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365 Days in Horse Country – Round Penning

Blog by Michael Stuart Webb | October 30th, 2013

365 Days in Horse Country – Round Penning


For most people, riding is the number one priority when it comes to spending time with their horses.  But all horses, no matter how old and how well trained, can pen.

A round pen is a circular enclosure usually measuring between 40 and 60 feet (12 AND 18 m) in diameter.  The value of the round pen is that it puts your horse in an environment where she can’t help but focus on you.  Because the pen has no corners, it encourages forward motion in the horse, leaving no corners where the horse can comfortable stop.

If you have never worked your horse in a round pen, you’ll be amazed at how much you can teach her to focus on you using this tool.  Here is an exercise to help get your horse to listen to you.  What’s great about it is that it translates into the saddle.

Stand in the centre of the round pen with a lunge whip and ask your horse to go forward.  If you regularly lunge your horse and she knows how to translate from one gait to another, ask her to go up and down in gaits as she moves around you in the round pen.  Change gaits frequently so your horse becomes completely focused on you, waiting for the next command. 

If you don’t normally lunge your horse, start teaching her voice command for transition while she’s in the round pen.

  1. Choose words for each gait (“walk”, “tee-rot”, and “can-ter” for example).
  2. Give each command just before you put pressure on your horse to move into that gait.
  3. Once she goes into the gait you ask for, tell her she’s a good horse to let her know she’s doing what you want.
  4. Keep her in that gait by putting pressure on her with your body position.

When working in the round pen, always stand so your body is positioned behind the horse’s hip to drive her forward. Your lunge whip should be in the hand that is opposite the direction the horse is moving.  You want to give the horse the impression you are driving her forward with the whip based on where you are holding it.

Spend about fifteen to twenty minutes in the round pen and end your session at a point when your horse is completely focused on you.