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  1. #1
    ridingwithsly Guest

    Default Thoughts on Round Penning

    I got this article in an email newsletter and it really got me thinking. What do all of you think? A lot of his points make sense.



    Do you view a round pen as ideal for training? Think again!
    Your techniques may need some re-tuning.


    Rethinking the Round Pen

    by Ryan Gingerich


    The round pen revolution has had a dramatic impact on the horse industry, affecting every aspect of how people start horses and retrain problem horses. Many years ago I, too, was a part of the round pen revolution. I used the same round pen techniques promoted by many of this country’s top trainers. My effectiveness with this technique was good (or so I thought at the time), and I was getting what I believed to be the correct responses from the horse. The horse would turn when I asked, stop when I cued him to stop, and I had a fair amount of control over his feet.


    But What About the Horse’s Mind?

    What I failed to see was the psychological damage that I was causing the horse. It is my opinion that the round pen techniques I once taught and are still taught by others today are a major contributing factor to the serious behavioral issues I deal with on a daily basis.

    My training program, Connective Horsemanship, is designed to allow you to work in any type of area — you don’t have to have a round pen. Please understand I have no problem with the round pen itself. When properly designed and used, the round pen provides a safe and efficient means of working with horses. In fact, I often use the round pen to rehabilitate horses with behavioral issues. It saves me time and effort by keeping them in a more confined area. But my techniques have dramatically changed since I’ve researched how horses learn, what creates behavioral issues, and how I can develop the horse without traumatizing his mind.

    I also understand that many horse owners have spent thousands of dollars on round pens, and I’m not saying to get rid of them or not to use them. I am simply saying let’s look at how we can use them more effectively with an awareness of how to maintain the horse’s psychological well-being.

    Acknowledging the Horse’s Intelligence

    Let’s talk about current round pen techniques and how they relate to the way horses learn. Trainers who teach that round pen techniques control the horse’s feet rationalize this theory by saying that because the horse moves his feet according to what the trainer wants, the horse is now under control.

    I strongly disagree.

    My question to these trainers is: If the round pen wasn’t there, would the horse still respond the same way? The answer is always ‘no.’ The physical round pen, therefore, becomes a “must” for the desired response by keeping the horse in a confined area. It then follows that the round pen gives the handler a false sense of security and success. Through negative reinforcement, horses learn that they can stop running (which is a hyper-reactive response) if they follow the handler’s movements. Worse yet, I’ve seen trainers exhaust the horse in a round pen until the horse, dripping with sweat with sides heaving, literally succumbs from exhaustion.

    I want you to look at this from a behavioral point of view. Since every action that is repeated is learned, what are we teaching the horse?

    If the horse spends five minutes running away from us, and five seconds responding to us, which of these activities has the horse practiced more? Right — to run away! Current round pen techniques teach the horse to associate the human with the flight response. Flight is the horse’s first choice for escaping potential or real danger. The flight response is the horse’s basic instinctive response to danger. Is this the response we want from our horses? For him to think that we represent danger? Of course not!

    The Round Pen as a Source of Behavioral Issues


    I have received e-mails from thousands of horse owners since my TV show, ‘The Behaviorist,’ aired on RFD-TV January 1st 2008. These people are all asking me to help with their behaviorally-challenged horses. Almost without fail, these horses have been exposed to many of the round pen techniques we’ve discussed here.

    So what does that tell us?

    We must rethink how we use the round pen!

    How Horses Learn

    Taking it a step at a time, let’s first look at how horses learn. That’s fairly simple; they learn through negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcements are not bad reinforcements — they are actually just the subtraction of pressure.

    When we use pressure to train a horse, the horse learns to get relief from pressure by giving a correct response. This simple relief-from-pressure response begins the development of a cue-based language with the horse. Cues are the language that bridge the gap between human and horse languages. Horses learn by being “told” (the cue) to perform a certain task over and over.

    Horses also learn through the flight response; this is simply the mechanism they use to survive in a world of predators and other natural threats. In simple terms, they run away when confused or threatened.

    So what’s the basic nature of the horse? This animal’s basic nature is to be vigilant (since it’s a prey animal), but relaxed when not threatened or confused.

    Now that we’ve defined in simple terms how horses learn, the flight response and the basic nature of the horse, let’s go to the round pen.

    Creating a Common Language

    In the round pen we’ll begin the process of teaching our horses a language they can understand and correctly respond to, while avoiding causing a fear or flight response with the techniques we use. This is really an important statement — please read this first sentence a few times! Language = correct response without fear!

