at the same time. Bridge must be at least 4 inches tall, but can be taller. Wood pallets covered with a thick sheet of plywood works well. PROBLEMS: Horse not willing to approach or step on the bridge. Horse rushing onto or off of the bridge. Horses that are nervous about stepping up and down on the bridge will tend to want to step off of the side. They also may not be comfortable stopping on the bridge until they get more confidence. SUCCESS TIPS: Take this obstacle slowly. Do not push your horse to do more than he has the confidence to do. If you go slow and gain your horse's confidence and trust he will be willing to cross whatever you ask in the future. Always start at a walk. Ask for one foot on the bridge and then back him off. Do that 50 times. You're horse will be thinking "please let me go forward, I'm tired of backing off this bridge already!" Then repeat with both front feet. This may take a while but it will put a solid foundation on your horse for crossing objects
GOAL: The goal is for the horse to calmly and confidently carry something at the handlers request. The handler should be able to place and remove the object to be carried without the horse moving or becoming upset. GUIDELINES: Horses can be taught to carry things in their mouths, on their backs, around their necks, etc. Use your imagination and have fun with your horse on this obstacle! Most of the time you get to choose which way your horse carries an obstacle. The more ways you train your horse to carry things, the better off you are and the more fun you'll have. PROBLEMS: Not spending a little time during each month teaching this will lead to stress on you and your horse when it appears in the obstacle list for the month. This obstacle should not be taught in one or two lessens. Spread it out so when it come up your ready. SUCCESS TIPS: Keep this one fun. It will really showcase the relationship between you and your horse. Teach your horse to carry a ziplock bag with cookies in it in his mouth. Then reward your horse with one. Connect two empty feed sacks together with a piece of vetwrap and toss it over your horse's back (a bag hanging on each side of the horse). This can be fun to teach in short training sessions when it's too hot or too cold to ride. You can even play with this in your horse's stall.
GOAL: To be able to guide the horse around and through cones without the horse touching them. GUIDELINES: Cones can be rubber or plastic and any color. Any height/size is acceptable. Upside-down buckets can be substituted for cones. Horse/handler should not touch the cones unless instructed to do so. PROBLEMS: Most horses tend to not be respectful of cones, but rather to bump into or run over them. SUCCESS TIPS: Work on guiding your horse. A horse that is respectful of your personal space will guide much easier around the cones. Don't praise or treat a horse that bumps or steps on a cone. It's a mistake to reward unwanted behavior.
COOKIE AND TREAT TIME
GOAL: To be able to eat something yummy without your horse coming into your personal space and trying to help you eat it. GUIDELINES: Keep your treat in a container, bag, etc. and on the ground until you are ready for it. That will keep any dirt off of it while you are practicing. It could be a real cookie, apple, or other food. But remember that it should smell good to your horse too. We want to increase our leadership here and the leader always eats first in the horses world! This is great for letting your horse know that you are the leader in a way that he clearly understands. You will loose points if your horse pins his ears, fidgets, or tries to get your cookie. PROBLEMS: Horse keeps coming into your space to try and eat with you. Horse pins his ears at the handler. Horse paws the ground or fidgets around. SUCCESS TIPS: At the beginning back the horse out of your space to the end of the lead rope. Gradually you can decrease the distance that you ask him to stay out of your space. You should eventually get to the point that the horse is standing next to you and will still respect you, so that you can eat cookies without him trying to help.
GOAL: The goal is to have your horse willingly and confidently wear a potentially scary object or objects. GUIDELINES: Any kind of costume will work. Homemade, store bought, hats, scarfs, socks, tutus, etc. PROBLEMS: Most costumes are colorful and scary. Most costumes move and make noises. Both of which are spooky to horses. Make sure the costume is safe for you and your horse. Don't have dragging pieces, or pieces that could hit your face or your horse's eye if he tosses his head. SUCCESS TIPS: Have fun! Look for after Halloween sales to pick up some fun things to get your horse use to. This can be as simple or extravagant as you want to make it.
CURTAIN -- DIRECTIONS TO MAKE
GOAL: To be able to lead, send, or recall your horse though a curtain with strips of material. Your horse should be willing to go through alone or with the handler. The horse should also be willing to maintain any given speed approaching, going through, and leaving the curtain. Cadence and confidence should be maintained throughout. GUIDELINES: Curtain can be made out of wood or pvc pipes. You can also use the top of a round pen gate or hang it from a tree branch, door opening, a rope strung between two points, etc. Strips of material can be made of safety tape, cation tape, etc. You may also use a tarp, shower curtain, flat sheet, etc cut into strips. Strips must be between one inch and six inches wide. Bottom of curtain must come to within 18 inches of the ground. Make sure your curtain is full enough that the curtain flows over your horses back.Horse should not be able to avoid going through the strips. PROBLEMS: Horses are very afraid of this obstacle! Make sure your horse respects your personal space before attempting this obstacle. Horses refusing to enter, rushing when exiting, or crowding their handler will all loose points. Horse should be confident and brave towards the obstacle. Horses that break gait approaching, during, or leaving the obstacle will loose points. SUCCESS TIPS: Start with petting your horse with a strip of fabric. Once your horse is comfortable with that, hang 1or 2 strips from your curtain and send or lead your horse through the curtain. Once your horse is comfortable with that, continue to add strips until your curtain is full and your horse is comfortable with the curtain.
