Sensory Trail Ideas

Sorry it’s been a while, we were travelling for a whole month! (With a 4 now 8 week old!) One stop was back home in California, where there are plenty of horse barns in the hills where both our parents live. One barn in particular has a sensory trail or obstacle course by the road that sparks a few ideas for me, so I want to share it with you!

To preface, these pictures are not the best (they were taken from a moving car). Also, the hill barns I grew up riding at can be pretty ghetto (but we love them anyway), so we can talk about safety.

This is the whole course:

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This basic bridge has a nice ramp up and down, with a step into a box in the middle. I like the idea of stepping down into a box. You can paint it blue like water. Or fill it with another sensory footing like sand or small gravel.

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Here is another bridge with poles strung between barrels. I like the idea of railing enclosing a bridge as it requires more precise steering from the rider, but in TR you need room for the leader and sidewalkers, and want the obstacle to be able to break apart if anything happens, so what if you made a “railing” out of crepe paper? You’d have to get the horses used to crepe paper and it breaking.

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Here is something similar, basically an L-pole obstacle but the poles are raised on barrels (the L-pole obstacle is ground poles set up like an L shape that the rider goes through, but here they are raised on barrels so it’s like riding through a chute. Again, the issue of space and breakability, so you would have to make some changes.

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Here is a pool noodle curtain with what looks like sand footing and little garden beds on either side. This provides lots of sensory opportunities – ride through the noodles, over sand, pick the flowers, count the flowers, etc.

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Here’s a few. In the back left is another curtain, this one I think is a tarp that has been cut into strips. This seems a little more precarious than noodles to me because they could snag on the rider or tack or get wrapped around the horse or rider, so I wouldn’t suggest it. In the back right is a tarp tunnel – I believe there is tarp hung up on a fence on both sides. Again the issue of space and safety, but I think a tarp wall to ride past is a good idea! In the middle ground are a bunch of cones set up in some pattern to ride through. In the foreground is a teeter totter bridge.

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Here is something that appears to be two big blue boxes with PVC tubes sticking up from them. In the PVC tube is a pool noodle object, which appears to something like a pool noodle cross with plastic water bottles hanging from it that I’m sure sway in the wind and make noise because that is no small collection of water bottles. First off, I like the idea of the boxes and putting things in them like big balls that can be taken out and played with. Second, I like the idea of having an upright PVC pipe that a pool noodle can be slipped in and out of. Third, I like the idea of incorporating water bottle clumps because they are very sensory – make noise, reflect light, and move. This obviously requires a lot of horse desensitizaton!

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Our last picture is has two more obstacles. First in the left background is another curtain, this one of clear plastic strips (you can barely see them there) – again the snagging or wrapping issue – and on either side are boxes filled with tall brush. I like the idea of having huge brush bushes lining an obstacle, or just to pass between on their own. Second, in the foreground are raised poles – I was delighted to see that they are raised up using cinder blocks! That’s an example of an object that is not breakable!! At least they thought to line the cinder blocks with tires?

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I hope these pictures offer some inspiration (or at least entertainment)!

Have a great week!

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Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

5 thoughts on “Sensory Trail Ideas

  1. this is fantastic! thank you for taking the time to do this and sending our way! please please please, MORE BLOGS!!! Have missed this blog terribly-I’m a mom too so I get the “busy”!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, that is super encouraging! I will do my best to keep up with the blog, it’s one of my favorite activities 🙂

  2. The cinder blocks are scary! Putting the poles through the blocks like that means there is NO room for error, nothing will break. Jumps and raised poles should be set so they will fall over if a horse trips. Some great ideas though, just need a more safety conscious way.

    • Right?! I almost fell off my chair when I noticed the cinder blocks in the picture! PATH certification has made me super safety conscious!

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