Lots of fun can be had doing Agility with your horse. I find it helps with communication spook busting, finding a smooth connection, transitions and having fun, which is the most important thing.
This month I put just a few simple things together for a 9 obstacle course and did it at liberty then with long reins and finally ridden, you can start this online if your starting out and there are many ways to keep these 9 obstacles interesting, here are some ideas:
~ Online ~ at Liberty ~ Long Rein ~ Ridden bitless ~ Ridden with neck rein/cordeo ~ done in walk, trot or canter ~ done in obstacle order or in reverse order ~ juggle the order about ~ Choose to do completely different things with each obstacle ~
Beginners: start online in walk then trot
Intermediates: go to neck rope in walk or trot
Advanced: work at liberty in walk, trot or canter
Fun: try riding it (w/t/c)
Front feet & back feet in hulahoops (or walk over)
Trot over poles on tarp
Trot/canter through scary corridor
Trot through weave pattern
Transitions through narrow corridor (walk in/halt/backup/trot out)
Walk/trot over bottle bank
Walk/trot fig 8
Walk/trot through curtain
Trot through arch or jump hoop jump
Sidepass over or near an obstacle
Walk through water feature
Ground tie (immobility/halt) and extreme familiarisation with objects around horse
Liberty with Solly
Ridden with Solly
Try and test all the obstacles to make sure you and your horse know what to do at each one, make sure you reward for the slightest try and as you advance you do more with each obstacle, either stay longer, transitions or all at a higher gait throughout.
Once you know what to do with each obstacle then put them together as smoothly as possible as a course (if online then keeping a ‘smile’ in the rope as much as you can).
Set it up the best way for your area so it doesn’t need to be in this order or this shape.
Do not push your horse through or over things, accept what he gives you and teach him more as you go along. Repeat as often as you can for a horse that is a slow learner and make sure you mix it up often for a horse that gets bored quickly.
Remember it’s supposed to be fun….for you AND your horse 🙂
Just 5 challenges this time but push your progression to do these in an open field. Start slowly in a small area and work up to a higher gait in a bigger area. CHALLENGE YOURSELF to progressive, positive changes so that you and your horse get more and more connected in a common language that create signals for all that you do together.
1) Weave around cones on a circle. Use as many cones as you like, 5 is the minimum on a circle. Make the circle large or small depending on your skill and your horses flexibility. Start in walk together and build up to trot and more distance between the cones and you and your horse.
2) Stick 2 Me Transitions. Use as many transitions as possible, be on the left and right of your horse and see how straight you are together.
3) Jumps. Big or small jumps, as many or as few as you wish and done how you like, either one and stop, turn and jump again OR as a small liberty course…it’s up to you to know you and your horses abilities but remember to build up to more difficult jumps as you go and higher transitions between.
4) Spins. To left and right and even spins whilst leading your horse, see what you can do.
5) Back horse up from behind. Use cue from tail or any other you may have, do a least 6 steps and more if you and your horse are up for it.
I will be doing these 5 Challenges in our 10 acre field with the other herd members grazing around us. I test my horses connection to me by working in this area as they have the freedom to run off if they want or to stay with me. I cannot run as fast as they can but have a good draw back to me if they go faster than me. How connected to you is your horse in a big field?
Remember to do it at you and your own horses pace and level, the horse owns the time you take for this so don’t push, just encourage for more effort, lightness or precision as you go along. If you need to do it in walk online then do so but remember to progress as much as possible and practice it over the whole month to see improvements. Come back to the challenge at liberty and ridden when you are ready to do so.