GOAL: To be able to lead, send, or recall your horse though a solid curtain. Your horse should be willing to go through alone or with the handler. The horse should also be willing to maintain any given speed approaching, going through, and leaving the curtain. Cadence and confidence should be maintained throughout. GUIDELINES: Curtain can be made out of wood or pvc pipes. You can also use the top of a round pen gate or hang it from a tree branch, door opening, a rope strung between two points, etc. You may use a tarp, shower curtain, flat sheet, etc. Bottom of curtain must come to within 18 inches of the ground. PROBLEMS: Horses are very afraid of this obstacle! Make sure your horse respects your personal space before attempting this obstacle. Horses refusing to enter, rushing when exiting, or crowding their handler will all loose points. Horse should be confident and brave towards the obstacle. Horses that break gait approaching, during, or leaving the obstacle will loose points. SUCCESS TIPS: Always start with the cowboy curtain. Progress to the split curtain. Then you will accomplish this with relative ease. If you have not used the other curtains with your horse previously--DO NOT USE THIS CURTAIN! Loose a few points, use one of the other curtains. Always set your horse up to succeed. This is about your relationship between yourself and your horse.Be proud of your progress,not perfection!
GOAL:To be able to lead, send, or recall your horse though a solid curtain that has a split in the middle. Your horse should be willing to go through alone or with the handler. The horse should also be willing to maintain any given speed approaching, going through, and leaving the curtain. Cadence and confidence should be maintained throughout. GUIDELINES: Curtain can be made out of wood or pvc pipes. You can also use the top of a round pen gate or hang it from a tree branch, door opening, a rope strung between two points, etc. Curtain can be made using a tarp, shower curtain, flat sheet, etc. Cut it in the middle from the top of the curtain to the bottom. Bottom of curtain must come to within 18 inches of the ground. PROBLEMS: Horses are very afraid of this obstacle! Make sure your horse respects your personal space before attempting this obstacle. Horses refusing to enter, rushing when exiting, or crowding their handler will all loose points. Horse should be confident and brave towards the obstacle. Horses that break gait approaching, during, or leaving the obstacle will loose points. SUCCESS TIPS: Always start by introducing your horse to the cowboy curtain first. When first introducing this obstacle pull the curtain back on both sides so that your horse can pass through in the middle. As your horse gains confidence you can slowly close the gap between the sides of the curtain. Your horse will tend to rush through until he gains confidence. Do not try to slow him down. That will only heighten his fear. His confidence will slow your horse down.
GOAL: The goal is to be able to have your horse willingly and confidently drag something. If the handler is dragging something, the horse should remain calm and confident. There should not be any change in speed, unless asked for by the handler. The horse should travel in a straight line, unless asked to do something different by the handler. GUIDELINES: Follow the course for directions on what to drag. You may attach a rope or string to make it easier to drag. Horse should remain in correct position to the handler. Handler should be between the horse's ear and wither. Horse should not lag or enter the handler's space. PROBLEMS: Horse spooking at the object being dragged will loose points. Horse should be calm and comfortable with the object being drug around him. Any movement of the horse's feet while the handler is picking up the object will loose points. SUCCESS TIPS: Introduce the object to your horse before trying to drag it. Desensitize your horse's legs and hip to a rope before trying to drag something. Start by dragging just a rope around. Then move up to dragging a small object. Keep trying lots of new things to drag. This is a great way to build trust and courage in your horse with very low stress.
GOAL: You should be able to open and close a gate while your horse waits patiently and still. Your horse should come through the gate without either lagging or rushing. The horse should walk calmly and with cadence through the gate then smoothly turn and face the handler. The horse should continue to focus on his handler until asked to move. And at no time should the horse bump into or crowd the handler. GUIDELINES: The kind of gate that you choose to use is up to you. You may use a standard gate, free standing gate, a round pen gate, a rope between two upright poles or jump standards, a rope between two trees, etc. PROBLEMS: People and horses tend to have a lot of trouble around gates. Horses tend to want to run or rush through gates. For safety's sake, always make sure that your horse respects your personal space before attempting to teach this obstacle. Once the handler asks the horse to wait, the horse may not move his feet until the handler clearly asks the horse to move forward or back. SUCCESS TIPS: Standard metal gates are the easiest to practice with. You can let go of it if you need to and don't have to worry about it dragging on the ground. Rope gates are the easiest to use on your course. Make sure you can easily back your horse up to the end of the lead before working on this obstacle. Teach your horse a word or body language that means to stop and be still. Saying "wait" or holding your hand up are commonly used.
GOAL: To show the judges the unique bond that you and your horse have. No two people and no two horses are alike. Be proud of all the hard work you both have put into your relationship. GUIDELINES: Be sure and tell us what you are attempting to do before you start the obstacle. Otherwise, we will have no idea what you are trying to do. You may use any one of the obstacles in American Horse Agility, or come up with one of your own. It can be a very simple or very hard obstacle. This will be judged like any other obstacle. Tight rope, horse bumping the handler, not doing the obstacle correctly, etc. will all loose points. PROBLEMS: Handlers trying to make this too hard. Handler not telling us what the obstacle is! SUCCESS TIPS: Focus on your progress and perfection will come.
