Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The bridge to nowhere

I spent all day Sunday building a bridge.  Annette calls it the bridge to nowhere.  Here's how it all began.
The bridge to nowhere.

Six years ago Flash and I decided we wanted to join a mounted patrol group.  Well, Flash was young at the time, so me, being his guardian, decided that we should join a posse or mounted patrol unit.  I looked and researched several different posses and it came down to two choices, Riverside County Sheriff or Chino PD.  Both had tests for the rider and mount in order to be accepted in the posse.  One of the tests was for the horse to be able to walk calmly across a 4' wide bridge 8' long.  I wasn't sure Flash could do it, so I set about building a wooden bridge with left over wood we had from when we built our house.  I built this bridge in front of Flash's stall while he watched me.  I used a nail gun, threw lumber around, yelled a bit, all the while Flash was watching me.  He wasn't scared, just curious.  I wasn't sure how he would react once I asked him to cross the bridge; but I figured it would take several hours of training to get him to walk across.

When I finished the bridge, I used my tractor to haul it out to the arena.  I tacked up Flash and walked him out to the arena, and while I was closing the gate, Flash walked over to the bridge and started to chew on it.  My plan was to walk him across the bridge until he felt comfortable, (it might take an hour or so), then I would get on and ride him across the bridge.  I figured this could take several hours.  He walked across twice, then walked backwards across the bridge.  Four minutes had gone by.  I got on him and he walked across the first time , no problem.  I had spent several hours building this sensory device, wondering if Flash could handle it.  After 5 minutes we were done.  That was the last sensory device I spent time building.

I kept the bridge next to the arena.  Why I don't know.  I couldn't just throw it away, I had spent a lot of energy building it.  I used it several more times for training.  Once I put old tires underneath it so it would be unstable when Flash walked across.  No problem, he thought it was an amusement ride of some type.

Flash forward to Sunday.

I decided to move my bridge next to the pasture over a natural water course which runs through our property.  With the tractor it didn't take long.  The bridge is built on two 4x4's with 2x12 boards on top.  Pretty simple.  One end of the bridge went into the slope below the arena, while the other end was raised up on two concrete blocks.  Why does that matter asked Annette?  Because it has to be level.  Women, sometimes they ask to many questions.  Flash and Jackson watched; they both understood.  It didn't take long to level the bridge.  When I finished I decided to give it a test and got Flash out.  He walked right over it with no problem.  When I put Flash back in the arena, Jackson tried to push his way out through the gate.  I yelled at him and asked him what he was doing.  "I want to cross the bridge too Dad".  Alright.  I put a halter on Jackson and led him to the bridge.  He started to walk across when all of a sudden one of the 4x4's split in half.  Jackson finished crossing the bridge, but I thought "Oh shit, do he get cut or hurt himself"?  After all, I had done this without Annette's permission.  Jackson was ok, but my nerves were shot.  I told Annette later what had happened.  "Don't worry dear" she said, "the couch in the barn is clean, you can sleep there tonight".

The next day I went down to Home Depot early and bought supplies for a new bridge.  This one is done right, with 4x4 posts sunk in the ground with concrete and 5 2x6's running length wise for support, braced every 12" with 2x6 blocks.  The top is 2x12's, 40" long.  Today was test day.  Both Flash and Jackson went across, no problems.  Neither horse was scared, and no more compost was made.  That was enough for today.
The new bridge.
Flash checking out the load bearing capacity.
It held us both.
I'm done Dad, it's time to eat .

The bridge still goes nowhere, but I have plans to add steps up the side of the hill to the viewing stand.  I wonder, can I get the horses to stand on the raised viewing stand?  Better wait until Annette is in a really good mood or intoxicated on wine.  I can't seem to get "horse challenges" out of my mind.


  1. Love it! I was thinking I need some obstacles for my horses to keep us busy. Wouldn't mind a bridge myself.

    Glad no one got hurt when that wood cracked.

    I take it you were able to sleep in bed instead of the couch. *lol*

  2. I love those bridges for any kind of groundwork. There was an old, but stable one at the breeding farm where I worked, and during my time off I'd lead every horse I owned over it--even the broodmares who were never ridden. It's such a great obstacle! I never had one break but always had that thought in the back of my mind....

    I'm glad that Jackson was ok--hope you were warm enough sleeping in the barn! LOL!!

  3. You did an excellent job with the bridge. The horses must trust you to acclimate themselves so quickly. Nice!