What’s New with Roll? Obstacles



After a couple of weeks working on flatwork leading training through the hourglass followed by a couple of lessons in the round pen, I decided to do some coordination work over the obstacles. In Stage One of obstacle training, the only task is to get through the obstacles, changing fear into curiosity. In Stage Two, we break things down into smaller steps and square up at every interval to facilitate good equine balance and add coordination to his movements.


With constant repetition, going through gates is a cinch for Roll.


The first stop is at the foot of the bridge…stop, square up and reward.


Next, we ask Roll to put two feet on the bridge, square up and reward…

…and then four feet on the bridge, square up and reward again.


Roll did this quite easily, but in this next position, you will notice how uncoordinated your mule really is. Most equines will either push through you and keep going forward, or if you hold them back, will fall off the side of the bridge and turn around to face you. This exercise helps them to become stronger and really learn to hold their balance for prolonged periods of time.


Once he has held this position for a couple of minutes, you can then walk off the bridge and square up one last time. As you can see, Roll is doing very well and has sustained his core muscle strength that enables him to be strong and coordinated in any position.


The tractor tire is a perquisite for lateral work. After learning the turns on the forehand and haunches, the tractor tire helps to finesse this movement.


In the beginning, a light tap with the end of the lead will cue him to move the hind quarters over, but once he know what is expected, a simple glance or hand signal will do as Roll is doing here.


A slight indication with the lead gets him to take those last two steps in the 360 degree movement. As a side note: the elbow pull has multiple uses and being a lead is one of them including the option of using it to tie them up, but there is a trick to how to tie it to the post or hitch rail.


Tires are a good exercise for proprioception or body awareness. It is not as important if they place their feet in the holes as it is that they place their feet strategically underneath their body in a balanced and organized fashion.


It is the same with the ground rails whether they are six inches in diameter or only one inch in diameter as shown. You know they are doing well when they don’t even move a one-inch PVC pipe (as they are easily kicked out of the way). Roll is VERY careful in his foot placement!


The Back-Through “L” helps them to not only pay attention to foot placement…


…but also how to bend their body through the rib cage and how to strategically move their feet while keeping their body erect and in good equine posture.


Walking forward through the Back-Through “L” is easy, but backing through can get a little tricky in the middle at the right angle so make sure there is plenty of space between the rails!.


Elevated rails make it easier for them to “feel” and execute the turn correctly…


…and back easily to the end of the final section. Roll never ceases to amaze me in his willingness to perform. This was only his second time through the obstacles!


Then just for fun, we went and watched the guys dig a hole in the driveway looking for a broken waterline! It was fun for us, but not for the guys, I’m sure!


  1. Linda Horn11-03-2014

    I just found your blog and Facebook page. I’m looking forward to updates on Roll and your other equine companions. I volunteer at Four Corners Equine Rescue in Aztec, NM, and I’m sure our horses would benefit from your training techniques. So many of them have fitness issues, and are very wary of humans resulting from abuse.

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