Trainer and coach Brianna Wallis explains two skill-building exercises to do in the pasture.
By Susan Morrison
Photography by Katie Frank
July 03, 2017
Arena exercises are necessary to develop both a rider and horse, but Brianna Wallis likes to get her students out in the pasture to advance their education.
In this year’s issue of Young Western Horseman, included in the July 2017 issue of Western Horseman, Wallis offers three simple drills she uses for her young students at her Grandview, Texas, training facility. She also likes to take her students and horses out in the pasture, where she has set up a couple of obstacles to challenge them.
“I don’t think we have anything on the ranch that is strictly a rope horse or strictly a barrel horse,” Wallis says. “All of our horses can do the all-around ranch horse events.”
Two of her favorite pasture exercises involve simple obstacles: a bridge and a set of ground poles.
Wallis has two raised bridges in a pasture; one is about 4 inches tall and the other is about 6 inches off the ground. Both are about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. She places ground poles or cedar posts in front of them to help the horses learn to pick up their feet.
“Whether they’re directly parallel to the bridge or at an angle, they make the horses pick their way through,” she says.
While the horse learns to watch where its feet are going, the rider learns to look ahead, she adds.
“What I don’t want is, as a rider is going through it, for her to lean over the horse’s shoulder and look down,” Wallis explains. “I want the rider to be responsible for getting to the obstacle, and then the horse is responsible for getting over it. What I’ve found is if you develop the bad habit early on of looking down over an obstacle, your horse will not pick up its feet as much. It will nick or hit the obstacle, or even move it, and in our [ranch horse] competition that’s between a half-point and a two-point penalty.”
She varies the position of the poles to encourage the horse to pay attention, she adds.
“Sometimes I’ll stagger them—for example, one pole is on a left diagonal and another is on a right diagonal. I also vary it with a cinder block on one end to raise the pole a little bit. You want to give your horse a challenge,” Wallis says.
See Exercise 2 on Page 2