The big, scary round pen...aka-"I don't want to work!"

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The big, scary round pen...aka-"I don't want to work!"

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    08-27-2011, 11:25 PM
The big, scary round pen...aka-"I don't want to work!"

Well, my "perfect" two-year-old has a hang-up. He refuses to walk to the round pen. Once we get in, he's fine and listens superbly, like he always has, but getting there is a nightmare.

I've tried swinging the lead rope at his butt (worked the first time and then he gave me the "Whatever, lady" look and just stood there after that). I've tried backing him up until he wants to go forward again (we backed all the way across the driveway in front of the barn at one point, which is a good 50 yards). I got the BO to help me the first time it happened and he took his lariat (which he leaves coiled) and whacked him on the rump with it (it worked, but I nearly got run over in the process because Aires came to me for "protection"). I got the trainer to help me the next time and she took her fiberglass whip/carrot stick thingy and tried working at him with gradual pressure (started by swinging it up and down behind his butt, then if he didn't move she tapped him lightly, then harder and harder until he moved forward, then she stopped...yeah, she got all the way up to whacking him as hard as she possibly could before he moved forward an inch). Today, my friend helped me out and neither of us could get Aires to move (we used the same method the trainer did). The BO finally took pity on me and came over to help. Aires actually jumped in the air and halfway bucked at him, then came running to me for protection again (which I don't protect him at all...he runs to me and I move away, which in this case my moving away was moving toward the round pen).

This is getting out of hand. It should not take three people fifteen minutes to get a usually well-mannered horse into the round pen. NOTHING bad has EVER happened to him in the round pen...ever. Yes, he has had to work, but he never objects once he's IN the round pen. He just settles down and works.

There are only two paths to the round pen. The first is the way we usually go, which is around the front of the barn stalls from the hitching rails, down a little alley/driveway (it's about 20 feet wide or so) and into the round pen. The second way is down the barn aisle and straight into the round pen. The second way is not an option because Aires REFUSES to go into the barn. Trust me, I've tried.

He also will not lunge on a line, so lunging him in the driveway until he wants to go toward the round pen isn't going to work. The trainer spent almost thirty minutes trying to get him to lunge on his lead rope in the driveway that day she helped me and he refused to do it, even when she had the whip in her hand and was using it to turn his hindquarters away from her (not hitting him with it, just nudging him out). I tried training him to lunge on a line, but he has this mental block that if there is a rope or line attached to him and you are holding the end, he is supposed to be right next to you.

Does anyone have any USEFUL suggestions on how to get him to go into the round pen willingly without having to whack the crap out of him? He will do anything else I ask without hesitation. Please, if you don't have a useful suggestion and just want to nit-pick at me or whatever, don't bother responding because you will be ignored. Thanks!
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    08-27-2011, 11:37 PM
How often do you work him there? One of my lesson horses does a similar thing when he needs to go to the arena/round pen for a lesson ride. It usually takes at least 2 people and sometimes a crop to tap on his rump to get him out. Other days it's standing behind him the whole way giving his butt a spank when he stops. Then once he reaches the gate to the arena, he's fine and walks right out.
    08-27-2011, 11:46 PM
He gets lunged at least four times a week. Our sessions are never long (I think the longest I've ever lunged him is thirty minutes, but that's because he was being a turd and would not listen, so he worked until he listened). It's mostly trotting, but I do throw in cantering and walking at different times, just to be sure he's listening. So, this is nothing at all new to him or different, and it just started in the last week or two (since he's been being ridden).

The trainer wants us riding in the round pen until we get our stops down because Aires runs through the bit (I put up a thread about that, too, but the one suggestion I thought was good was nixed by the trainer) and will not stop when asked. She thinks the round pen will be better for us than the arena because there aren't the distractions that there are in the arena (our round pen is more like a 50ft bull pen, so it's high sided with no way to see out) and there's nowhere for him to "run away" to (not that he actually runs away, but he'll only get so far before he HAS to stop, if that makes sense). So, I don't want going into the round pen to be such a torturous exercise.
    08-27-2011, 11:51 PM
I haven't dealt with this a whole lot, but I'll tell you what I've done with my lesson horses: make it worthwhile. If they work there, they get a reward -- like no more work for the day (tack pulled immediately and then turned out), grain/favorite food.

What I even do with my training projects is take them into the pen (no matter how hard I have to work to get them there) and do "little things," like grooming, and then the work day is done. (Something similar is done for horses who are worked too hard/hard to catch.) That way they won't associate me with my lunge line and whip (I lunge with the "Monty Roberts" method, personally). It's a catch-and-go on how they work.

Have you tried to carry a buggy whip/Cue stick? Like teaching a horse to walk; if he stops, use it to tap on him until he walks up. Per usual, get a little "meaner" if he doesn't respond to your lighter touches (asking) and move on to "telling," and then "DEMANDING." Praise as soon as you get into that round pen; I mean rub all over and talk to him like he's your only child and just graduated with high honors from Harvard.
    08-28-2011, 12:04 AM
Originally Posted by Creampuff    
I haven't dealt with this a whole lot, but I'll tell you what I've done with my lesson horses: make it worthwhile. If they work there, they get a reward -- like no more work for the day (tack pulled immediately and then turned out), grain/favorite food.

Have you tried to carry a buggy whip/Cue stick? Like teaching a horse to walk; if he stops, use it to tap on him until he walks up. Per usual, get a little "meaner" if he doesn't respond to your lighter touches (asking) and move on to "telling," and then "DEMANDING." Praise as soon as you get into that round pen; I mean rub all over and talk to him like he's your only child and just graduated with high honors from Harvard.
I am feeling very right now. I do praise him when he moves forward ("good boy," which he responds to amazingly well), but once we're in the round pen, it's straight to work.

When he works for me in the round pen, he gets lots of praise and then gets a good hose-down and lunch (I'm usually there in the mornings now). Usually by the time we're done working, all the other horses are in from turnout and he doesn't really like being out there by himself.

As for using the carriage whip/cue stick...that's what the trainer used on him that day and what we used today (she said I could use it whenever I needed). This is what we use (so yes, it is a Parelli carrot stick...I thought that's what she said it was lol): Used Pat Parelli Carrot Stick with Savvy String | eBay and we use it exactly as you said to get him to move forward...but he will just stand there until you are DEMANDING as hard as you can, then he'll throw a little crow hop, kick out a little and then surge forward like the devil himself is after him and come running to me to "protect" him (which as I said, I don't).
    08-28-2011, 12:15 AM
Don't be embarrassed; it's at least something to try. (:

With my girl, it has to be that way of praise for every. Little. Thing. Pick a hoof just fine? First day of pre-school! Saddled up without being cinchy? High school graduation! Barrel training like a gem? Harvard valedictorian! If he steps into that round pen and it's pleasant once he gets in there, maybe that will help his "sour" behavior?
    08-28-2011, 12:27 AM
I kind of have Aires trained the way I have my dog trained. I know that sounds weird, but it works. I don't lavish praise when he does what I ask. A simple "good boy" or "thank you" conveys exactly how happy I am with him. I worked up to that point, though. At first, when he did what I asked, he'd get a ton of praise. Then after he figures out exactly what is expected of him and does it consistently, he just gets the "thank you" or a mild "good boy."

Sooo, I guess this is going to have to be an almost "back to square one" type thing, then. That's fine by me. I'm willing to try just about anything short of bribery at this point. Lol
    08-28-2011, 01:05 AM
Use negative reinforcment. When he's not coming, pull his leadrope. If he's pulling back, pull his leadrope. When he's doing anything other than moving towards where you want him to be, pull his leadrope. He'll figure out that the only time he gets slack in the leadrope is when he's going where you want him to go. Be sure to give him a release (even if it's just a hesitation before you pull again) whenever he gets at all compliant. Also be patient.
    08-28-2011, 01:14 AM
I've used the technique you suggested on my old gelding (14.2hh arab/saddlebred) and it worked beautifully, so I know exactly what you're talking about.

I use a rope halter (which he responds to really well), so Aires really feels the pressure and then the release. Trying to move him when he doesn't want to move is like trying to move a Sherman tank. He plants his feet and absolutely refuses to move, regardless of how hard you pull on the lead rope. At one point when I tried this (before I went and got the BO the first time he pulled this stunt of refusing to go into the round pen), he started moving backward and actually dragged me with him. I was leaning as far back on the lead rope as I could without falling over backward and he just threw his head up and dragged me along. He didn't get angry or frightened or anything...he just looked at me like a typical toddler saying "No! I don't want to!" Unfortunately, along with the draft size and strength, he also got the draft stubbornness.
    08-28-2011, 01:21 AM
As to problems - I think the roundpen is the most overused and misunderstood "method" on the market today. I use a roundpen to teach a horse when I don't want to be "tethered" to him, or, when the horse needs a "hands off" approach to learn what it is I want him to learn. The roundpen is a VERY small classroom! Once the horse gets it - we are out of the roundpen and putting what he learned into practice. Too much of what I see today looks like the handler going "I'm the boss! I'm the boss! I'm the boss!" or mindnumbing pointless repetitions without giving the horse a reason for doing what is asked of him other than to do it because the handler is "the boss" and the horse has no other option but to comply.

Read more: Training Horses

I wrote this back in 2008 - and what you are going through now is a perfect illustration of what I said back then. Your overuse of the roundpen has created a rebellious horse who is learning how powerful and strong he really is and who would rather risk physical punishment than go into the roundpen.

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