How and Why these Confidence Challenge Courses are designed
How and why the Confidence Challenge Courses were designed–
The Confidence Challenge Courses were created because so many people wanted fun new challenges to
experience with their horses. It can be expensive and sometimes difficult to bring your horse TO these
courses, so why not build your own at home? Use simple objects, many that are already found around the
farm, add a touch of creativity and some CCC Magic and you’ll have hours of fun to experience with your horse
and your friends! Bonus points in the winter if you have an indoor – lots of fun things to do!
The specific obstacles and challenges have many aspects to enhance your partnership with your horse.
These are not just randomly designed, crazy, or scary obstacles. THE POINT IS NOT TO SCARE YOUR
HORSE! The point is to help your horse gain confidence in you as a leader and for your horse to build his or
her own confidence. Each challenge and obstacle was planned out to develop different qualities and skills.
You will find designed into the challenges ……
Things play with online and things to play with while riding
Things to go over and under, around and through
Things set up so the horse must manage their feet – up, down, sideways and backward
Things that encourage the rider to be more athletic, agile and coordinated
Things that the horse would encounter in real life, on the roads, in the woods, at parades, etc.
Things that cause a horse to THINK through a puzzle
Things that ask our horse to act like a partner to help us manage the obstacle
Things that challenge us to figure out the best way to, through and over
Things that are FUN!! Things that make us smile, laugh and praise our horses!
Things that might be scary, but since we are careful with how we expose the horse, they build
You’ll experience ways to ask your horse to go forward and backward, sideways and around. Every challenge
and each obstacle has multiple ways to interact with it. For each Challenge think about these aspects and
ideas to make them more complex or challenging:
Can the horse stand quietly on or near the obstacle? Can the horse walk over it? Can the horse back up over
it? Can the horse go sideways alongside it or over it? Can the horse place ONE foot on the obstacle? Can the
horse do a pattern including the obstacle, like a figure 8 incorporating the obstacle, or a showmanship pattern
around it? Can the horse learn a new task, like touching obstacles with their nose (in the case of Tub
Thumping, the drumming stops when horse touches it with their nose? They quickly learn that they have
created an “off button” and they employ it with glee!) Can the horse practice yields, forehand or hindquarter
around or over the obstacle? Riding or online, changing gaits and directions all around the course.
1. “My horse is not comfortable, he’s very nervous.” Bring a buddy horse, preferably a confident one. Allow
your horse to stand and watch. Ease the horse into the concepts and challenges slowly. Only build one or two
of them at a time such that your horse doesn’t see “Crazy Carnival” instead of Fun Challenge Course.
2. “My horse did fine at first, but is getting more nervous.” Give them a break after a few challenges. Let them
soak in the new information and relax a bit.
3. “My horse is bored with these.” I doubt it. As the leader, you need to add some fun new elements to the “ho
hum” way you are interacting with the obstacles. **See above.
4. My horse won’t get near the (bubbles, cowboy curtain, mirror, etc.) Maybe not now, not yet, but remember
it’s not a race; you have all the time in the world. Allow them to get used to things, they’ll surprise you how they
will change when allowed to explore and learn following their own timeline.
How to give ONE obstacle the strength of 10!
How to give ONE Obstacle the strength of TEN! Or, how many ways can you play with an obstacle? If you plan your obstacle right you can give it multiple uses. Here’s a few tips and tricks for your obstacles to double, triple or decuple! ( that’s 10 times) their uses.
Folks tend to walk up to an obstacle and ride through it once in one way and call it done. I call that Kindergarten. Let’s look at ways to do some High School maneuvers.
EXIT STRATEGIES – First I always leave room for a horse to pass an obstacle and just look at it. Best if they can look from all sides. My courses are mostly set in the woods, so I never force the horse to walk the trail ON TOP of an obstacle, there is always a walk around.
SPACING – space your obstacles far enough apart so that all sides can be accessed. My Tiny Pond is a perfect example – lots of room on all sides.
~The water can be entered from 0” (a smooth easy beach entry) on one side, then a 4” high log step over side, a 6” step over side and an 8” high and 18” wide.
~The obstacle can be entered from any side and can be exited from any side.
EMPTY SPACES – around the obstacle are important too. Is there enough room to side pass alongside your obstacle? Back up the perimeter of your obstacle? Straddle the obstacle?
ARRANGEMENT OF YOUR OBSTACLES – do you have a flow to your obstacles so patterns can be created around and between them? I make up patterns mixing up the obstacles in such a way that they do some, skip some, work around some, use some in unique ways and even walk off the course as part of the pattern.
Use EVERYTHING to your advantage! – working in the woods I have trees (vertical and horizontal) to create my obstacles and to add variations to my challenges. One is my Twisty Twizzler – 4 big old oaks in a row about 20 feet apart. The basic challenge is a serpentine around them out and back. BUT! Wait, there’s more! LOL There are some logs laying around, other trees “near” the oaks, one spot has a low hanging limb for the Limbo Lovers out there. You can do the basic serpentine at the walk, trot or canter. OR – you can add, jump that log, go way out around that tree, circle that stump, or duck under the limb….ALL as part of your serpentine. If you have fences, buildings, walls, mounting block, incorporate all of it into your course.
Use the Montessori Method in your course design. Teach the simplest thing first or have the easiest obstacle first. Then as they proceed, they’ll use the skill they worked on in the first obstacle to do the challenge of the second and so on. This doesn’t mean you have to put them in a row. I printed out pages with obstacle numbers to help folks with the following scenarios. 1. Water issues 2. Trailering problems 3. Clumsy or horses that don’t think down to their feet 4. Riders developing THE RIDER’S agility 5. Horses with little exposure or fear of new things.
Outdoor Hanging Cowboy Curtain
Here's an outdoor Cowboy Curtain that uses a tree and long horizontal branch. It's super simple with a 3" PVC pipe, some rope and a tarp. Decorate and cut your tarp and then tape and tie it to the PVC pipe. String the rope through the pipe and tie off in a triangle as shown with a piece of rope sticking out of the top for tying to the branch.
You can add a side rope to the trunk to stabilize it and keep it in one place or let it spin in the wind. You can even ask someone to walk it around in circles as you go through it.
Keep the bottom at least 1' from the ground so the horses don't step on it and tear it. Thanks to Baby Hawk for being such a great Demo Horse on this obstacle.