Riding in the round pen?

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Riding in the round pen?

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    11-09-2011, 12:33 PM
Riding in the round pen?

I typically ride in an indoor arena, but since we have a week of unseasonably warm weather in New England, I was thinking I'd like to take advantage of the sunshine and ride outside. I don't have anyone to ride trails with, but there is a round pen outside that I could use.

I've never ridden in the round pen before, but I know I've read on here that people do. Typically, what do you work on in such a small space? Obviously, there is a lot to be gained from riding circles correctly, but how long do you typically ride in this type of enclosure, and how do you keep it interesting?

To be clear, this wouldn't be about any particular training issue or anything problem with the horse; it could just be a way to get our regular 30-40 minute W/T/C ride in while soaking up some sun.
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    11-09-2011, 01:22 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
What size is this round pen? We have a full sized 60x60 ft, so what I will be telling you is strictly based on the amount of room I have to work with. It will be much different if you only have a 30x30

The key to round pen work is utilizing it correctly. I actually do almost all of my prep and green work with horses in one, because it's well enclosed- there aren't corners for greenies to get 'stuck' in, and there's a lot of opportunity to get some real work in.

Why don't you try some tune-up work? Warm him up by doing two laps at a walk in either direction, paying attention to your position and to your horse's form. Keep him in light contact with the bit and ask him to adapt his body to the circle. Try to keep a perfect distance between you and the rail.

For your trotting exercise, you could switch things up by asking him to make circles within a circle. Make one full circle around the pen, then ask him to make two smaller circles, almost like a figure eight. Pay attention to his form again, and ask him to stay loose and flexible during his turns. Repeat in either direction, and maybe throw in some walk-trot transitions at the beginning and end of the circles.

As far as canter work, if he's already well balanced and knows his leads, there isn't much else to can work on in the round pen. One thing that I enjoy doing though, is some 'hands-off' work. Simply urge him into a well rated canter, drop contact with the reins (as of it, let them go. If you're unsure about this, you can use a neckstrap.) and ride him with only your voice, seat, and legs. He may be suprised at first, but the lost contact with force your communication to get strong since he'll have to listen to you better. Try to keep him at the same speed, and throw in a few direction changes, or smaller circles. The circles will make you really depend on your other aids because you'll need to ride him off of pressure and release. It's really a great riding experience ^^

Then ofcourse, there's always doing cones or maybe some bareback ridings...walk-canter transitions, sitting trot...the list is endless! XD
    11-09-2011, 01:51 PM
Depends on the size of the round pen. The smaller the pen, the less speed work you will want to do. Difficult to set up too many obstacles if you want to do just plain flat work. Just no where to go to avoid going over them.
    11-09-2011, 01:58 PM
Originally Posted by Endiku    
What size is this round pen? We have a full sized 60x60 ft
This shows my ignorance of round pen work, but I believe it is "full sized", and it has to be at least 60x60, I know it's not smaller.

You gave lots of good suggestions for ways to make it an interesting and worthwhile ride for both of us. I'll try some of it out between now and the weekend (hopefully we'll have multiple days of nice weather) and let you know how it goes. Thanks for taking the time to make suggestions!
    11-09-2011, 02:03 PM
I've ridden my horse in a round pen... mostly when I was starting him out. Work on the smaller things though. I typically work on backing, rolling his hind quarters, and a little neck reining (or trying to lol) The only thing you need to have in mind is that it isn't good to trot or lope continuously for an extended period of time. It is bad on their joints. When I trot or more we typically don't even complete a full lap.

If you are looking for an exercise type session I would advise to stay in the arena... if you are looking for something that works on the communication with your horse than the round pen should be fine.
    11-09-2011, 02:09 PM
Originally Posted by The Copper Kid    
The only thing you need to have in mind is that it isn't good to trot or lope continuously for an extended period of time. It is bad on their joints. When I trot or more we typically don't even complete a full lap.
Very helpful advice; thanks. That makes a lot of sense.
    11-09-2011, 03:08 PM
Originally Posted by The Copper Kid    
The only thing you need to have in mind is that it isn't good to trot or lope continuously for an extended period of time. It is bad on their joints.
Hmm. When I lope my horse out, I go for at least 10 solid minutes to get him good and warmed up before I start working on roll backs, etc.

Watch any working horse warm up pen. They lope A.L.O.T.
    11-09-2011, 04:10 PM
Loping in a round pen is not good for a horse...A continous tight circle at that speed and impact is bad for their joints. Sorry I didn't clarify but I warm up my horse in the arena than move to the pen to get him in a more focused state of mind. He knows the pen means it is school time :) Maybe I'm being close minded on it, but personally I would never warm up my horse in a round pen. I have done ground work with him where he has trotted around a few times but if he starts to speed up I ask him to slow back down. I'm just a firm believer in the arena for anything more than ground work or working on communication.

If the pen is a 60x60 (like stated before) than it isn't as bad but watching people warm up the horse in a pen smaller than that I don't like... But everyone has a different way of thinking and doing it. And I'm not here to condem them on it. Just to throw my ideas out there.
    11-09-2011, 04:13 PM
Anytime!! :) Living in western washington I fully understand wanting to take advantage of the sun lol!!!
    11-09-2011, 05:02 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
I do not see a problem with loping your horse in a round pen. I mean, simple lunging or the common 'joining up' is more stressful on the joints than merely loping some circles for warm-up is. :3 not to mention high impact sports such as reining, cutting, etc.

Thirty minutes of straight loping in a 30x30 pen with a horse that's out of contition? No, ofcourse not. But if it is mixed up with trotting, and the direction is reversed every ten minutes or so, I really don't see it being terrible on the horse; especially since they don't round pen often.

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