    I truly believe that if you will think through the process you’ve been using in the round pen, these unwanted responses can be eliminated. Not only must you eliminate the unwanted responses, you must find new techniques which teach the horse a simple, consistent language that gets the right response without creating negative behavioral patterns. In this simple, consistent language, “A is always A” and “B is always B.” I teach one cue for one response.

    Remember to keep in mind it’s not five minutes of mindless running to get five seconds of response. This is the “new” round pen method of training — not the old one you’ve used in the past.

    How Much Repetition is Too Much?


    As you teach this new language, your horse will be conditioned to respond correctly. Repeat those correct responses in sets of five to seven — not 10, 20, 30 or even more as I’ve seen so many trainers do. In fact, what happens to the horse’s brain with all those numerous repetitions is that the brain gets “flooded” and literally shuts down any possibility of learning. That’s certainly not the outcome we’re after.

    If at any time the horse gives you an incorrect response without reaching the goal of at least five correct responses, go back to zero and start again. (Take a deep breath, relax, be patient and calm — anger or trying to speed up the process will always lead to disaster.)

    Horses are intelligent, but they lack the ability to reason. So simplifying the language relaxes them and they begin to learn. All of this can be taught in the round pen which can provide you with a secure and controlled work area. Make sure you monitor yourself, and don’t fall back into old bad habits. By creating this two-way language and response pattern in your horse in a positive way, you’ll avoid all those behavioral problems that can result from improper round pen training.

    I hope you will take to heart and mind what I have written here and begin using your round pens for the good they can provide for you and your horse. And as always, the Connective Horsemanship program and DVDs will supply you with the answers you’re seeking to develop your skills to a higher level.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
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    Default

    I've seen his show and found him to be a blooming idjit.



  3. #3
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    May. 12, 2008
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    Default

    I didn't read the whole thing. I lost interest about halfway through - when the author starts talking about the round pen teaching horses that the person is the predator. I skimmed the rest.

    The round penning techniques that I use do not teach that, but work with herd dynamics. My only proof that round penning has not wrecked my horse is that I can call her back if she runs from me in the field, by using the same cues used in the round pen that signal her to look to me, turn, walk towards me.

    So, if she is having a day where she is running around (usually instigated by her fieldmate), then I 'round pen' her out in the field and in less than a minute, I have a calm horse walking towards the gate next to me.

    This has been my experience with every horse I have worked with in a round pen, so I see no need to try his training methods, especially since it sounds like he just has another 'gimick'.

    On a side note - many moons ago when Parelli first came on the scene - I mentioned that Parelli seemed to do all the same stuff as John Lyons, except on the end of a rope instead of in a round pen. I do use modified roundpennig techniques on the end of a lunge line with the same results. I do prefer the round pen, though.

    So, I think I am good in the ground manners department.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov. 6, 2002
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    Henrico, NC 36 30'50.49" N 77 50'17.47" W
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    Default

    Long explanations almost always mean pure BS. Any kind or training can be done poorly or just wrong.

    Every horse in our herd has been worked some in the round pen. Not a single horse has any behavioral problems. It's not the pen but the one in the middle that makes the difference between good or poor results.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 31, 2003
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    18,472

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    "while avoiding causing a fear or flight response "

    I have to say tho', I agree with this. I have always had a problem w/the traditional "run them!" roundpenning because of this exact thing.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    ---
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Default

    Well, apparently the writer of that article has something New and Improved to *sell* the buying public that was gullible enough to go with round penning horses and joining up.
    Got a giggle out of the country's "top trainers." Lordy, I sure hope not! To me a top trainer is someone with horses and students competing at high levels and doing consistent winning, not someone who sells cheap but overpriced equipment and tricks to the bored housewife and starry eyed teen so they can make the animal dizzy and annoyed.
    Sooo...no I don't agree with round penning. Or the writer of the article.
    I do have a round pen though, handy things to own. I don't think it's ever been round, it's never been used to annoy horses...but comes in really handy for popping up self standing fence anywhere I might need it temporarily. When not in use it's stacked against a tree.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  7. #7
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    Jun. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    11,372

    Default

    So um...now I've seen this OP on 2 boards posting this thing. Got to guess you're a member of the Gingrich team. If so, please tell Mr. that the tying article was crap just as this is pretty much crap.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  8. #8
    Join Date
    May. 4, 2003
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    Canada
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    Default

    It is a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We all know trainers who run horses ragged to exhaustion instead of having the subtlety to see the horses' responses. That is when the round pen is used incorrectly. Not to mention popping splints. I actually have a respect for those who can keep a horse quiet and listening although a round pen is not a necessity by any means.



