Will your horse lope over landscape timbers positioned in the shape of a star with one end above the ground. It’s called a pinwheel and a fairly common obstacle at trail challenge courses. Most of the riders we see keep their horse at a walk or maybe a trot. It is difficult for a horse to lope in a circle across the timbers without knocking down the beams. The photograph shows Wendy Stephens, one of the contestants at the AHCA National Finals. Wendy is a well-known horse trainer that conducts clinics on how to compete and win at trail challenges.
While a horse can be taught to safely lope a pinwheel, it is not an activity without risk to your horse. We suggest walking at first and then moving to a trot once your horse understands the idea. The lope is fine for an accomplished rider and a good horse, but unnecessary for any place other than an obstacle course.
While we respect the ability of trainers like Wendy to complete the obstacle properly, we have reservations about pinwheels as a trail challenge obstacle generally speaking. A good trail horse will never encounter a pinwheel on the trail and would never lope over it anyway. In our view, a properly trained trail horse is going to cross something new and unusual slowly and carefully. So pinwheels while offering a challenge don’t test a horse for attributes we believe important.
However, we understand to an extent why the AHCA has to present obstacles to make the course a challenge to trainers and other professional horsemen. Wendy finished this class with the fastest time and the AQHA quarter horse she rode, “Shiner” did a fine job!