There are a ton of cheap, everyday items you can use to make an obstacle course!

There’s no better way to desensitize your horse than with an obstacle course. It gives you a chance to expose your horse to a wide variety of objects. Some you may find in everyday life, while others only at a show or on the trails. Each exposure will make your horse braver! 

Some of us are lucky to live near a full obstacle course. These facilities have wooden bridges, logs, large tires, hanging objects and some even have a pond. If you aren’t so fortunate, don’t worry… You can build you own obstacles- some for free and others for a few dollars! You can have your very own course right in your backyard.

You can find some of these obstacles laying around. Don’t be afraid to get creative with these DIY projects.

Flying Objects

Anything that moves in the wind has a chance of spooking your horse. Between the quick movement and flapping sounds, these objects can cause a real freak out. The good news is you can de-spook your horse to a few of them and prevent a nasty accident.

Try these objects- flags, balloons, colored smoke bombs, plastic bags (tied to a post or stick), wind chimes and caution tape. You likely can get ahold of these items easily. It’s a good idea to try one at a time. When your horse responses well, feel free to create an entire course of flying objects!

Found in Nature

Trail riding, both short and long distances, can be extremely beneficial to horses. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dressage rider or barrel racer getting out of the arena can be a welcomed change for your horse. The only problem is all the different sights and sounds. Some can prove to be very intimidating!

If you want your trail rides to go smoother, then try de-spooking your horse to some objects you’ll find out there. Some of my favorites include a pond or stream, fallen logs, a lifelike deer or turkey statue and plants (both fake and real). A real-life deer may be slightly different than the statue, but at least your horse will get use to the size and shape of it.

Everyday Items

You can really have some fun in this category of obstacle items. Parents may have a slight advantage. Now’s your chance to expose your horse to everything and anything. If you plan to take your horse to a competition or parade, then expect to see some wild and weird things. Make sure you do some prep work and de-spook your horse before the big show or event.

Bring some of these items to the barn to test out- pool noodles, balls (small and large), umbrellas, cones, sled, small plastic pool, tires, inflatable toys, tarps and rain slicker. 

Obstacles to Build

Let your creativity shine and build your obstacles! You can combine flying objects, things found in nature and household items to create something special. The more your horse is exposed to the better their reaction should be each time.

If you need some inspiration, try building these obstacles- a wooden bridge, hanging curtain made from a tarp, sturdy horse-size steps, a tire with a center platform, a tarp tunnel and pool noodles horizontally attached to jump standards. 

I’d love to see what creative pieces you can come up with. Please share your obstacle inventions!


Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn’t writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily’s background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.


June 17, 2020