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Obstacles.

Equine Agility UK obstacles have been chosen to "ask" questions.

Can you go under, over, through or around ?

They should never be used to "scare or frighten" your equine. Taking him above and over his tolerance threshold, is counter productive.

Introduce the easy elements first, as the relationship develops and strengthens, then and only then start to introduce the more challenging elements.

Equine Agility UK podium

The Podium.

Take your time with this one.

The aim is for your equine to step up, front feet only, show immobility and to step back and down in a confident and calm manner.

As with all the obstacles, the approach to the obstacle should be done mindfully and with an awareness of self.

Allow the equine plenty of time to look at and explore with his nose, this is perhaps one of the most important factors of obstacle training, the acknowledgement of the obstacle by the equine.

Take your time and always set the equine up to succeed.

With your equine positioned in front of the obstacle step up onto the podium yourself, now facing your equine, make some noise with your feet, showing him to expect a bit of noise, remember throughout this to breathe deeply, encouraging your equine to do the same. 

While still facing your equine, step back and down yourself, each of you are now on opposite sides of the podium facing each other.

 From this position you will be able, using your body language, to create an energetic block and stop when needed.

Now ask your equine to step up and forward.

If he moves forward but doesn't step up, his foot will just knuckle, quietly reposition him and ask again.

Allow him the time to sense and feel what his feet are doing.

The timing of the ask and then the stop are the important factors here.

When he is standing, front feet only on the podium, encourage him to relax, allow immobility.

To ask him to step back and down, step up with one foot yourself, this can help to counterbalance the podium, and indicate by touching the shoulder of the leg he will move first, to step back, allow him to to find the ground with his foot and then the next one.

When you try this again, and he trusts and understands what you are asking of him, you will just need to position him and holding the image of him stepping up in your head, just gently ask and he will do so.

S-Bend.

Make sure your equine is comfortable with all the poles on the ground.

Allow him to thoroughly explore them with his nose and feet.

Halt at the entrance and step in front of and turn and face him, check your breathing and awareness of self.

From your position in front of your equine you will be able to see all four feet and thus be able to help your equine successfully negotiate the turns without stepping out of or touching the poles.

If problems arise, reduce the number of poles and widen the spaces between.

Arch.

Build your practice in incremental steps.

Increase confidence by allowing your equine to become comfortable with each stage.

Quietly walk between the arch supports, add the arch framework without the ribbons and then add a few ribbons at a time.

Use the safe leading position, in front of and slightly to the side and remember to face him, all his feelings and emotions will be in his facial expressions.

Keep the rope and contact, soft.

Exhale, yourself, loudly with a sigh as he comes under the arch. 

Tarpaulin.

"Nose before feet"

Allow the equine thorough exploration of the tarp.

He will want to work out for himself by touching it with his nose and mouth and primarily his whiskers, if it is safe for him to step onto.

Choose the narrow side first.

Step onto it yourself to indicate that it is safe and that it makes a noise.

Remember to breathe and not hold your breath in anticipation.

Keep yourself safe by being in front of him and facing him.

Allow him all the time he needs.

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Touch.

The touch obstacle is an indication of confidence.

The energy you hold and your own thoughts and feelings as you approach the obstacle are paramount.

Understand if you need to be calm and reassuring or enthusiastic and encouraging.

To some it may be scary and to others it may hold no interest.

You are asking for an acknowledgement of the obstacle by him touching it with his nose.

Make sure you are looking at him and reading his facial expressions and body language.

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Weave.

The Weave, a greater test of your own skills as the handler, than those of your equines!

Cones are ideal to weave around, 5 is an optimum number, they should be placed ideally 2 metres apart.

Working in-hand, the height of the object to weave around is important, you need to be able to lift the lead rope to direct the equine around the weave, whilst you the handler, remain walking in a straight line, this makes cones an ideal choice.

The skill to achieve a perfect score in the weave, is gained by the handler thinking and planning ahead. Your thoughts need to be nano seconds ahead of those of your equines.

The judge will be looking for plenty of body language signals showing subtle communication.

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Feet First.

More difficult than it looks !

Approach and halt at the 1st pole.

The handler to step across and into the gap.

Then ask the equine to join them, front feet only and halt, show immobility.

The handler must then ask the equine to step into the gap, all 4 feet and halt, show immobility.

The handler to then step over the 2nd pole 

Then ask the equine to join them, front feet only and halt, show immobility.

The handler should regain her leading position, and both proceed forward.

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The Bug.

6 or 8 poles with a low central support.

Walk clockwise around the poles.

The handler should remain on the outside of the poles, helping and supporting the equine to negotiate around the circle.

Equine Agility UK does not penalise you/your equine for touching the poles.

Marks are lost for knocking over/moving the poles.

Flag.

Introduce the flag slowly using incremental steps.

Never take your equine over "threshold" and scare him.

Allow plenty of exploration and touching of the flag.

Please note :- the flag should only be waved at waist level - unless otherwise stated and required.

Your position should be in front of and to the side of your equine, your equine should stand along side you, remaining alert, but not reacting.

The flag should be waived in a figure of eight pattern away from your equines face and body.

Narrow Gap.

This obstacle demonstrates "confidence" to move into and pass through a narrow gap between two barriers. Barrier length = 1.5x equines length.

Technical accuracy is required by the handler to not only maintain their leading position, but to avoid contact of the barriers with the lead rope.

Gate.

The most commonly used gate in agility, is a rope gate.

Easily constructed using 2 upright supports and a length of rope fastened to one of the supports.

Particular attention should be given to the different class requirements for this obstacle.

Note which side the gate should be opened from.

The length of time the HALT should be maintained and whether a HALT and WAIT is required.

The handler must display a high degree of technical accuracy !

Crazy Corner.

The main element of a Crazy Corner should be colour and movement, lots of flags, bunting and flowers.

It should go without saying, "ADD THESE ELEMENTS ONE AT A TIME" and build up to a full Crazy Corner slowly.

Remember once you have entered the obstacle you are trapped between the elements, this is not the place you would want to be if a sudden surprise was to happen !

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Square Halt Turn

4 poles set out to form a square - 1.5x equines length.

Equine and handler to enter the square together and halt.

The handler must ask the equine to stand SQUARE.

The handler should then step out of the square and ask the equine to turn in a CLOCKWISE direction 180 degrees.

Please note; We are not looking for a "pivot" - however the turn should remain tight and for the equine to not step out of the square.

On completion of the turn, the handler should step back into the square and ask the equine to stand SQUARE, show immobility and proceed.

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