Relaxation in the Round Pen

A word about round penning-

The round pen can be a great source of anxiety for horses. It can be a place where a horse is run off their feet, so to speak, and learns to evade and escape. But it can also be a fantastic tool for developing the beginning of a conversation that carries over into the rest of your work.

For unhandled horses, this is my favorite place to start, because we can begin the foundation of tuning in, learning the basic pieces of moving their body in a balanced way, and learning how to seek for answers without a hurry. If I can speak to them here in a way that doesn’t build anxiety, once the halter goes on, those basic pieces are there and can blend into the feel on the lead rope. In this way, it’s less confusing and easier for the horse to follow.

I don’t tend to spend much time in the round pen. I like it for first touches and halters, first saddlings, and first rides as it provides a safe and easy place to work in. It’s possible and easy to over do round penning, and the structure of the round pen makes it easy to use too much pressure if you’re not careful.

I’m looking for communication, relaxation in all the gaits, the ability to draw and drive in a balanced way. I don’t want the horse just running around in there, though that may happen, I try not to be the cause of it. I try not to use forward movement as a punishment. You see that all too often when a horse doesn’t get caught or makes something the handler considers a mistake, they get driven off. This teaches them tension, to escape your aids, and will come back to haunt you later.

This little Arab is working on moving in the round pen with relaxation, after a deeply rooted foundation of moving out of balance, holding his breath, and holding tension: it took quite some work, but once found out he didn’t need to blast around the round pen, he was quite content.

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