GOAL: To be able to send your horse through various styles of hoop jumps. Horse should jump confidently and cleanly through the jump. Horse will be under control and relaxed throughout. GUIDELINES: You may use any hoop of your choosing but we have found that black plastic drain pipe from the lumber store works best by far. Attach the two ends together with vet wrap. Only wrap it around 1 1/2 times so that it will come apart if the horse hits the jump. You NEVER want to scare your horse by having him get hung up on this obstacle. You may hang it from a tree, in your round pen gate, or from a rafter. Make sure to secure at least one side, so it doesn't spin around. We have found that using two plastic hot fence poles that stick into the ground work wonderfully with the hoop in the middle. Again, use vet wrap to attach the hoop so it will come loose if necessary. The hoop must be at least 5 inches off the ground. You may place it higher if you wish. PROBLEMS: Horse refusing the jump by stopping or going around. Horse or handler may not hit the jump. Horse should not be nervous or out of control. Handler should not confuse playfulness on the horse's part, with nervousness. Handlers practicing this too much. It requires a lot of physical stamina for the horse to jump more than three times. SUCCESS TIPS: Start by making sure your horse will jump a regular jump under your control before attempting this one. If you can't, then use a regular jump for filming! You will loose points, but that is better than getting a no score, or worse, getting you or your horse hurt. Don't make the hoop too big or too small for your horse. Don't connect the two ends together at all until your horse is comfortable with the hoop jump. Practice this when your horse is feeling energetic, not when he's tired.
GOAL: Horse is to enter and exit the Hula Hoop without touching it. GUIDELINES: Hula hoops must be hula hoops, not ropes. Hula hoops should be of normal size. Touching of hula hoop by horse/handler will lose points. PROBLEMS: Horse touching Hula Hoop when entering or exiting. Horse evading or refusing to enter the hoop. Horse not picking up their feet and dragging the hoop along. Horse not getting the correct foot/feet in the hoops. Horse leaving the hoop before being asked by the handler to leave. SUCCESS TIPS: This is one of the rare obstacles that can be introduced with a treat or two. Tell the horse "place" or "enter" and when a foot actually enters the hoop treat them. Clicker training works great here as well.
GOAL: Demonstrating that the horse can jump agilely and calmly while under control. GUIDELINES: Jump can be any height, but should be high enough to encourage the horse to actually jump. Block ends are better then posts so that they will not interfere with the lead rope. Horse should not pass the handler but remain in correct position. Unless specified in the monthly pattern, any gait, walk, trot, or canter is equally acceptable. PROBLEMS: Refusing to jump by stopping or going around the jump. Horse pulling on the handler. Horse passing the handler after jump. Rushing before or after jump. SUCCESS TIPS: Start with low enough jumps to build the horse's confidence. Ground poles may be where you and your horse are comfortable to start. Start with walking over jumps and build to higher speeds as the horse feels more comfortable.
LEAD HORSE-BESIDE HANDLER
GOAL: Always have the horse maintain the correct leading position without help from the handler. GUIDELINES: The handler needs to be between the horse's ears and wither. This is a safety issue. The horse should not be so close to the handler that he could step on or trip the handler. The horse should usually be within 2 1/2ft of the handler's side. The lead rope should have a large loop between horse and handler, but should never touch the ground. PROBLEMS: Horse not keeping the handler between his ears and wither. Again this is a safety issue. If the horse gets to far ahead, the handler could be kicked. If the horse gets too far behind, the handler may trip and be stepped on. The handler could also be stuck by the front feet of a horse that is lagging behind and becomes frightened of an obstacle. Horse leaving the handler's side by more than 5ft. Handler having a tight lead rope. SUCCESS TIPS: Practice maintaining leading position in a straight line. Having a fence or rail on the outside of the horse will also help in the beginning. Slowly add inside turns(horse to the inside). When the horse gets the idea of slowing down for inside turns, it's time to add outside turns. Outside turns will require the horse to speed up.
GOAL: The handler should be able to ask the horse to leave something alone. The horse should willingly respond by not touching, smelling, snooping, pulling on the handler, or moving towards the object. GUIDELINES: As soon as the handler asks the horse to "LEAVE IT" the horse should immediately shift his attention away from the obstacle and back towards the handler. The horse may be inquisitive toward the object, ears perked up or focused in that direction, but should not move and body part toward the obstacle. PROBLEMS: Handlers should be clear and not reward the horse for disobeying. Don't say good boy and pat a horse that is straining towards an obstacle that you told him to leave. Horses that do not respect their handler will repeatedly disobey on this obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: If something is important to you, it will become important to your horse. If you have a relaxed attitude towards an obstacle so will your horse. LEAVE IT is an important obstacle. If you asked your 2 year old child to not touch the stove-you'd make sure he didn't touch it. Same goes here. If a snake approached your horse while camping, LEAVE IT could make a big difference. A small child offers to pet your horse's nose with a peanut butter covered finger. Your horse sees a treat. LEAVE IT should be important to you and your horse.
