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Round Pen Story

Author Anonymous

I just recently got a round pen for an anniversary present. I had been wanting one for a long time, but was a little concerned about using it as a training tool since up to now my horses have been trained completely at liberty. Also, I was especially concerned about Titan my Shire cross. A trainer had tried to work him in the round pen as soon as Titan arrived at the ranch. It was a disaster. Titan was terrified and jumped the pen. When the trainer forced him back, Titan went crazy with fear. The trainer was in real danger, but managed to get out in time. Even though a year had passed I was worried about reintroducing Titan to a round pen. My other horse, Montana, was also afraid of round pens, bolting whenever he got close. That round pen had been dismantled and taken away, but the new one was just delivered. Being somewhat of a novice and not used to working a horse in a round pen, I was not sure of the best way to approach it. After careful thought, I decided to use the round pen with the same approach I had done so far in all their ground work…. slowly and always in a way that honored trust and respect.

I decided they should be there from the beginning, so they were invited to come to the round pen "raising". They curiously inspected every panel as they went up, scratching themselves occasionally on a panel now and then. There were even few (treats) for the party. For a couple of days, I just let it sit there, so they could get used to it being in their pasture. I left the gate open so they could come and go as they pleased. On the third day, I went into the round pen and asked them to join me. They did. I asked them to go through their ground work… backing up, joining up, circling in place and standing….always with the gate open, so they knew they could get out if they wanted to.

Every morning, they now show up at the round pen for "school"…often in the round pen waiting for me. Each takes his turn, while the other one waits at the open gate for his turn (they had been taught to stand quietly while another horse performed). I started walking them around the periphery of the round pen preparing them for lunging and Montana clicked in (he had some experience). Even Titan walks it (haven't got him to pick up speed, but we're working on it.) I had taught them with a hand gesture of a circling hand to go forward and an arm up as a hazing gesture from the rear side. Combing the two got them going in the round pen after about a week.

Two horses frightened of a round pen now look forward to it at liberty - no halter, whip, lunge line. and…with the gate always open. I believe this speaks volumes of the importance of going slowly, gradually conditioning a horse and letting him have some choice in the activities.

Thanks for listening.