1) Liberty & Ridden: Push a ball through two raised poles
2) Liberty & Ridden: 4 x trotting poles (any spacing you think best for your horse)
3) Liberty & Ridden: Canter down a bunting corridor (liberty: handler to stay outside corridor)
4) Liberty & Ridden: Turn on the forehand (front feet pivot whilst hindquarters turn 360*)
5) Liberty & Ridden: Trot a clover leaf pattern around cones (Pattern explanation below)
6) Liberty & Ridden: Jump/halt/sidepass off jump (if you do not know this move or don’t wish to teach it then jump and halt straight after jump then sidepass a few steps)
7) Liberty & Ridden: Transitions (whatever 2 or 3 transitions you are good at)
8) Liberty& Ridden: Use cones to ride the outside and/or inside of a square….forwards / sidepass / backwards / sidepass
9) Liberty & Ridden: Familiarisation on the move (try at walk but trot if you can)
10) Liberty & Ridden: walk into water tray, halt in the tray then walk off (or a foot in a bucket with water in it! I have a plastic jump water tray I will be using…you could also put an intact tarp on the ground and roll up the edges around jump poles to make a pool and put some water in it!)
NB…CLOVERLEAF PATTERN: this is walking/riding a shape like a 4 leaf clover. First set up 4 cones at equal distances from each other in a square. To walk at liberty or ride it you need to then choose to either just do left or right turns around the pattern…you shouldn’t do both unless you do the pattern twice!
The first move is to walk/trot straight through the centre, then turn left and do a left circle around 1st cone back through the centre of the square then circle left around 2nd cone, back through the centre and then circle left around 3rd cone, straight through centre and then circle left around 4th cone and then onto next task.
To do the cloverleaf outside this challenge I usually always start and stop in the centre of the square of cones so that the horse is always searching for X at the centre, Picture of map of tasks below hopefully will help too.
Try this Challenge at Liberty and also Ridden, preferably bitless or even bridleless if you are that advanced.
If you are just starting Liberty work you can play around with these tasks online. All tasks are changeable and do what is best for your horse and your abilities. If something is too hard then do something similar and then progress to the harder tasks as you practice over time.
1) Liberty or Ridden: Open gate, squeeze horse through any way you want, close gate.
2) Liberty or Ridden: Trot through narrow gap, halt just before end and back up through gap. Trot on out of gap.
3) Liberty: Trot weave around 6 cones in a straight line with flags (or something flappy) in them. Horse to weave, handler to stay on one side and direct horse in weave.
Ridden: Either trot weave or weave using leg yields in walk
4) Liberty & Ridden: Jump small jump, handler to run alongside with liberty one
5) Liberty & Ridden:Drag an object for 10′, you and horse side by side, and then turn horse and yourself to drag with you and horse backing up together.
6) Liberty: Trot onto tarp and halt then turn the horse 180* any way and trot off again.
Ridden: Trot onto tarp, halt then 180* turn on the forehand (ie. turn the horses hindquarters and pivot forehand)
7) Liberty & Ridden:Ask horse to follow you around a Labyrinth pattern
8) Liberty: Trot your horse through some sort of ‘washing line’ with clothes hanging of it.
Ridden: Same (or if you and horse not used to going under things then go to washing line, take one item off the line and ride with it around the line where you put it back up on the line without horse worrying)
9) Liberty & Ridden:Trot fig 8’s twice around two barrels or tall obstacles. Obstacles close, about 5-6 paces apart.
NB. Large obstacles could be 3-4 tyres stacked on each other or a tall jump wing!
10) Liberty & Ridden:Sidle over a largish pole, left feet on one side, right feet on the other side. (Try to use a pole thicker than the average jump pole)
NB. If cannot sidle one side of horse over then do 2-4 feet over then back up over it.
11) Liberty: Get a flag and wave it about whilst walking around your horse.
Ridden: Wave flag whilst sitting on horse.
Shelley – HorseSavvy
Ridden Bitless and Bareback
First time EVER ridden agility bridleless on Solly
There is a lot of scope for changing, rearranging things as you want them but make sure whatever you do is within your horses scope for now and we’ll build on things as we go to incorporate more familiarisation with strange things and higher gaits.
It can be done in walk or trot or a combination of both…build things up slowly and keep your horses confidence. Also if you’ve not done any liberty yet or are having teething problems there is nothing wrong with practicing online to help you and your horse. Try to keep the horse with a slight ‘smile’ in the rope (ie. not tight but not too loose) and have the horse beside you so you are more shoulder to shoulder…not behind you.