GOAL: When the handler asks a horse to "load up" the horse should calmly and confidently enter whatever the handler has asked him to enter without hesitation. GUIDELINES: Make sure and follow what the course calls for. Sometimes loading boxes can be as simple as three poles on the ground. Sometimes it will be a real horse trailer. The horse should enter and exit in a straight line. PROBLEMS: Horses love to skirt around things! Handlers tend to try and push 1000lb animals into things. Combine the two and you have some real problems to overcome. Go slow to avoid the most common problems. Reward your horse's smallest try. Most of the boxes we work with are not scary. One of the most common problems is the horse backing out before being asked to. If you practice this one too much the horse will start anticipating the back out before the handler asks for it. SUCCESS TIPS: Release the pressure by backing your horse away from the box. Try not to let the horse run in a circle around the handler. It will become a way to avoid loading. As soon as the horse takes a step forward reward him by backing him up. Do not over practice this obstacle. If you use treats, treat the horse while he is still in the box and not after you back him out of it. If the course says- enter box, count to three, then back out- the correct time to treat would be after you count to three and before you back the horse out. That way he will not want to rush out to get a cookie. If you hold a cookie in front of his nose while you are counting to three you will loose points.
GOAL: To have your horse go through pool noodles calmly and with confidence and cadence. GUIDELINES: Pool noodles of any length or color may be used. PROBLEMS: Horses are generally very afraid of this obstacle. Just because your horse will accept stepping over them doesn't mean that he will accept them touching him. Your horse may willingly walk through them coming from the sides, but refuse to enter the noodles sticking up from the ground. SUCCESS TIPS: Be patient, firm, and fair when teaching the noodles. Desensitize your horse to one pool noodle laying on the ground as your first step. When you pick up the noodle make sure you a safe distance from your horse to start with. If you spook your horse he may strike or kick at you and the noodle! Sending your horse through is usually a safer option than leading your horse.
GOAL: Follow what the course tells you to do. The horse should be under control at all times. Horse should be able to stop on the mat with all four feet, two front feet only, or two back feet only. Horse should pause on the mat without moving feet until asked. Zoom your video in once the horse is stopped, to clearly show which feet are on the mat. GUIDELINES: The Pause Mat must be carpet or rubber-NOT PLASTIC OR TARP. It should be at least 3ft x 3ft, but not larger than 4ft x 6ft. Horse must remain calm and still once he/she is asked to stop. Points will be lost for any movement or nervousness. All four of the horse's feet should be on the mat unless otherwise stated in your course level. PROBLEMS: Handler's timing off. This will cause your horse to stop in the wrong place. Horse moving around after being asked to stop. Handler not being on or off the mat when course dictates where the handler should be. SUCCESS TIPS: Patience and practice at slow gaits will pay off. Slow down and make your ques very clear.
GOAL: Horse should confidently and agilely step up onto a pedestal platform when asked by the handler to do so. GUIDELINES: Always make sure that anything you ask your horse to step on is safe. This is very important for everyone's safety. Pedestals take a long time to build and should be done by a professional. They are a great tool for building confidence and mental and physical agility in your horse. Please feel free to contact us with questions on this obstacle. We have several plans available,or can get you the name of someone who can build them for you. Horses should step up onto the pedestal and not jump for safety. PROBLEMS: Handlers tend to push too hard instead of letting the horse check out the obstacle in the beginning. Horses tend to be afraid to step up. Horses usually will try and avoid it by circling the pedestal. Even a horse that respects the handler's personal space can slip off of the side of the pedestal and end up hurting their handler. Enforce your personal space when the horse is on the ground, but once the horse has even one foot on the pedestal make sure to stay out of his way should he slip or panic. SUCCESS TIPS: Handlers need to approach this obstacle with confidence so that their horse will succeed. After the horse paws at it a while he will usually step up onto it. Make sure and back the horse off of the pedestal after he gets both front feet up. Do that several times before asking the horse to step all the way up. Stay out of your horse's way because he may loose his balance or slip off the side of the pedestal. Let him come off the pedestal as soon as he wants. Do not try to keep the horse on the pedestal. Once they get confidence on the pedestal most horses love it. They like being taller than everyone around them.
PICK UP FEET
GOAL: Horse allows handler to lift feet without pulling, leaning, or stomping foot back down. GUIDELINES: Always keep lead rope off of the ground for safety. There will usually be something to prove that the horse has not moved the foot you have placed back down (i.e. box, hoops, mats). PROBLEMS: Not picking up feet willingly, stomping feet back down, and leaning/pulling on the handler are all signs that your horse either doesn't trust the handler or doesn't respect the handler. SUCCESS TIPS: While you are teaching this keep horses nose tipped towards you to keep its attention and to keep you safe. Once you trust them you may go to a loose lead.
GOAL: For horse to negotiate over the poles in a circle without touching any of them in a calm and controlled manner. The closer the horse is to the center, the more points you will get. GUIDELINES: Raised middle should be at least 14 inches tall, it may be a tire, bucket, block of wood, etc. Poles should be at least 10 ft long made of PVC, wood, foam noodles, etc. High score will be given to the horse staying closest to the center. PROBLEMS: Problems with this obstacle stem from lack of confidence or lack of interest. Rushing through the obstacle, not watching where they put their feet, hitting poles, and not maintaining a consistent distance from center are all problems that you may run into. SUCCESS TIPS: Exaggerate your steps over the poles while teaching this.
