Feature photo by Ginny Furness
During Ease of Handling Phase the Bridge Crossing is performed at the walk in all Levels. In the Speed Phase it is performed at the riders discretion. The course designer may require the bridge to be crossed in both directions.
Training for crossing the bridge is pretty well understood by most riders. In most cases simply provide the horse with confidence and support every time they try. For a horse that is unready to walk the length of the bridge, ask him to cross perpendicular to the length, then diagonally, then lengthwise. Another horse ridden across the bridge in front of a young horse will also provide the confidence needed for him to give it a try. Some horses are troubled by the hollow sound that the bridge makes, in those cases it may be beneficial to simply start with a piece of plywood or heavy board laying directly on the ground.
The downward transition from trot to walk (Level 1) or canter to walk (level 2 & up) is important to perform the bridge well. Provide enough “approach” to the bridge to allow your horse to become nice and straight before asking for the downward transition.
Competitors Tip; Change the appearance of your training bridge frequently! Most likely it will not be the bridge itself that causes a refusal, but adornments immediately surrounding the bridge which will be suspicious to the horse.