1) 2 front feet into a hulahoop. (it could also be a bicycle tyre or a , the aim is to help confidence putting feet into things)
2) Weave around 4-6 cones, this month try to stay one side yourself and ask your horse to weave in and out
3) Horse walk through ‘L’ pole shape (stay out of the shape yourself, give the L lane all to your horse)
4) Small jump (doesn’t have to be big, if horse is confident you can make it bigger, if horse unconifident just stepping over it is good)
5) Walk through a ‘Scary Corner’ (make the corner up with posts and bunting or plastic bags flapping..anything that could be scary to a horse…now, if you’ve not done this before just put up a couple of things into the corner and walk by it or squeeze by it. If your horse has done this before then put up two ‘lanes’ of bunting or plastic bags and ask the horse to walk through it with you on the OUTSIDE. Not until your horse is truly confident, calm and happy about scary plastic things, flags, banners etc should you go in before the horse. Keep safe with this one and stay out of being in front of the horse until you are very good at this!)
6) Transitions: walk a straight line doing transitions: walk/halt/walk/halt/walk/halt…as many as you want or can. Keep confidence and relaxation throughout and a tip to use your breathing for these transitions. Big breath in and go, big breath out and halt.
7) Familiarisation with a flag. Either on a safe, short stick or free flowing in your hands (you can use a flag, towel, sheet, whatever you have available). With a horse new to this make the flag small and rub him/her all over. When more confident try opening it up and draping it over the horses back, neck, head. If very confident and horse is calm and relaxed then flap it all around the horse and you can move around too. See how much you can do, this is one of those things where you can start small and build up over weeks to where horse will stand still whilst you walk around it waving the flag!)
8) Sidepass along a fence line. Go slowly with this, go online if it’s hard at liberty. Do a few steps to start and more when confident.
9) Tarp: walk onto the tarp, halt in the centre for 5 seconds and then walk off.
10) Pick up feet one at a time. Either walk around the horse picking up one at a time or if more confident can you pick up the feet from one side!
Have fun with the challenges, build up each one individually and then string them together more and more until you can do it with true confidence.
A challenge you can do with your horse at liberty but also online or even ridden.
These challenges are not about being perfect but about getting ‘Connected’ to your horse and about learning new things by taking yourself and your horse out of your comfort zones a bit on maybe one or two tasks each month. None of the tasks has to be done in this order or even with these items, (ie. if you don’t have cones, use polypoles, or tyres or anything you have as markers) do what you can for you and your horse and later push yourselves a bit to progress. With this I mean that if your horse is frightened of a particular thing then do something you horse can do to start with to help with confidence but make things harder as you and your horse get more confident with things.
SO, if your horse is worried about going over a jump then just walk over a pole on the ground. If your horse is worried about a hulahoop then see if he can put his foot/feet into a box made from 4 small poles. If your horse is worried about tarpaulins then try asking him to go over something not so worrying like a piece of carpet. Use your imagination but also use your common sense and never push a horse into or over anything they are worried about. Use approach and retreat to help your horse find confidence to do the tasks you ask over the month,
Try to set up all the obstacles/tasks so that they flow nicely from one to the next either in a circle or a fig 8 shape.
Ultimately and hopefully you will graduate to doing these things at liberty and maybe liberty ridden too. Remember it’s about having FUN and that means fun for you and YOUR HORSE. Enjoy
LIBERTY CHALLENGE 1 – (in walk with horse on your right)
1) Walk a circle together to the left in walk
2) Walk a circle together to the right in walk
3) Halt for 5 seconds
4) Walk through a narrow gap of two poles, handler on the outside
5) Weave through 4 cones together
6) 1 or 2 feet in a hulahoop…you choose which feet
7) Small jump together (either jump with horse or walk alongside outside of jump)
8) Walk over a tarp
9) Walk over a pole without hitting it
10) Halt and back up so that horses back feet are at or very near pole you just walked over