GOAL: Horse should remain calm and confident around rustling plastic bags whether they are touching the horse or just moving around by them . There should be no movement when the bag is rustling around the horse or touching the horse. I'm GUIDELINES: Any plastic grocery bag will do. Not a flag. PROBLEMS: Horses tend to be very afraid of this obstacle if not introduced properly. SUCCESS TIPS: Remember to always remove the stimuli (in this case the plastic bag)when the horse is doing the right thing not the wrong thing. Start with the bag far enough away from the horse to not worry him too much, then slowly bring it closer in each training session. Don't rush this one.
GOAL: To show a horse's ability to either stay between poles or to calmly step over poles without touching or bumping them. GUIDELINES: All poles should be wood, PVC/plastic or pool noodles. Not rope. Any size diameter from 1 1/2in to 8inches. Horse or handler will lose points for touching a pole. Poles used will be between 4ft -12ft long. PROBLEMS: Horse or handler touching poles at any time. Horse or handler stepping out of a pole obstacle. Horse jumping when asked to step over. SUCCESS TIPS: Exaggerate your steps. Horses will naturally follow those they perceive as a leader.
GOAL: The horse should be confident and calm around a raincoat being worn by the handler or carried by the horse. GUIDELINES: The raincoat can be made of any material and be any size. Aussie/oilskin jackets may be used if necessary but are discouraged because of their lack of noise and movement. $3.00 rain ponchos from Wal-mart work wonderful! PROBLEMS: Horses worst nightmares are things that move and make noise. Raincoats do both. Just because your horse was fine with it yesterday doesn't mean he will be okay with it today. Your horse may also tolerate it on one side of his body but not on the other. SUCCESS TIPS: Get a cheap disposable raincoat that you will not worry about getting ripped or dirty. Nothing will ruin your training session quicker than having to worry about keeping your husband's/wife's coat clean and safe! Always use approach and retreat when you introduce something new to your horse. Especially if the object moves and makes noise. Always teach acceptance of this obstacle on both sides of your horse as well as in front of and behind. Remember you are always trying to build your horse's courage and confidence in both himself and in you. Remain your horse's friend and leader at all times.
GOAL: Handler should be able to call the horse back at any time, from anywhere, and at any gait. The horse should recall from either a stand-stay or from playing in the pasture with equal success. The recall may be combined with the sending obstacle to get the horse to go around an obstacle and then recall back to the handler. GUIDELINES: Develope a clear signal that you use consistently with your horse to have your horse come to you. Make sure that your horse clearly knows when to walk, trot, or canter. PROBLEMS: The most common handler problem is not getting the horse's attention before recalling the horse. Horse problems include refusing to come at all, coming slowly, leaving or stopping before reaching the handler, or coming too aggressively at the handler. SUCCESS TIPS: Use lots of encouragement on this obstacle. Treats, praise, whatever your horse responds to. Start by recalling your horse to something he likes. Recall him in from the pasture for dinner or a good brushing. Some horses learn quicker if you use a halter and lead rope and a shorter distance. Reward the smallest try in the learning process. One step towards you is the starting point! Reward it or your horse wii stop trying for you.
GOAL: To be able to clearly communicate with your horse which direction you wish to send them and the horse should willingly and softly leave and go where they are sent. Horse should be able to be sent at a walk, trot, and canter. When combined with the RECALL the horse will willingly be sent around a cone or tree and then return back to you. GUIDELINES: Using a longer lead rope, like a lunge line or a single driving line, will make this obstacle easier to complete. Sending your horse around a cone or bucket will be much easier than a pole or tree in the beginning because your lead rope will not get hung up on it. PROBLEMS: Horse unwilling to leave handler when asked, horse pulling or pointing nose in the wrong direction, and handler not being clear with their signals. SUCCESS TIPS: Practice to keep building this skill with your horse. Over exaggerate your signals when you start teaching this obstacle. Pretend that you are sending your horse out into a circle as if you were going to lunge him. It will make your intentions clearer.
GOAL: The goal of this obstacle is to be able to move the horse sideways. The horse should be calm yet responsive and light. This is a true sideways movement, not moving the front end and then the rear end. GUIDELINES: The handler should be able to move the horse sideways away from him and towards him from both sides. Horse should be able to side pass over obstacles and around obstacles. PROBLEMS: Most horses either drag their feet or are not truely going sideways. The horse should move both front and back feet together. The horse should remain straight. Horse should not move front end first and then have the rear end catch up, or visa versa. SUCCESS TIPS: Start by only asking for one step at a time. Reward your horse's smallest try. Build up to two steps, then three, etc. After your horse gains confidence and skill, then you may start being picky about how straight your horse is while going sideways. Always desensitize your horse to the object before asking him to side pass over it.
