How to Ride a Trail Pattern with Kellie Hinely

This is the second installment of a four-part series on riding a Trail course called “Breathe, regroup and Plan for the obstacles ahead.”

We are going to be talking about the walk-overs and the gate. Both of these obstacles are places in the course where you can slowly take your time and prepare for the faster obstacles ahead. Both obstacles take patience and precision but practice makes perfect and repetition makes for higher plus points in the show ring.

The Walk-Overs

To create walk-overs you will need four to six poles set two feet apart, one in front of the other. To begin training a young horse, start with the poles flat on the ground. Kellie starts by letting the horse find its way through, allowing the horse to try to figure out foot placement on their own. If a horse rushes through, Kellie stops the horse in the line. She will let the horse stand in the middle quietly before continuing, or stop and back up if your horse anticipates going into the walk-overs. Obviously, that works only in the training ring but it’s a great way to teach a horse patience.

Repetition is the key to teaching slow deliberate strides. Once your horse has mastered the poles on the ground you can lift the poles four to six inches off the ground. Here you will adjust your position and raise slightly out of your saddle reins forward. This will allow your horse to lift his hind legs. As you and your horse learn this exercise there will be lots of hitting the poles so it’s important to use that as a guide to how long to practice. The rule of thumb for Kellie is to reward your horse by stopping once they go through the poles tic-free.

This obstacle is a great place to breathe as faster obstacles are on the horizon.

The Rope Gate

The Rope Gate obstacle can be done in different ways and in both directions. You may also be asked to jog, lope, or walk up to it. Tricky right? Luckily the execution of the gate is the same either way. Whether you walk, jog, or lope to the gate you will always go until your leg is even with the second standard and halt. Once you are stopped and still you will use your hand closest to the rope, you may need to change your reins into the other hand and lift it off the standard. Bring your arm back towards your body and back up, until your horse’s head is between the two standards.

Then walk forward in a U-shape following the direction of your hand through the standards. You will now be facing the opposite direction. Finally, back your horse until your leg is again even with the standard. Now just replace the rope onto the standard and you are done. Don’t make the same mistake I made in my first western horse show, I forgot to change my reins back into my riding hand before I went to the next obstacle. Oy. Won’t do that again. This is another obstacle that gives you time to breathe and regroup. Kellie’s bit of gate wisdom is “Make sure not to let the cows out.” Meaning don’t back up too far that the gate stays open long enough to let all the cows out. A small variation you may see in the show pen is a pole raised or flat under the gate. The ride is just the same though the horse will just need to pick up his/her feet on the way through. Again this one is all about repetition.

Have fun practicing these two slow obstacles you will definitely see them next time you hit the show ring.

by Pam Stein Moeck and Kellie Hinely