Calmer, braver horses. That is something we all want right? Nobody likes to ride a horse that spooks at it’s own shadow, jumps at everything in the bushes and shies away from stepping over things that are unfamiliar. Obstacles are a great way to get your horse used to unfamiliar objects at home. Desensitizing your horse at home can help improve the way they handle new sights and sounds as they visit new trails, show ground or even just riding around a new friends arena.
Each of these 10 ground obstacles can be setup for under $20. In fact, you can buy all 10 for under $200. It’s like an instant obstacle course, just add horse. Now I call that a deal! As with everything about horses, introducing your horse to new obstacles can be dangerous. If you are unfamiliar or even unsure, be sure to consult an equine professional for help!
You can get any of these items locally but I’ve provided Amazon links for your online ordering convenience. By clicking on the links you don’t get charged any extra than if you visited Amazon on your own but I do receive a small portion of what you purchase for being an amazon affiliate. Please read my disclaimer for more information about affiliate links.
Horse Obstacle #1: Balloons
Wow to the number of horse obstacles you can setup with balloons. Be sure to check out our Pinterest boards for some good ones!!
Here are some great amazon balloons but you can find these locally at any big box or party store as well! There are different sizes available. Most commonly is 11 – 12 inch but you could experiment with larger balloons (like these 36″ ones below)!
I haven’t played with this but it looks REALLY interesting and if I had a big arena and some friends…this looks like it would be REALLY cool for desensitization. It’s in budget and definitely not something the horses are likely to have ever seen before!
Horse Obstacle #2: Plastic Balls
These are great for a ball pit type obstacle. You CAN build this obstacle for “free” by using your own plastic bottles like milk, water bottles, soda bottles, etc. If you are going for a more colorful look. Consider some balls. Based on reviews these come in sizes from 1.5″ to 3″. For horses, you would definitely want 3″ size and probably want at least 300 which is out of this articles budget. Still, start with a smaller amount and add more as needed!
Horse Obstacle #3: Giant Yoga Ball
Certain clinicians have made this type of ball pretty popular and I know from experience that it can be a great tool to help desensitize your horses. There are a couple of different options for this type of obstacle. You could go with the thicker exercise ball type which is going to be more durable but a little heavier and more likely to stand up to alone time play if you leave it in a stall or arena by accident.
You could also go with the giant beach ball type which is going to be much easier to handle to maybe bounce off your horses back / walk by etc. but isn’t going to handle rough housing by horses.
If you want a horse specific option you can consider this one (which is outside the price-range specified by this article). The “horse” one is 40″ or 101 cm. I am not sure what the difference is between these balls branded for horses and an extra thick yoga ball like the one above but I thought I’d include options for you guys 😀 They also sell covers specifically for the horse balls to help them last longer. I’ve never personally tried the cover so I’m not sure how easy it is to put on or how well it helps protect the ball.
Horse Obstacle #4: Training Cones
These come in a variety of different sizes and colors. Keep in mind that the small ones are REALLY small. They are nice but small. Take a tall cup, turn it upside down and measure it for comparison. I’ve included the small cones in this list because they could be used to side pass over, hold flowers, provide color pop, etc but for most obstacle course work you are probably want to go with the bigger cones.
The first two links here are 1″ cones, then 9″ cones and the last link has options for both 12 and 18″ cones.
Horse Obstacle #5: Inflatable Toys
There are lots of different options in this category. You may be surprised to find out they aren’t just limited to pool toys either! Did you ever have one of those inflatable punching bags as a kid? Imagine your horses surprise when they nudge it and it moves backward and then forward towards them!
Also consider a giant inflatable dinosaur or maybe a cactus or taco. These are so much fun for you and photograph well with your horses too!
Horse Obstacle #6: Tarps
These come in a lot of different colors and sizes and can be used a variety of different ways for obstacles. Keep in mind that the higher the “Mil” the thicker the tarp. If you plan on having horses walking over the tarp, you may want to consider a heavier tarp like the 16mil one listed below. The thinner tarps are lighter weight and perfect for sacking out and draping over fences to make obstacles.
Horse Obstacle 7: Rain Slicker
The dreaded slicker obstacle. A common item in obstacle course challenges where a rider might be asked to put on and take of a rain slicker while the horse stands quietly. Consider different weights / brands as they may sound differently to your horse.
The great thing about these is that if you get one you actually like and fits, like the complete rain suit shown below, you can use it when you have to clean stalls and/or feed in the rain.
Horse Obstacle 8: Wind Sock & Wind Spinners
Wind socks are kind of cool and they can be used around the ranch when not being used in the obstacle course. Line a few up right near the edge of the arena or in combination with other obstacles like over a mailbox. They come in a wide variety of colors and are quick and easy to put up.
Wind spinners usually come with a stake and are also available in lots of combinations. Try them on either side of a bridge or really flanking any obstacle.
Have a bigger budget or a few friends at the stable who can maybe pitch in? Ramp it up a bit and get a wind dancer 😀
Horse Obstacle 9: Caution Tape
This stuff is great for all kinds of obstacles. Hang it up and make a car wash type obstacle out of it. Tie it to fences, drape it around other obstacles. The best thing is it is relatively cheap and is realistically seen in the outside world.
Horse Obstacle 10: Umbrella
They are everywhere during rainy season and there are huge ones at the beach. They do super scary things like pop open suddenly (especially if you get an automatic open one). These can be great for desensitization and if you get one you like, you can use it at home once your horse is used to it. One of the umbrellas below can invert too making things even more interesting. You could also go big and get a beach size umbrella!
Need some ideas for implementing these? Check out our Pinterest board: