No matter whether you ride english or western, obstacles are a great way to desensitize your horse and encourage him to think through problems. They challenge you and your horse to work your way through new and sometimes difficult situations. On a recent trip to the dollar store, I took some photos of items I think could make great horse obstacles.
For each obstacle, I will give you some ideas as to how I might incorporate the item into my horse’s ground training. Keep in mind that horses can react suddenly and dangerously to items that scare them. I recommend all obstacles be introduced from the ground. In addition, you should consider hiring a professional trainer to help you through each exercise to ensure your and your horse’s safety.
#1 – Pool Noodles
These are my favorite. There are so many different ways they can be used for horse obstacles. At $1 each, they are a great deal. Need some ideas on how to use them? How about building a DIY Pool Noodle Horse Obstacle with the free plans on this post I wrote.
#2 – American Flags
Since this post is being written first week of June, the Dollar Store is already stocking up on flags for fourth of July. These were probably about two feet long and on wooden sticks. Here are some ideas on how you could implement them as obstacles:
- Attach or tie to arena or fence posts to get your horse used to the fabric flapping in the wind.
- Make two rows of cones on the ground in the arena and stick a flag in each one. See if your horse can walk down the middle.
- Use the flags to rub over and around your horse’s body and legs. Remember to start farther away and get closer as your horse is more accepting.
#3 – Pool Toys
WOW, check out the assortment they had! There are so many different ideas I can think of here depending on which one you got.
Beach balls (pink) are great because they can be used to desensitize your horse to things on the ground if you roll them around. They can also be used to desensitize your horse to things moving quickly towards him/her. What would it take for you to get your horse used to you gently bouncing a beach ball off his side?
Kickboard or Whale
These longer beach toys (yellow) are interesting. Again, they can be used to “pet” your horse all over his / her body. For the whale toys, tie a long rope around the fins and gently pull the whale towards you and your horse. Can you drag it from the side? What about behind?
Another idea is to place two on the ground with some distance between them, will your horse walk calmly between them?
Pool Rings / Arm FLoats
We’ve all seen horse carwashes with streamers and I’ve even seen some cool ones with cans or pool noodles. Pool rings would be a great thing to add to a horse car wash obstacle. They are lightweight and easily move out of the way. Just be sure the opening in the ring is small so your horse can’t get his head caught in it. Also, make sure they are kept pretty high so your horse doesn’t strike or paw and get a foot through it.
The arm floaties (green) work great for this as well. They come two to a pack. String them up and you’ll have a whole new look and feel for your horse to try and figure out.
#4 – Pinwheels
These are great to line obstacles with or even just make a path for your horse to walk through. When the wind hits them just right the flower tops spin. Mix it up and place them in cones, drill a hole to add them to your teeter bridge or even right at the top of your rope gate obstacle. They are a cheap and easy way to add color and motion to an existing obstacle.
#5 – Latex Balloons
There were a few different options for latex balloons at the dollar store. I really think the happy face ones would look awesome in pictures! There are a ton of things you can do with balloons for horse obstacles. Here are some ideas:
- Tie them to sticks and use like flags/pinwheel examples given above.
- Tie them to string/rope and use in your car wash (they could pop if impacted, better to stay on the ground unless your horse is used to balloons popping.
- Purposefully pop them from a distance to get your horse used to loud, sudden sounds. Work your way closer.
- Add some sand or water and then inflate it. This will help weigh down the balloon. Place them at strategic places around the obstacle course or arena. We probably have all known that horse that spooks at rocks, will yours be able to walk by a single balloon on the ground?
#6 – Plastic Table Covers
Do you remember these from birthday parties when you were a kid? The cheap, thin plastic table covers. Guess what, the dollar store has them! They come in all kinds of colors and patterns too. There are a variety of different ways you can use them. One thing to note is now NOT to use them. These really aren’t safe to be walked on. They tear easily and could get caught on your horses shoe or hoof and cause a wreck. OK, now that that is out of the way, here are some ideas for using plastic table covers.
- Drape over or tape to an arena fence. Can your horse walk by?
- Do you have a gate obstacle? Attach it to the gate portion to scale up the gate obstacle.
- Can you rub your horse all over his / her body with it?
- Mix up your car wash, cut some slits and hang it up for a fun colorful addition.
- Do you have a horse squeeze obstacle like the one pictured below? If so, try draping each side with a table cloth. Will your horse go through?
#7 – Foil Cutout Stars
The first thing I thought when I saw these is they would be great for a car wash obstacle. They are paper but they shine and reflect light in ways that would make some horses wary. You could also hang them from gates, the arena fence, etc.
#8 – Silly String
How does your horse deal with aerosols? What about brightly colored string launching toward him? Goofy string is fun and at a dollar a can, this can really get the fun started on an obstacle course. If you are hanging out with friends, make it a contest to see who can “decorate” their horse with silly string the most creatively.
#9 – Flowers
Most horses aren’t going to be scared of flowers. I get that, but flowers can sure make an obstacle course prettier. Get a row of them together and ask your horse to step over. Build a horse teeter bridge (get our free plans here) and decorate the sides with fake flowers. Some horses might worry about them at first but this is a great dollar store addition to your obstacle course.
I hope you are able to take some of these dollar store DIY horse obstacle ideas and make them your own. It can be fun to challenge yourself and your horse with obstacles. Remember to stay safe and ask for professional help if you need it. If you are looking for more ways to have fun, download the list of 26 groundwork exercises using the form below. Then, go through each exercise and see if there is a way to make it more challenging with an obstacle. Most importantly, have fun!