“Hi Stacy! I have a question about engaging a young horse when working in the round pen. I notice that even in the first video with Jac, you were able to keep his attention and he responded nicely to you. I have a 20 month old filly that I just started with. When in the round pen she is so consumed with running in a circle that she does not respond to any cues. How do I get her to start paying attention to my cues?”-Christy

I love using the round pen as a training tool and there are situations where it is an essential first step but for many horses it is a better second step.  When I competed in the Road to the Horse and was working with a three year old that had never been haltered, the round pen was essential. It gave me the ability to control a horse that was big, strong and not trained at all.

In my years of ‘normal’ horse training at home I have used the round pen in a slightly different way, which is what you see in the Jac video below. This video is Episode 13 and if you look in the description you will see that I had worked Jac over the period of several weeks a total of almost six hours doing groundwork training on a long line. The advantage of having the young, halter-broke, horse online for several sessions is that I can ‘help’ them find the correct answer. In your case you are describing a horse that is running circles around you in the round pen. If you were to put her on a long line, even if you were still in the pen, you could give her the cue and then help her find the correct answer by applying pressure to the line. As she is already accustom to giving to pressure because she is halter broke she is likely to find the answer quickly. This is the method that you see me use in the Jac series if you watch all thirteen episodes up to this point.

One of the big reasons that I like ‘helping’ the horses by using the line is because I don’t have to work the horse as physically hard. Your horse is still young and although you could use only the round pen to get through this, you will likely find yourself working her physically harder than if you ‘helped’ her find the answers on-line first. If you go back and watch Jac in Episode 3 when he was dragging me around this behavior often translates into a horse that is willing to bang into the round pen, something I like to avoid. This is another reason why I like using the line to help them find the answer.

You can also do a blend of working her in the round pen with the line on. I once had a young lady come to me with her horse that kept jumping out of her round pen at home. I had her do two weeks of on-line ground training before going back to the round pen. When the horse seemed confident in the cues on-line she went back to the round pen and the mare didn’t try jumping. Although it was extreme, the mare had been doing what she thought she needed to do to survive. The on-line training helped her to see other options and stopped her from the dangerous attempts to jump the pen.

At some point I do like to test the horses in a round pen but especially with the young ones I enjoy the process of first showing them the answers on-line.