Are you a Chronic Roundpen Wrangler?

(Questions every owner should ask themselves before going through the gate)

So you've been enjoying the work you've been doing with your horse in the roundpen. Never before has your horse been more focused and submissive. His balance has improved along with his temperament and you feel like you've finally reached a point where you have a connection.

That's wonderful and I'm really happy at your sense of accomplishment however there are a few things you may want to consider and at what price you've realized your success.

First of all, ask yourself what does your horse's stress level appear to be during these sessions? Does your horse seem nervous and fearful? There is great wisdom in trying to reduce your horse's stress level no matter what the training process is and running around chasing him like a mad man seldom offers your equine any sense of peace and stability. Understanding the typical "join up" methods can serve your purpose with a little modification to increase your horse's sense of self worth. Remember, just keep it simple and keep in mind you want to help your horse develop better self esteem. I know it sounds crazy but the horse that feels good about himself is much more willing to yield to your training requests no matter how challenging they may be.

Next, do you find yourself using the roundpen as the most convenient form of exercise for your horse? While riding in an ample sized round pen could be experienced daily with benefits, caution must be taken when deciding how often to work your horse in the round pen without a rider to control its balance. (I gave you a hint with the word "balance".) Use extreme care with sending your horse in circles especially when he's free to be off balanced. When a horse moves in a circle or bend particularly with speed it causes significant amounts of torque to wreck havoc on his tendons, feet and all of his joints and once he's winded, LOOK OUT! You have a recipe for a disaster most often in the form of a bowed tendon or pulled suspensory not to mention a myriad of other joint and muscle issues.

Have you adequate experience with roundpen methods? Many people think working a horse in a roundpen merely involves chasing him around and around until exhaustion. I can understand how this would seem to the untrained eye, but a master trainer has a lot going on between him and the horse and if you're using the roundpen simply to wear your horse out you're missing a golden opportunity to greatly affect his mind as well as his body. There are many self proclaimed "horse whisperers" that will be glad to take your money and profess to be able to teach you the various techniques. Some of these people do know what they're doing but I admonish you to keep one thing in mind. Ask yourself as you watch, (I have to pause here to point out if a trainer wants to work your horse only when you are not there then run for the corral gate with your horse and don't look back!) as I was saying, ask yourself; "does what this trainer is doing make sense to me?" I'll guarantee you one thing; if it doesn't make sense to you chances are great it doesn't make sense to your horse eitherl! Get a new trainer that can explain EVERYTHING and have it make sense to YOU!

Last but not least, are you running your horse around in the round pen because you're afraid to ride him? It's fine to work your horse in the round pen a few minutes before each time you ride just to get a "read" on him and what his attitude may be for that day or to make a mental connection especially if the horse is young or just new to you but you're doing yourself and your horse a great disservice by sending him around in circles all day because you're too afraid to be on his back or God forbid too lazy to tack him up and ride. While I understand fear and the massive hold it can have on some, if this is the case why not take him for a walkabout (as the Aussies would say) or even put on some comfortable boots and take him out for a jog in hand? You'd be surprised what a nice long walk complete with pleasant conversation about anything can do for your friend as well as for you!

Here's something to keep in mind, your horse is a living, breathing, noble creature with an active and inquisitive mind. They're just like us and can easily suffer from the boredom of sitting around in a stall all day just waiting for you to come over and do something fun with them. Does running around in a circle for an hour seem like a good time to you? The roundpen serves a great purpose but make sure it's not too much of a good thing. It can come back to haunt you!