GOALS: Your horse should have the agility and relaxed obedience to execute a Spanish Walk smoothly when asked to do so by the handler. GUIDELINES: PROBLEMS: SUCCESS TIPS:
GOAL: The goal of SPLASH is for the horse to remain calm and confident when something splashes into the water next to him. GUIDELINES: Any kind of water obstacle will work wonderfully. A bucket or a kiddy pool may be the easiest to find. You may throw anything that makes a splash into the water. Rocks, golf balls, tennis balls, and sticks all make a good splash. Use your imagination. PROBLEMS: Horses reaction to splashing and water will very. Horses moving their feet or appearing nervous or worried will loose points. Handlers not having enough water in the obstacle or not throwing something heavy enough to make a splash will loose points. Judges must see or hear a splash to be able to judge this obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: Start with lots of water! A couple of times practicing this and your water will be gone. Start with small rocks and work your way up to bigger ones as your horse gains confidence. Don't use anything so heavy that it puts a hole in the bottom of your obstacle when you toss it in.
GOAL: To have the horse enter a spooky trail with bravery and without hesitation . Horse may investigate obstacle,but without any reaction. No rushing or change in speed should be seen. GUIDELINES: Trail must be at least 10ft long and between 4ft-5ft wide. Unless otherwise directed it should be between 2 1/2 ft and 4ft till. Portable electric fence poles, jump standards, tires, trees, etc. are used to string objects that are usually spooky for horses. Plastic bags, feed bags, flags, banners, pie tins, etc. are all good objects to use in your trail. The higher the level you are competing in, the spookier the objects should become. We are trying to challenge our horses to trust us. They should start to look to their handler for leadership when they are scared. PROBLEMS: Horse spooking, refusing to enter, rushing, or changing speeds when entering, going through, or exiting the trail. Horse should not push, drag, step on, pass, or lag behind the handler. SUCCESS TIPS: Start slowly with only 1 or 2 objects on the trail. Add more objects as the horse gains confidence. Some horses are better when introduced to each object outside of the trail first. Always use approach and retreat when introducing a scary object. Other horses may do better if you keep the horse on the outside of the trail and at a comfortable distance away from the trail. SLOWLY close the distance that you are from the trail.
GOAL: When this obstacle is completed correctly, the horse will stand totally motionless while the handler walks all around the horse spraying every part of the horse. Both the horse and handler will be confident and relaxed. GUIDELINES: Any old spray bottle will do. Old fly spray bottles or garden spray bottles work fine. Make sure it sprays enough that it can be seen in the video. If we can't see it spraying you will loose your points. PROBLEMS: Horses showing fear or moving around will loose points. Handlers sneaking around their horse will also loose points. If the judges do not see spray coming out of the bottle will not be able to give you points for completing the obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: This is the best obstacle for getting your horse over his fear of a spray bottle forever! Start with a spray bottle filled with warm water. Spray the air around your horse to get him used to it. Only reward him by stopping the spray when he is still and relaxed. If you stop spraying while he is moving you are telling him that moving around will make you stop spraying. Use this same rule as you start spraying his body. Then move to his legs and neck and lastly his face. Be careful not to get kicked or struck at. And watch your own face as you practice with your horse's face. When we are spraying our horses with expensive fly spay and they move--we stop spraying! In our attempts to not waste it, we are teaching our horses to move around when we spray them. This is one of the times we inadvertently teach our horses to do the wrong thing. Have patience while you retrain your horse to do the right thing. Water is cheap and plentiful.
GOAL: Horses are naturally claustrophobic. This obstacle demonstrates the horses trust in their handler, and their willingness to go through a tight opening. Horse should maintain a calm and confident attitude. GUIDELINES: All sides should be solid for safety and at least 3ft tall . The width should be between 3ft and 6ft depending on which class you are competing in. Sides do not need to be made of the same material. One side can be made using a wall, the other side can be made of hay, wood, barrels, etc. PROBLEMS: Refusal to enter tight space, bumping into the sides, not calmly moving through the obstacle, or rushing through the obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: Find a starting point. Start as wide as the horse needs to feel comfortable and then slowly decrease the width as the horse gains confidence.
GOAL: For the handler to be able to cue the horse to stand still at any time. Cues can be verbal, body language, or hand signals. The horse must keep all four feet completely still and will keep his attention on the handler. The handler will be able to cue the horse from anywhere and have the horse respect the handler's command. GUIDELINES: Once the handler gives the cue for the horse to be still, the horse cannot move any of it's feet. It's a simple obstacle, but certainly not easy! PROBLEMS: The horse either does not respect the handler or does not trust the handler enough to listen. The handler needs to be clear and consistent when giving cues. Handler also needs to be consistent as to what response is acceptable from the horse. SUCCESS TIPS: Always be consistent. Stay means the horse does not move it's feet.Period. It is the handler's responsibility to set the horse up for success. In the learning stages never give the cue to stay if you even think your horse may move. Never give the cue to stay if you cannot reinforce the command.
GOAL: Get your horse to stand calmly and quietly without moving their feet. Horse should remain completely still no matter what is going on around them. GUIDELINES: Stop for correct amount of time. with no movement. PROBLEMS: Horse unwilling to stand still when asked, and handler not giving clear signal. SUCCESS TIPS: Start with a shorter amount of time and work your way up to longer periods of time. Make your stop signal clear and practice it often. Increase the distance you can put between yourself and the horse.
