When my friend in England mentioned in an email that she and her mare were going to a Horse Agility training day, I had visions of Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers zipping around an arena, weaving in and out of poles, flying over mini-jumps and walking over teeter totters. I couldn’t quite picture doing that with a horse!
But I did some web surfing and found out a bit more about it and it turns out that I’ve done something similar with my horse without knowing it. (see photo below – we were just playing what I called “Follow the Leader”, but the foundation for further Horse Agility training is there.)
In Horse Agility, the handler starts out with no more equipment than a halter and a lead rope and incrementally trains his horse to negotiate a series of obstacles–these might be cavaletti or small jumps, tarpaulins on the ground, wooden bridges and other obstacles. It takes step-by-step training and clear communication between handler and horse until eventually the horse is able to take the obstacles while free from the lead line at the direction of his handler.
It’s a great way to build a bond between horse and handler and it’s something that anyone can learn to do with their horse, even if they are a non-rider. It’s a way to keep a horse fit, active and mentally stimulated and that makes for a calm and happy horse. Not to mention that it is FUN. Take another look at the smile on my face in the photo above.
The sport of Horse Agility was started up in 2009 by Vanessa Bee, an English horse trainer who is based in Devon after the idea came to her that horses could perform in agility just like dogs. She then started the Horse Agility Club in the UK as a way to standardize the sport and provide participants with the opportunity to compete at Horse Agility events around the country.
It wasn’t long before the International Horse Agility Club was born with groups in the U.S. and Canada, Australia and throughout Europe.
Vanessa is also the author of the book, The Horse Agility Handbook, which is available at HorseBooksEtc.com and includes everything you need to get started in Horse Agility, including lessons in handling and body language, directions for obstacle and course construction, and information for managing competitions and “play days.”
I just ordered the book and I can’t wait to get started with some more horse agility sessions with Annapolis, seen below at age 29.
Want to see some advanced Horse Agility in action?
Check out the video in the following link to see a really advanced horse go through an agility course: