Friday, February 19, 2010

Who Needs a Round Pen?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but do you really need a round pen?

There are a few times I'd like one, like first saddle and lunging, sacking out, first ride, but after that, isn't an outdoor arena better?

I have neither right now, so my method is lunge line and the wide open spaces. And really, it's working out pretty good.

Today was the first time I lunged Beautiful in the wide open. We were on the spot where the round pen used to sit, and she did every bit as good or better than when it was really there. I think she was calmer than she'd been in the past, which was good since it's still wet. She's more mature this year. She feels to me and acts every bit like a normal horse now. Last year she was super sweet, but there was something flighty--this year, I don't see that.

One thing that's impressed me is her respect of my space. Yesterday I was walking her and I saw a big pond/puddle, so I traipsed through it and she put on the brakes at the other side. You know, when they dig those front feet into the ground, hind-end back and you're still walking with the lead, so their head is all stretched out. That was her.

Screech! She came to a halt. I kept the pressure on and stayed face forward like I expected her to follow, but I knew, like many colts, she MIGHT jump it and land on top of me. I was prepared, I was braced, but.....

She walked across nicely.

Then today, when we were walking the pasture, some noise (I didn't hear it--but I assume she did unless she's a faker) scared her from the side (I assume it was Ezzy, the barn cat who was stalking us from under the trailer). Now some horses will jump into your space right on top of you--or at least try--but not Beautiful. She ran forward, got to a safe distance from me and turned and faced me, feet a bit splayed out in the fear formation--eyes looking over to see what that big, bad thing (she imagined) was.

So, she's still a bit of a Spring-Scaredy-Baby but at least she's not so panicked that she puts either of us in any danger. She'll get past it.

Jasmine has been getting the same treatment. I keep her on a lunge line when we take our walks which is a good thing since a couple years ago she got the lead under her belly and yanked it from my hands, then proceeded to run home taking shortcuts through all the neighbor's newly landscaped yards!! I don't need a repeat of that! Today she did a very similar thing, but I had 20' of rope to hold onto. Ha!

It's still like Spring around here, if you can believe it. The sun is shining, it's warm. Remember the Forsytha my husband toted around Seattle for me?

Now I'm getting to enjoy it as I sit here and write and wait for my own bushes to take bloom.

Happy Trails today, everyone. And, if you have time--let me know your thoughts about round pen vs. outdoor arena vs. the great wide open.


  1. We don't have a round pen either, and do fine without it - some people do liberty work in the arena and some do work on the lunge. It all works out.

  2. At first when I got Gilly, 6 years ago, I worked him in an open area. He got away several times by jerking the lead out of my hand in a sideways motion. He was very GOOD at it too.

    Finally, 3 years ago, I got a used round pen, ugly but very useful!!! I use it before we go for a ride,to work out the bucks and get him thinking and listening to me.

    We do a lot of different exercises not just running around in circles. sideways, jumping, backing. He LOVES to play games so do some of that too. This is only about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how he does. Mostly it's off lead. The first time I cantered him was in the round pen, mine is almost 60 feet; I added several panels to get it this size.

    I don't have an arena or even a fenced field to work him in. The only flat we have are hay fields and I don't want to tear them up, the rest of our farm is very hilly.

    I feel that a round pen is a useful tool and try to use it wisely. Gilly likes going into it because for one thing he likes to play. The more challenging things I can come up with for him the more interested he becomes. I can tell by his eyes if I am doing a good job or not. When he is interested he looks at you like, "Hey, this is fun what NEXT???"

    I know all horses are different but this works for my and Gil!
    (sorry it's a little long!) :-)

  3. I just like to have a place with good footing to lunging and exercises. For starting horses, I love round pens, but I'd agree that it's not necessary. You just need someplace with good footing. For that, an arena could work...but I've never had an arena to work in, so I do all my starting in the round pen, then I ride the and train the rest of the way on the trails. It'd be nice to have a round pen for more refined things, but since my passion is trail riding, I'm set up okay for that. I don't have a round pen, nor a place with good footing right now, but I've been begging for a round pen, so I think we might get one this spring! I need it for the wild ones!

  4. My round pen is being used for panels right now. I hope I get it back sometime this Spring--but I'd rather have an outdoor arena.

    I was reading Jane's comment and I remembered something that happened here a few years ago. My friend was boarding a horse here with us and she was walking it through the the field on a windy day, it put its head down, stepped on its rope and yanked it out of her hands in like 1/2 a second. The filly took off running ALL OUT and broke through my main corral--then through to the other side. All of my horses were in there and I thought I was going to lose them, but I ran behind her--my group was huffing and puffing and fully on the muscle ready for flight--by some grace of God, I caught my filly C'ya--she calmed and came to me (the youngest of the group at that time) they all started to settle and I caught the rest one by one, including the filly who'd done it. She stopped right in the center of the corral. Kind of funny looking back, but that's always a concern when you do anything out in the wide-open. :)

  5. I'm not surprised that Beautiful is respectful of your space as she matures. She's always seemed so tuned in to you, I think you'll always be a great team, very aware of one another. But I did have to laugh at Ezzy, the stalking cat. I can just picture it :)

  6. Thanks, Joanne--that is one of the benefits of raising them from the ground up as babies--you become like family to them. Although, I hear a lot of Mustang owners say their horses bond strong to them, no matter the age. :) I'm sure that's true. A herd is important to a Mustang.

  7. I also think mustangs are really good at respecting your space because they started out afraid of you...they never learned they could be pushy (unless of course, you let them and they do learn that). All my mustangs have been pretty good about respecting my space from the beginning. The challenge was getting them over being afraid of me!

  8. PS, your flowers are beautiful. I can't WAIT for spring to come this year. I have so many plans! I have a house to plant things around for the first time in several years! I'm going to do landscaping primarily with food plants that are also attractive, but of course, I love flowers, so there will be some "useless" flowers (but beautiful ones!) here and there.

  9. I would make sure you get the panels with the chain connectors and not the straight pin. I had heard of a horror story where a horse reared and came down between the round pen panels and got lodged. They were unable to undo the panels b/c the pin got bent. If it was a chain, they could have cut the chain and got the horse out.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.