GOAL: Horse should willingly and bravely step onto a target with whichever foot the handler asks for. GUIDELINES: Follow what the directions in your course calls for. Targets are usually fairly small. If your course doesn't specify size then twelve inches around is a normal target. Lids from supplements, paper plates, cut piece of carpet, or an old t-shirt all work fine. Make sure AFTER the horse steps on the target to zoom in with the video so the judges can see that the horse's foot is on the target. If the judges can't see it you will loose the points for it! PROBLEMS: Camera person not zooming in AFTER the horse is on the target. If you zoom in too soon the judges can not see if the horse landed on it while in the correct gait. If you don't zoom in and the judges can't see the foot on the target you will loose points. Using a target that is way to big or the same color as the ground will loose you points. Horses not landing on the target from the correct gait, landing on the wrong foot, or avoiding the target all together will loose points. SUCCESS TIPS: When teaching this obstacle start with a large -very large- target. Slowly make it smaller and smaller. Use a verbal cue like "place" and treat or praise when the horse steps onto the target. Horses know where their feet are, just like we do! If they get a treat every time they step on something when you say "place" you will be amazed how fast they learn to step on a five inch circle! Start out with something comfortable for the horse to step on. Eventually you can have them put their foot on a rock or a coffee can.
GOAL: The horse should be calm and confident around tarps of all sizes no matter if they are underfoot, on their backs, hanging from a curtain, etc. GUIDELINES: You may use any color, size, or shape of tarp that you wish, unless the course specifically calls for something else. It must be a real plastic tarp and not cloth. We want it to make a lot of noise. PROBLEMS: Horses are very afraid of things that make lots of noise. Many horses have had a bad experience with plastic. Your horse may not trust that you are not out to hurt him just yet in your relationship. SUCCESS TIPS: Start desensitizing your horse by cutting off a small piece of the tarp. It is easier for you to hold a small piece of the tarp than to try and carry around the whole thing. After the horse is comfortable with you "brushing" him with your piece of tarp, place it on the ground and send your horse over it. It is always safer to send the horse over a scary obstacle than to try and lead him over it. Take the time your horse needs to get him calm and confident around tarps. Do not try and scare your horse with tarps. This is a great obstacle to build your horse's trust in you.
GOAL: The horse should willingly and confidently touch whatever the handler asks him to, and for as long as the handler asks him to. GUIDELINES: The courses will usually be specific on what the horse needs to touch. If it is not specified in the course then you may use an object of your choice. PROBLEMS: The biggest problems are the horse not wanting to touch what you ask him to, or not wanting to keep touching it for the specified amount of time. SUCCESS TIPS: Clicker training works very well on this obstacle. So does praise and reward, but the handler's timing is very important. First teach your horse to lower his head in response to pressure on the halter and then from pressure from your hand placed on the poll. Reward the slightest lowering of the head in the teaching stage. Make sure that your horse is comfortable with the object you are trying to have him touch. This is the beginning to having your horse push a ball .
GOALS: Horse should willingly and boldly enter into a large tunnel without hesitation or fear. GUIDELINES: Tunnels can be made of anything your imagination can come up with. It can be any height or width that your horse will go through. It should be at least four feet longs that it's a tunnel and not an archway. A tarp or flat bed sheet hung over a tree branch, between four tall jump standards, or stapled to the barn wall. Be on the lookout at garage sales, Goodwill, or Craigslist for a free standing wall tent or canopy. PROBLEMS: The biggest problem is the horse changing gaits while entering, inside, or leaving the tunnel. The horse should not change gaits unless instructed to do so by the handler. It is the horse's job to maintain cadence throughout the course. Do not let the horse get in the habit of flying by you as he leaves the tunnel. Correct leading position (handler between horse's eye and wither) should be maintained. SUCCESS TIPS: Your horse should gain confidence in this obstacle fairly quickly, so don't over practice it. It is a fun obstacle for the horse. It teaches the horse to have confidence in the handler ever if the handler cannot be seen.
TURN ON THE FOREQUARTERS
GOAL: The handler's goal is to be able to ask clearly, yet subtly, for a turn on the forequarters. The goal for the horse is to execute a smooth and balanced turn on the forequarters. This obstacle should appear as if horse and handler are one. GUIDELINES: As the horse turns on it's forequarters, the outside hind foot should cross over in front of the inside hind foot. Front end should pivot around the inside front foot. PROBLEMS: A lot of horses tend to swap ends instead of doing a turn on the forequarters. Until your horse becomes confident doing this obstacle he will be stiff. The horse will become willing and soft through out his body as his confidence grows. Don't drill your horse on this obstacle. SUCCESS TIPS: Handlers need to be fair and consistent when teaching this. Reward the smallest try. Start with asking for one step, then add more as your horse builds confidence. If the course calls for a marker(like a hoop or target) make sure your horse's front inside foot is directly in the center. This will allow him to turn without stepping out of the marker.
