Wooden bridges remain pretty common in the day and age of high technological gadgets, space travel, and modern construction. Some wooden bridges are used because it’s all the county or local community can afford. They keep the one they have. Others are maintained due to the desire to preserve the history associated with it. Regardless of the reason, trail horses need to be ready to cross a wooden bridge and not get excited in the process.
Like anything new, some horses don’t like the sound or the give underneath their feet. The bridge just doesn’t feel natural and solid. The practice and repetition of going across them makes it easier when the need arises.
The video shows a couple of our horses, Doc and Speck, crossing a small training bridge we use. The little bridge was built from logs with boards screwed into the logs to replicate a wooden bridge without the expense. You may notice it isn’t level and the boards have some slope and tilt to them. We aren’t carpenters or bridge builders, but even we have more ability than what you see in the video. The bridge was constructed deliberately uneven and the boards allowed to follow the natural curves in the logs laying on the ground. This was done to make it even less appealing to the horse with the uneven surface and because we are lazy.
The bridge was built for training purposes and there was no reason to spend a lot of time and effort. It serves the purpose of giving the horse a wooden bridge that is narrow and gives a feeling of instability; a good way to see if the horse trusts you enough to cross it anyway.
Training tools don’t have to be expensive. It is nice to have them reasonably safe. Here the bridge isn’t very high off the ground in order for young horses to step off the side or do something silly without getting hurt. One of the youngsters walked across it the first time with his hind feet on the ground and his front feet on the bridge. It was an acceptable first attempt for a colt and he came back to it later in the week to do a real good job.
The training bridge is just one more tool we use with the horses in our training program for trail horses.