Building Yourself a "Horse Course"
Part Four: The Pit
Many horses seem to have a natural aversion to descending into narrow depressions, yet on a trail ride we might need to navigate some narrow wash or arroyo where an unsteady horse could be dangerous. We dug a pit so that the horses could get used to seeing grade level from a different perspective and get the feel of various pitches of slope.
The pit is rectangular, about 16 feet long by about 6 feet wide, about 3½ feet deep. The entrances from each end are gently sloping while the sides are nearly vertical. (Each side is a slightly different pitch.)
When starting a horse on the pit for the first time, we approach from the end with the gentlest slope. If the horse wants to avoid the pit, we will post people on either side or stack a few tires along each side of the entrance in the form of a "V" to keep the horse focused. We would rather keep the horse's attention on the obstacle and support our aids in this manner than have a fight which would not aid the horse in his learning.
Once the horse is working the pit lengthwise in a comfortable, relaxed manner, we will attempt the steeper side crossings. (Sharon discovered, however, that long legs on a short horse can equal "boots hitting the ground" when riding into the pit from the sides!)
Note: When working around any obstacles, you need to pay careful attention to your situation, your horse, any distractions and what others nearby are doing (what impact they may have on you and what impact you may have on them). Some horses may react unpredictably and you need to be prepared to guide them through any situation... or get competent assistance if you are not sure how to do so!
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