Our rescue has lots of new toys to play with!! We’re feeling pretty lucky right now. A scout from Boy Scout Troop #1, of Duncanville, Texas, decided that he wanted to do his Eagle Scout project at our horse rescue.
This past weekend, he and part of his scout troop labored in the hot sun (it was mid-90s this weekend!) to build us a horse playground. The obstacle course that they built will be great for working on ground work and desensitization exercises with our horses, as well as teaching the riding horses to be fearless of obstacles and strange things they might encounter on a trail. We want our horses to learn to be brave and confident in new and potentially scary situations. Obstacles such as these help the horse and human learn to communicate with each other and trust each other.
So what did the boy scouts build us? Here’s a picture of each of the six obstacles that the scouts built.
1. A Wooden Bridge
The bridge helps teach horses to step up onto something and gets the horses use to walking on surfaces that make different sounds. This bridge is neat because it is actually two pieces–which will make it easier to move.
2. A “Car Wash” obstacle with a curtain
The horses think the Car Wash obstacle is pretty scary, mostly because of the amount of wind we get at the rescue. This obstacle is right near our small round pen, which is great because the horses get to walk by it and look at it when they are going to the round pen or when they are in the round pen. Takoda is already figuring out that the Car Wash really isn’t that scary!
3. A set of four cavalettis
The cavalettis help teach the horses to watch where their feet are and to pick up their feet, rather than dragging their toes when they walk. Also, we can use them to make a channel or an “L” shape so that the horses can practice going backwards or sideways. They are “adjustable” — depending on which way they are turned, each can be set at a low, medium, or high height.
4. The scary noodle tree obstacle
This obstacle helps the horses get use to things touching their side–on a trail ride, this could be similar to brushing up against a tree or branch. The way this obstacle was made is pretty neat–all of the noodles come off. That way, we can change around the number of noodles and their position. So, at the beginning of training, we could start out with just one or two noodles and then gradually increase the number.
5. A simple gate obstacle
Whether during ground work or while riding, it takes a lot of coordination and communication for a rider and horse to be able to open a gate, go through, and then close the gate behind. This simple obstacle simulates a gate so that horse and rider can practice the correct movements and cues.
6. A set of 6 poles
These poles can be used to practice weaving, figure-eights or any other patterns, whether teaching a young horse to lead or working on steering and other exercises from the saddle.
We are VERY happy about our new horse obstacle course. I’ll be posting photos and videos throughout the summer as we teach the horses to use each of the obstacles in our new horse playground. Also, if anyone has any ideas for creative ways to use any of the obstacles during training, let me know! If you’d like to see more photos, including photos of the boy scouts building each obstacle, check out this album on the rescue’s page on facebook.