Toys: pool noodles

Part 1 of a series about toys I use in horse education - pool noodles

Why use pool noodles

  • they are relatively cheap
  • they are very safe to use as they are soft and really can’t cause injury to horse or rider
  • they are nice and colourful
  • they are light (good for kids and grandmas)
  • they move easily, so whether horses step on them or over them they may move which makes horses look at them and think


  • walk your horse over a single or multiple pool noodle
  • walk your horse over a random pile of them Note: regardless of whether your horse clears them or steps on them, they are great. Stepping carefully over obstacles is great. If your horse steps on one, the ends life up and the things move, that is scary for some, but a safe way to learn to step over moving stuff.
  • lay them on the ground parallel and ask your horse to walk through the narrow path between them. Make it longer with more noodles. Or narrower. Or change the width. Or make corners. Alternatively, ask your horse to back through.
  • lay one or more down and as your horse to sidepass over them
  • use to touch your horse all over - think of it as “sacking out”, this is great for desensitisation and it can be helpful for horses that are touchy around the legs (very safe for horse and handler!)
  • can lean one or more against your horse and then ask your horse to walk on, good for getting your horse used to things falling over and touching body and legs
  • can lay across the horse and balance, then walk the horse and wait for the pool noodle/s to fall off. Great for desensitisation
  • can lay them out to form narrow alleys to ask the horse to walk carefully within lines, or across lines
  • can hang them up with stings from above so the horse learns to negotiate seemingly narrow place and learns to be brave while following you
  • can mount vertically or horizontally that they touch your horse around the legs and body when walking past
  • combine with other obstacles (more on those in another post)

Riding alone

  • rope in a helper to touch the horse all over while in the saddle
  • repeat the groundwork exercises from the saddle
  • use as pretent weapon to desensitise your horse to long things above and all around
  • ride one handed and ride past things and bang it with the noodle
  • ride hands free and try acrobatic tricks with your noodle/s

Riding with others

  • many of the riding alone exercises are more fun with more riders
  • use for mock jousting
  • use to play ball with others (can use a broom handle to extend pool noodes that have a hollow core)
  • have mock noodle-sword battles to hone your hand handed riding skills
  • play tug of war to hone your no-handed riding skills
  • play pass the noodle or dodge the noodle


The author Chris Bahlo