By Patty Wilber
(Thanks Lori for the blog idea!)
In a standard trail class, when there is a bridge, the usual thing to do is walk over it, long ways.
In training, however, there is so much more that can be done with a bridge!
1. Walk across the bridge short ways. This is often the first direction I do a bridge with a young horse because it usually it easier for them to accomplish.
2. Walk up on it and stop. This can help a horse think and also gain patience and balance, which may seem odd, but it is pretty common for a young horse to fidget and fall off the side.
3. Back off the bridge. For horses that are having a hard time learning to back out of a trailer, this, along with backing over obstacles, can help fix that before you get stuck inside said trailer with horse too scared to back out. I learned that from my friend and horse trainer, Mark Bohannon, and it sure has worked.
4. Back up on to the bridge. Horses don’t seem to like to back up, uphill, all that well, so this one can be a bit of a challenge.
5. Turn around on the bridge without getting off. If you want to build a mountain horse, turning around in a small space can come in handy on a narrow trail, plus this can increase handiness in any horse!
6. Stop with front feet on the bridge. This is often very easy. And then you are set up for number 7!
7. Move their hind feet over to the short side while keeping the front feet on.
8. Go sideways with the front feet on the bridge and back feet off.
9. Stop with front feet off the bridge and hind feet still on. This can take some horses by surprise at first. “why are we doing this?”, they ask. “i had this nailed and u stopped me??” Keeps the horse thinking and helps the rider with their precision and timing.
10. And then, you can move the front feet over to the short side while keeping the back feet on.
11. Followed by sideways with hind feet on and front feet off!
Using the bridge in various ways can be challenging and entertaining for the rider and it is easy to tell when the task didn’t work–the wrong feet are off the bridge!
This can also keep the horse interested because they can’t shut off and amble over. It can help the horse be more attentive and flexible in their thinking as well as help the horse use its body in new ways!
Have fun with your bridge work!
Note: a piece of plywood could stand in for a bridge. I would not recommend using a tarp as a substitute as the chances of having the tarp twist around a foot are too high for my liking.
Cloud, the rescue horse is at Walkin N Circles with hay all the time. I went to meet him and he followed me, and let me pick up his feet without even putting a halter on. I think he is putting on weight. He will get his teeth done next week.