TURN ON THE HINDQUARTERS
GOAL: The goal for the handler is to have the handler ask the horse for a turn on the hindquarters in a clear yet subtle manner. The goal for the horse is to execute a correct turn on the hindquarters by crossing the front outside foot over the front inside foot (not behind) while pivoting on the inside rear foot. This should be a fluid movement with cadence and balance. GUIDELINES: Horse and handler should move together with cadence and smoothness. Handler should be on the outside of the horse. Horse should move willingly out of the handler's space. Horse should be straight. Horse's outside front foot should cross over, not behind, the inside front foot. Horse should not move inside rear foot. PROBLEMS: When a horse is not relaxed his head will come up and it will appear as if he's trying to avoid the handler. The horse will be crooked and will start swapping ends if he is not confident or comfortable with this obstacle. Anytime the horse begins to move both back feet instead of pivoting on the inside foot, he is swapping ends. SUCCESS TIPS: A slow, quality turn is always better than a fast incorrectly executed turn. To teach this, start by walking the horse in a small circle. Make your circle smaller and smaller until the horse is starting to do a turn on the hindquarters. Bump the horse with the halter to bring his weight onto the hind leg and keep the horse from swapping ends. Handler should be next to the horse's throat latch when teaching this. You don't need to practice this for long periods of time. Just often.
GOALS: The Twist obstacle showcases your horse's athletic abilities and obedience. The horse should freely turn around in a 360 degree circle without stopping or becoming sticky footed. The horse should be able to turn around to the right and to the left. GUIDELINES: The horse should be able to turn in a very small circle. The horse should be able to turn to the right and to the left. PROBLEMS: The horse does NOT have to cross over with his front or rear feet. He does need to turn around in a very small circle. Most horses will resist turning away from their owners to start the circle. Handlers tend to expect their horse to do this perfectly the first time and that's not going to happen. Handlers need to be calm and supportive as their horse learns this important new skill. SUCCESS TIPS: Start by standing at your horse's head on the right side. Throw your rope over your horse's head and around the left side of his rump. Give your cue for "Twist" and pull softly on the rope. Your horse should follow the pull on the rope from his left side. Build on this one slowly, but often. You can practice it in your horse's stall or in the isle way. Eventually your horse will twist a 360 degree circle with only a cue from you. Be sure to pet, treat, or praise your horse lavishly when he makes a good attempt.
GOAL: The goal is to have your horse cross water in a safe and confident manner. At no time should you ask your horse to run through any water obstacle. GUIDELINES: The best way to construct this obstacle is with four square poles four inches in diameter. Put a plastic tarp over them and fill with water. PROBLEMS: Horses tend to be afraid of entering water, so be sure your horse respects your personal space before attempting this obstacle. Horses will try to avoid entering water by jumping over it, going around it, or refusing to put their feet in. For safety, handlers should not let their horse rush through. A horse could slip in the water. SUCCESS TIPS:
WATER CROSSING- POOL
GOAL: The goal is to have the handler send the horse into a pool filled with water. The horse should enter the pool with a calm and confident attitude. The horse should not exit the pool until asked by the handler to do so. There should be no rushing into or out of the pool. GUIDELINES: Any kiddy pool will work. Maximum points will be given to the horse that enters and exits the pool in a straight line of travel. Horse should not trip or crush the sides of the pool while entering or exiting. A horse that plays in the pool by splashing or getting a drink will not be penalized. PROBLEMS: Pools make a lot of noise when a horse steps on it. Water moves and makes noise. Horses will generally be VERY afraid of this obstacle. Go slow and gain your horses trust. Do not push the horse into the obstacle too soon. If he becomes scared his foot could get caught on the side of the pool and drag it towards himself. If there is water in the pool and he rushes he could slip in the water. The potential for problems while completing this obstacle is great. But it is a great way to teach your horse to cross water in a controlled environment. SUCCESS TIPS: The bigger the pool the easier it will be to get the horse in it. Send your horse into the pool. Do not lead them into it because if they spook they could jump on you or run over you. Make sure your horse respects your space before attempting this obstacle. Teach your horse the pool obstacle before adding water to it. Handler should walk around in the empty pool first so the horse realizes that it does make noise. A scared horse could easily drag the pool by catching his foot on the pools side. This will ruin your horse's trust in you. Do not ask your horse to step in until you know he is ready. When you do add water to it let the horse drink or splash in it at first. This is how horses investigate new things to make sure they are safe. Do not rush your horse on this obstacle. You are building his confidence- not setting him up to fail. If you can only walk him close to the pool and not in it, then film that! Find a starting point and build on it. You have as much time as you need to teach this. Once your horse can cross water calmly and confidently you and your horse will have a lot to be proud of!
WEAVE CONES OR POLES
GOALS: Demonstrate the horses ability to weave through the cones/poles calmly and smoothly. GUIDELINES: Cones work better then poles as they do not catch the lead rope. Place five cones in a row, spaced a comfortable width apart. Horse and handler are to maintain correct handling leading position and loose lead rope. PROBLEMS: To tight of a lead rope, The horse losing its gait, horse or handler touching or knocking over cones. SUCCESS TIPS: Horses like this obstacle and tend to pick it up quickly. Clear body position and hand signals that tell the horse which way to go help the horse to learn quicker.