Horse Training

Effective Round Pen Techniques

November 10, 2009

Use this classroom to create a better bond with your horse.

DennisBrouseinroundpen(2)By Dennis Brouse

The round pen is one of the most effective classrooms there is for establishing leadership, respect and communication with your horse – the three foundations for successful training. The round pen lets you control movement and direction and learn to communicate with your horse in a safe, controlled environment. It is different from longeing, because the horse learns to respond to you, not to a rope.

It’s important, though, to use the proper technique in the round pen. The round pen should not be used just to run your horse around and around in circles – that results in an exhausted horse who really hasn’t learned anything.

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Instead, use the round pen to control direction and movement of your horse, which establishes your leadership. First, introduce your horse to the round pen. Take the horse into the round pen, remove the halter, and give the horse a few minutes to explore the round pen and get comfortable with it.

Next, using a training whip or something similar as a motion starter, get the horse to start moving. At first, your horse will probably look outside the round pen, not pay attention to you, and even turn away from you – that’s normal.

I use a “pressure and release” approach. I get the horse moving, then back off (move back, relax my body language) and say “relax.” This takes pressure off the horse and gives him the opportunity to make his own decision to submit to me. Try not to intimidate or overwork the horse. Instead, watch closely for him to communicate signs of attention and submission – inside ear turned toward you, chewing, licking lips and turning in to you.

When your horse submits to you by turning in to you with his head lowered, allow him to stand and relax. When the horse does this, he is “inviting” you in. Next, walk slowly toward the horse and introduce yourself by letting him sniff your hand. Reward him with pets, rubs and encouragement. If your horse moves off or turns away from you, get him moving again and wait for him to “choose to submit” again.

At this point, you have started to establish a strong bond of leadership, respect and communication with your horse. Be patient, because it may take several sessions and you don’t want to rush things. Always end on a good, positive note. With each round-pen session, both you and your horse will grow closer and closer. Stay safe and have fun!

Dennis Brouse is the host of the TV show “Saddle Up With Dennis Brouse.”

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EquiPass will debut at the AQHA World Championship Show November 6-21 in Oklahoma City. Sign up with EquiPass at the company’s booth in the Travel & Transportation Building during the World Show, and drive away protected. AQHA members can also sign up online or by calling (888) 460-0523.

America’s Horse Cares

Now is the perfect time to make your gift to the American Quarter Horse Foundation. Not only will you benefit the people and horses served by the American Quarter Horse Foundation, and if your gift is completed by December 31, 2009, you will receive income tax relief. Visit the Foundation’s Web site and click Donate Today. You can also call (806) 378-5029 to make a donation.

AQHF Gift Ideas

Need help finding that perfect Christmas gift? Don’t look any farther than the American Quarter Horse Foundation. We have the ideal gift for anyone and everyone on your list. Go to the Foundation’s Web site to make a gift in honor or memory of that special person or horse. If you make your gift by December 11, 2009, the Foundation will send a special holiday card to notify the honoree of your gift.