A Look at Round Penning

If you’re lucky enough to board your horse at a barn with a round pen, then you have access to a valuable training tool. Round pens provide safe areas to work your horse, both in the saddle and on the ground. The key is in the fact that round pens will keep your horse fairly close to you, even when working him freely. Round pens eliminate corners, allowing your horse to move forward at a continuous, uninterrupted pace and bend.

Your horse will need time to adjust to the effort of working in a round pen. Remember, round pen work, like lunging, is more demanding on your horse than regular riding in an arena. Start with short sessions at first and gradually lengthen them as your horse becomes stronger.

Body language tune-up

We’ve all seen the scenes from The Horse Whisperer where Tom Booker works Pilgrim in a round pen and establishes an almost magical connection with the emotionally scarred horse. While your results might not be quite as miraculous, it’s true that round pens can greatly help you connect and deepen your understanding with your horse.

In working a horse freely in a round pen (without a lunge line), you return to the very basics of horsemanship in a language your horse understands – his own. You establish yourself as a leader in the pen, and your horse will look to you for visual cues as to what action he should take.

With your horse in the round pen (and after making sure the gate is securely closed), ask him to move forward at a walk, using only your body language. Keep yourself behind the line of your horse’s hip to encourage him to move forward. When he does, ease off the pressure a little – step back, and remove some of the pressure. Experiment with getting him to move forward at different gaits, to stop, and to change directions.

While equine body language is far too complex to explain fully here, if you’d like to learn about body language and how you can replicate it on your own, horse training and natural horsemanship books can provide you with extensive information.

Develop a visual understanding

While working your horse in a round pen from the ground, you’re able to observe him without the concern of handling a lunge line. You can observe his stride and how he carries himself. Watch the movement of his head, neck, and back to maximize your understanding of how your riding influences his movement.

Riding with new focus

Riding your horse in a round pen can allow you to work on his stride length, balance, and cadence in depth. Steering and corners are eliminated, so you can truly focus in on just what your horse is doing beneath you. Work on lengthening and shortening your horse’s stride while maintaining a consistent rhythm, and consider adding ground poles to make the work more challenging.
You’ll likely find that your horse’s focus is improved in the round pen, as is yours. Busy arenas can make focused training challenging, and round pens provide quiet places without distraction where you and your horse can focus on your work.

Round pens are great multi-purpose tools. If you have access to one, take advantage of it! Visit http://www.classic-equine.com/ now!