The Round Pen Discussion

Training a horse, for me, requires a round pen. I have worked with many trainers over the years-started in Texas, but moved to Colorado where I trained with the most variety of trainers. My first trainer, Shelly, used a 60′ round pen. Maybe even 70′. I believe she used such a big one because after she did ground work with a horse, she would get on a “using horse”-a big, broke horse that wouldn’t let the colts knock him around. Then I, or some other “lucky” person, would get on the colt (honestly, I LOVED it). Sometimes this got pretty cowboy with bucking and rearing and snorting. I learned a lot from Shelly over the years, and even though I don’t “cowboy” my horses now, I got an extensive, useful education that every horsemen should learn. I can ride a bucking horse, usually. I can get bucked off a horse, hit the ground, and hit the ground in a way I don’t get hurt too bad, roll out of harms way, come up to my feet, and still have the reins in my hand and sometime still have a bucking horse attached to the other end. Sometimes it will freak the horse out that you are no longer on his back and both of you just end up staring at each other and recovering from the moment. It may seem dangerous to hang on to the reins, but where we were riding-on open Texas hills-it was a long, HOT, walk back to the barn for another horse. And you sure didn’t want to spend the rest of the day searching for your horse, and I was going to have to get back on regardless of WHEN I found him.

Where was I? Oh yes, the round pen. The next trainer I worked with was in Estes Park, CO. Mark Rashid opened my eyes to a whole new world of horse training. We didn’t really label it, but later I learned its what people call “resistance-free” horse training. Whatever, it’s just the way we trained. Mark used a 50′ round pen and I sure liked that a lot better. I believe we even had a 40′ round pen. Over the years and through many different ranches and trainers, the 50′ round pen became my comfort zone.

So I bought a 60′ round pen. I know this doesn’t make sense. I got an amazing round pen for an amazing price and I guess my thoughts were that its easier to pull panels out to make it smaller than it was to order more and travel to get them. That’s good logic.

Late one evening, as I proudly returned from Weatherford, TX with the best round pen I’ve ever owned (thanks honey!), I had to put it up! Each panel weighs 54 pounds. Lucas and Ely (ages 5 and 4) were with me and eager to help-for about half an hour. First they fought over who was going to bring me a pin, or help push the panel off the trailer, but that quickly turned to sighs and eye rolls when asked for help. They cowboyed up and helped me anyway. We were out long after dark and past their bedtimes, but my new round pen was installed!! The picture is of Fool (on the left, born on April Fools Day,and he reminded me of Tonto which means fool) and Little Joe in the new round pen the day I pulled them up out of pasture.

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