The Round Pen Using the “Sweety Pie” Approach!

Oct 19, 2020

Round pen training works well in conjunction with the Waterhole Rituals after you have developed a well-trained horse at Liberty.


I have found that starting a horse with the Waterhole Rituals instead of starting with a round pen gives the horse more security and a kind of bond that brings out the best performance a horse has to offer.


It takes skill to use a round pen. If you want to use one, I would advise you to educate your horse in the Waterhole Rituals to develop your skill.


If you start in a round pen first, it can put too much pressure on a horse. A round pen keeps a horse the same distance from you giving a horse no relief from your influence. Round pens can initially trouble a horse for this reason—a green person with a troubled horse, not a good idea.


I use round pens for various reasons, but not before Liberty Training, and freestyle dancing with a horse is accomplished. I train a horse at Liberty in a rectangular arena, so the horse has a sense of freedom to lose my influence if he so chooses. I find that horses feel more connected to me and seek out the lessons in a free open environment using the Waterhole Rituals. Horses love to learn if they are not trapped, drilled, or forced. The bond that occurs in a round pen is not a bond. The horse stays with you for fear of being chased, and he does not have an option.


Once you have a horse's cooperation and trust, a round pen will work because of the true bond you have established in a free environment.

Guidelines and qualifications for working in a round pen.

You need to have the ability to get your horse to respond to your body language well enough to influence your horse to move slowly in a round pen. It is essential to know how to increase or decrease your horse's speed in a willing, relaxed, and effortless manner. If you can do this, the round pen may be a useful tool for you.


My Dad built a round pen as a tool for my first training business. I knew nothing about them; however, I was a qualified trainer at the time. He said maybe it would have some value to me. He told me not to ask a horse to perform in a round pen until the horse was completely comfortable. He said, don't let your influence in the round pen cause the horse to become insecure. He added that he did not want to see me get hurt. I have stayed cautious in them ever since, and it has paid off. The pay-off is that my aids are light and lead to a fantastic partnership and performance like the one you see Nan and Pericles performing at Liberty.
Sweetie Pie


With my Dad's advice, the first horse I worked in a round pen was a mare named Sweetie Pie. Sweetie Pie was a hot American Saddlebred that could quickly get fired up if she got concerned. She was an excellent guide in keeping me mindful. When I first took her in the round pen, I held her at a walk and then led her right out again, and she handled it well. The next day I did the same thing but kept her in longer, plus I gave her supplements to deepen her positive impression of being in the round pen. After several days I started moving her around the space without the halter. She traveled along the fence line nicely. I kept her in the round pen no more than three minutes going one way and three minutes the other. Each day I gradually increased the length of time I worked with her in it. In all my training in the round pen with her, I kept her calm and connected. Because she was feeling cooperative, I could send her out along the fence with a cluck and a soft hand gesture and stop her with the same ease. In a week, I had found she learned to circle so well I could lunge her on a line in a large arena using an open hand holding a rope and no need for gloves.


If you think of using a round pen and have not used one before and feel your skill needs some seasoning, it is essential to take lessons from someone who uses this soft and flexible approach to keep a horse secure. Nothing is more fun than taking lessons in horsemanship from the ground to the saddle. If you have a trainer that scares your horse or makes your horse aggressive, seek someone else.


Some uses for the round pen other than building a bond and respect
1. educating a horse to lunge without tack in the round pen to be able to lunge with a rope and halter in a large arena without the horse ever pulling, running, or bucking
2. teaching a horse voice commands from the ground and the saddle
3. getting a horse to smoothly change direction while circling in a walk, trot, and canter
4. educating a horse to stand quietly in any circumstance
5. developing three speeds of a walk, trot, and canter
6. developing rollbacks
7. training the horse for bridleless riding
8. creating a work ethic and giving a horse exercise


There are other purposes, and I bet you will see different ways to use a round pen for yourself.


Get your Waterhole Rituals down pat by being able to dance with your horse spontaneously at Liberty. You can then effectively use a round pen. After that, you will have graduated to being your guide. Enjoy!

 


Last note: The rule of thumb is to work your horse no more than 20 minutes in working gaits total unless your horse is conditioned or you are just Sharing Territory or cooling down a horse in a walk. You do not want to stress your horse's joints in a round pen.


Some uses for the round pen other than building a bond and respect.


1. Educating a horse to lunge without tack in the round pen to be able to lunge with a rope and halter in a large arena without the horse ever pulling, running, or bucking
2. Teaching a horse voice commands from the ground and the saddle
3. Getting a horse to smoothly change direction while circling in a walk, trot, and canter
4. Educating a horse to stand quietly in any circumstance
5. Developing three speeds of a walk, trot, and canter
6. Developing rollbacks
7. training the horse for bridleless riding
8. creating a work ethic and giving a horse exercise

 

~CAROLYN

 

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