Cross Training & Obstacle Work

Cross training and obstacle work are an essential part of every horse’s training.  It challenges the rider’s mind and body as well as the horse’s mind and boy.  This stimulating work can easily be built into any program. 


The benefits of cross training and obstacle work:

  • Addresses different muscles in the horse’s body

  • Stimulates the horse’s mind and keeps work fresh and exciting

  • Exposes the horse to new situations so they are better prepared for several different circumstances.

  • Builds trust between the rider and the horse. 

  • Gives the horse confidence in their body

  • Gives the rider confidence in the abilities of the horse


Cross training addresses different muscles in the horse.  When I take my dressage horses to work cattle, there is more of an emphasis put on rotating quickly and smoothly on the haunches.  When I take the dressage horses over obstacles, there is an emphasis put on the functional muscles needed to propel the horse upward or downward. 

The horse’s mind is stimulated because it keeps the staleness out of the ride.  By breaking up the routine now and again, we are then able to offer the horses the ability to think on their feet.  They can experience new things and expand their horizons.  Exposing a horse to new situations allows us to expand their “bubble.”  The bigger the “bubble” the less likely they are to react to outside stimulus when we need their full focus. 

Trust is the foundation of any relationship between horse and rider.  We must trust them, and they must trust us.  Every time you successfully complete a new task or tackle a new obstacle, your confidence goes up and so does your horse’s confidence.  When a rider can show a horse that they can accomplish something, the horse then begins to trust the rider more and more.  The more your horse proves to you that he/she is willing to try new experiences, the more you begin to trust them in every situation you bring them into. 

Ways to incorporate cross training into your program:

  • Keep small obstacles around the arena so that you can take small breaks between arena work.

  • Keep a cavalettie near the arena

  • Pick a day during the week that you do anything other than your sport

  • Make it a point to get your horse out on a trail at least once a month

  • Look up ideas for new and simple obstacles on pinterest

  • Search for clinics in your area that put a focus on obstacles (working equitation, police training, horsemanship obstacle clinics)

© 2019 by Deirdre R. Sabo   

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