Build Your Own Trail Bridge

Build Your Own Trail Bridge

Follow these five simple steps to create your own trail bridge obstacle.

A man wearing western clothes is riding a brown horse in a competition arena. They are stepping up onto a bridge.

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By Andrea Caudill

You’re going to run into a bridge that you and your horse will need to cross, whether you’re out on a peaceful trail ride or maneuvering a trail course in the show pen. The ubiquitous bridge can be difficult at first, but it’s essential to master. 

The bridge is usually a narrow step up that makes a ringing, hollow sound, and it’s understandable if a horse is a little nervous at first. But because calmly walking across a bridge is a “must have,” the best solution is to have one at home and practice until it’s second nature for the horse. 

As a bonus, you will develop your relationship so that your horse trusts you more when you encounter other scary objects down the road.

This is how to build a trail bridge for horses that is 6 feet long by 3 feet wide for less than $80. 

Horse Bridge Shopping List

Everything can be purchased at your local home improvement store:

  • 1 – 4-foot x 8-foot x 23/32-inch CAT-rated sheathing plywood
  • 7  - 8-foot-long 2-inch x 4-inch select stud boards
  • 1 pound box - #8 x 2-inch exterior decking screws
  • 2 1-pound boxes - #10 x 3-inch exterior screws
  •  (optional) Gallon- wood water sealer 

Step 1: Prepare and Assemble the Frame

First cut the 2 x 4s for the frame. You will need two side rail pieces that are 6 feet long, and then two cross pieces measuring 33 inches each. 

Next, assemble the frame. Use 3-inch screws, with two screws in each corner for a total of eight screws. Place them in each corner, through the side rails and into the cross rails. 

When assembled, the frame should be 36 inches wide on the outside, with the internal measurement being 33 inches.

Step 2: Prepare the Internal Structure

Prepare the materials for the internal support structure using the 2 x 4s. Cut: 

  • Seven internal support ribs, each 33 inches in length.
  • Four short vertical supports, each 3 ¾ inches in length.
  • Twelve long vertical supports, each 8 ½ inches in length.
     
    internal structure of the DIY trail bridge
    The assembled internal structure of the bridge.

     

Step 3: Assemble the Internal Structure

Now it’s time to assemble the support structure of the bridge. You will make a kind of honeycomb structure to increase the support strength of your bridge and ensure it is safe.

Grab your support ribs and vertical supports, and your box of 3-inch screws. You’ll need those four short vertical supports for the ends of the frame.

  1. Grab two of the short vertical supports and one of the internal ribs. Because of the close working area, screw the short vertical supports to the rib first, then place the rib into the frame and screw it all to the frame.
     
  2. It is helpful to pre-drill the holes for each screw. Besides preventing the board from splitting, the pre-drilled holes guide the screws and makes it easy to start. The depth of each pre-drilled hole is approximately half the length of the screw being used. Use a 3/32-inch bit for the 3-inch screws.
     
  3. Work your way down the frame, following the image above to place the vertical supports.
     
  4. Every vertical support has four screws in it – two from the outside and two from the inside. This makes them extremely strong.
     
  5. Time to check your work! At this point, you should have your frame and its internal support structure completed. Lay your frame on the floor and measure it again, both the right side and the left side – these numbers should be close to 6 feet. Then measure the cross length, both ends – they should be close to 3 feet.

If they are, well done, you have a square frame! If they’re different, well, the next steps will be more of a challenge for you.

Step 4: Assemble the Deck

The next step is to attach the deck. 

  1. Grab your plywood. Since a sheet of plywood is 4 feet x 8 feet, we’re going to have to cut 1 foot off the narrow side and 2 feet on the long side so you end up with a 3-foot x 6-foot piece of plywood.

    This piece of plywood is the most expensive part of the project, so double or triple check your measurements before you begin to cut. Use a straight edge or chalk line to give yourself a guide before you make your cuts. Remember to account for the width of your saw blade in your measurements – that final piece of wood should be exactly 36 inches x 72 inches.
  2. Once those two cuts are made, set the plywood deck on the frame. It should be perfectly centered on the frame without anything hanging off. 
     
  3. Start screwing the plywood deck onto the frame. 

    First, put a screw in each of the four corners of the frame using the 2-inch decking screws, so the deck is secured to the frame.
     
  4. Then set screws approximately every 8 inches around the perimeter, and on the cross support ribs. 

    Here’s where your measuring skills get put to the test. You will need to put every screw into the center of the support frame underneath it. Remember that a 2 x 4’s actual measurement is 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches – so make sure to account for that as you work to find the center. Use a pencil to mark where each screw should go. To make it easier, consider pre-drilling each of the holes, using an 1/16-inch bit.
     
The assembled trail bridge

Step 5: Final Steps

The bridge should be essentially complete at this point. 

It is optional to use some wood water sealer to coat the bridge – if you live in a wet climate and your bridge will be outside, it will help extend its life. 

Otherwise, it is time to set your new bridge up and get to work!