Sunday, April 1, 2012

Building Simple Bridge Obstacles

One of the obstacles I sack my horses out on are bridges. I have three bridges on my trail course, all made from railroad ties and 2x6 inch slats. These are very durable, but basically once you have them built, only a truck can move them around. The bridge is a good obstacles to train your horses on and not just to accept walking on a bridge, but to develop trust in you not to put them in a bad position,....... to get them comfortable with having to step up which could be onto a rock ledge or a curb.  It is simply good for horses to have to pick their feet up and step onto or over obstacles.

At the request of my wife who wanted some easy to re-locate bridges and bridges more alike what you would see at some of our local American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) competitions, I built some lightweight bridges out of common wood pallets. I say lightweight because a person can drag them someplace where you want them, however one person will sure get a workout at any distance over a couple hundred feet. Yet they are easily pulled from horseback.

I started with a common 40 inch by 47 inch wood pallet. Dimension will vary among pallets but this is close to being a common size. I drilled a 3/4 inch hole in the middle of the pallet support board so I could feed a 14 foot length of rope through and knot one end, so I had a line to drag the bridge around on horseback. I intentionally did not make a loop as I did not want an excuse for a horse to put his foot through it. Instead, it's just like dragging a log.

I used one eight foot length of 2x4 inch wood, cut to two 47 inch pieces. I used these two 2x4 inch pieces to insert in the pallet to strengthen it. I used 1 1/2 inch wood screws to screw these boards to the pallet. This give it the strength necessary for 1,000 pound plus horses to walk on it.

I cut a 40 inch by 47 inch section out of 1/2 inch plywood, then used wood screws to secure to one side of the pallet and this will be the side the horses walk on. I used wood putty to cover up a couple of the screws that I could not drive below flush on the plywood. I did not want anything that could catch a horse's shoe.  The picture at the top left of this article shows the completed bridge.  You can push the drag rope in between the pallet once you have it in place.   Another good exercise for a small square type bridge is to put your horses front feet on it and side pass all around the bridge keeping the front feet on it. 

Your wooden bridges are going to require some sort of treatment from weather sealer to paint, careful not to make them too slick. The bridges to the right are one I made several years ago (top) and another I recently made.  Before anyone thinks about commenting on my lack of carpenters skills, aware that I am not proud of myknow my rudimentary skils. It was my Pa who first brought this to my attention telling me, "Boy, there are two tools in the barn that I don't want you to touch,'s a paint brush and the other is a hammer",....and if that wasn't clear, he would say, "Boy, you're so damn smart you must have two brains, the size of a pea and the other a little bitty thing."


  1. If you want to make them non-skid, paint them and sprinkle sand on the paint immediately after painting. This will give you the non-skid effect. It easy to replace if it ever wears out, just repaint and add more sand. I do this to my pedestals, bridges, tilting bridges, balance beams and mounting blocks.

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