Showing in model trail classes opens up a world of creativity for building your own obstacles. A mailbox has long been a popular obstacle, and is an ideal one for a standing model. Use it alone, or lay a ground pole out from it to increase the degree of difficulty by requiring the horse to side pass to and away from the box. You can also lay a slicker over the box for the rider to either put on or carry to another location. Mailboxes also work well for in-hand trail classes.
With a little time and patience, you can make your own mailbox! I found some wonderful silver-gray scrapbook paper that is textured like hammered metal, but other paper could work equally well.
First, cut the ½” square basswood to a length of 5”. Cut four pieces of ⅜” square basswood, each ⅞” long. Lightly sand all ends. Arrange the four pieces as shown in the photo below, and glue in place. They form a square base, which would be safe for a real horse as there are no braces or supports sticking out for the horse to catch a hoof on. Allow it to dry. You may paint the stand and base white or leave them natural. Avoid using balsa wood, as it’s too soft and light.
Print or recreate the pattern from the photo below so that it is 5” from the rounded edge to the opposite tab, and 4 ½” from one straight edge to the opposite one. Cut the pattern out and make a tiny hole in the center of the bottom section using the nail. Keep this for your master pattern. Trace this pattern onto a 5” x 8” index card. Cut out the general shape while leaving about ¼” around it. If your card is lined, apply glue to the lined side – making sure it reaches the edges of the card so the two papers adhere – and glue it to the back of the scrapbook paper. When it has dried, cut out along the lines.
Apply glue to the rounded flap with the tab and press it onto the back side of a small piece of scrapbook paper. The edge should be even with the fold line indicated on the original pattern. Once this is dry, cut it to match the card. Now the mailbox door has gray paper on each side.
Fold each side along the indicated fold lines. Make a sharp crease, then straighten the sides and end so the folds are 90 degrees; leave the door partially open. On the wooden stand, mark the center of the top of the post. Put the nail through the spot marked “hole” in the mailbox. Use the pliers or tweezers to hold the tiny nail; hammer it into the spot on the post. It helps to have someone hold the post for you.
Curve the large rectangular piece so it follows the curve of the rounded end piece. Use small pieces of Scotch tape on the inside to hold it in place. Tuck the large piece behind the narrow strip that’s standing up. Tape it into place from the inside. Use the tweezers for hard-to-reach places. When it is secured with tape on the inside, gently pull the narrow strip away from the outside and add some glue behind it using a toothpick. Turn this side down onto a hard surface and press the area firmly with your finger from inside the box. Roll the tab on the door outward and downward.
Trace the flag onto index card and cut it out. Paint the flag portion with red acrylic paint and allow it to dry. Next, cut a piece of gray paper approximately 1” by ¾”. Fold it in half lengthwise with the right side out, apply glue to both inner surfaces, and wrap it around the flag stem. The fold should be right against the card with the excess extending from the longest side. Press it tightly and clip on two clothespins while it dries. Cut the excess gray paper so there’s a straight line. Using a fine point Sharpie, add a black dot near the bottom of the stem to simulate a rivet. Lay the mailbox down and glue the lower portion of the stem to the box. Allow it to dry.
A rolled-up newspaper completes the obstacle. I cut a piece of the sports scores from a real newspaper, because the font is tiny and the paper is the authentic color. Mine is two layers thick, 1 ¼” wide and 3” long, folded in half to 1 ½” in length. Fold it narrowly and continue flat rolling it. Tie it tightly with a thread. Now your rider can hold it up for the judge before placing it back in the mailbox.
Choose a horse that looks calm and attentive for your entry. It should be standing square, or at least balanced. The mailbox should be approximately even with the rider’s leg for ease of opening, and the horse should stand straight beside it. Keep a safe amount of space between mailbox and leg, but make sure it is close enough that rider can reach it. As always with performance entries, include a description.
Voilà! Your mailbox is ready to enhance your trail entry!
Austin has side passed his horse left to the mailbox and is holding up the newspaper for the judge to see at a show. He will side pass right, then walk to the next obstacle.