  9. #9
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    Apr. 22, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by katarine View Post
    I've seen his show and found him to be a blooming idjit.
    ^^
    What she said.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ridingwithsly View Post
    My question to these trainers is: If the round pen wasn’t there, would the horse still respond the same way? The answer is always ‘no.’ The physical round pen, therefore, becomes a “must” for the desired response by keeping the horse in a confined area.
    Tell tale sign of someone who has not done alot of at liberty work.
    This is about where i started to fade my attention.

    I currently do not have a RP, have had ones in the past at varying boarding barns over the years. I do not have a lunge line on my horse when I lunge him. He is free in a 6 acre pasture, yet he maintains a 30m circle around me. I can get all 3 gaits at the rate I desire, inside turns and halts... you dont need a RP to gain cooperation (and fyi mr author dude, you never have control, just cooperation)

    Just like any tool it can be misused, and many people using a RP use it to "chase" their horse... not the right way to use it. I start all young ones with at liberty work. I'll use an RP if it's available, but an arena or paddock will do fine too.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  11. #11

    Default

    Must admit, the article was a bit wordy and I stopped reading part way through. BUT like any other training approach, round penning can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on who's doing the training. That article made it sound like everyone's out there doing it wrong.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2007
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    Michigan
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    Default

    That's not an article, that's a long-winded ad. (And I don't do round-pen stuff so I have no dog in this fight.)



  13. #13
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    Jan. 2, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    That's not an article, that's a long-winded ad.
    yep.
    I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

    Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    That's not an article, that's a long-winded ad. (And I don't do round-pen stuff so I have no dog in this fight.)
    Very long winded ad.....



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajierene View Post
    The round penning techniques that I use do not teach that, but work with herd dynamics. My only proof that round penning has not wrecked my horse is that I can call her back if she runs from me in the field, by using the same cues used in the round pen that signal her to look to me, turn, walk towards me.

    So, if she is having a day where she is running around (usually instigated by her fieldmate), then I 'round pen' her out in the field and in less than a minute, I have a calm horse walking towards the gate next to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    It is a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We all know trainers who run horses ragged to exhaustion instead of having the subtlety to see the horses' responses. That is when the round pen is used incorrectly. Not to mention popping splints. I actually have a respect for those who can keep a horse quiet and listening although a round pen is not a necessity by any means.
    Yep, these two posts sum it up for me.

    The article is vague and meaningless. I have a much better and more effective way of training. I'll tell you all about it for $99.95.



  16. #16
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    Feb. 8, 2004
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    For $299.95 (Sithly, you don't charge enough ) I'll tell you exactly what I think, and I'll throw in some random DVDs that I'm not using at the moment.
    The plural of anecdote is not data.



  17. #17
    ridingwithsly Guest

    Default

    Hey guys - sorry if you felt like that was an ad. I've never been active on these forums before and thought I would just jump right in. I have to say - Good or Bad - at least it got a discussion going. :-) I'm still on the fence on this topic. I mean... used correctly, the round pen can be a great training tool. It's a great environment to train in. However, used incorrectly - it's like some of you said... it can cause more harm than good. I have a TB gelding and he's never really responded well to me in a round pen when I try to "round pen him". Do you think it's just because his breed is 'hotter' and more flighty?



  18. #18
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    I'm sure that guy's methods work well enough. But I don't think roundpenning is intrinsically bad. Like lungeing it can be used badly - just running the horse around for ages, without any real learning going on, for example.

    You can teach the body movements and interactions at a walk. My old mare who'd never been in a round pen enjoyed the game. Turn in, turn out, stop, go...all at a walk (she's got bad stifles, so we didn't want her running and spinning around).

    You can do the same stuff in any confined area. A round pen has the convenience of being small enough that you don't have to sprint back and forth to turn the horse like you might in an indoor arena. ETA: for me it has the advantage over lungeing that you can keep your hands free and teach turning and response to a person on the ground. Lungeing has the advantage of being able to use tack, and being able to shape the horse's movements or transitions more specifically through feedback on the line and whip.

    I guess with all the new/faddish horse training methods - the old ones all work well enough, if you *do* them correctly. The new ones don't work either, if you do them wrong.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by arabhorse2 View Post
    For $299.95 (Sithly, you don't charge enough ) I'll tell you exactly what I think, and I'll throw in some random DVDs that I'm not using at the moment.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ridingwithsly View Post
    Hey guys - sorry if you felt like that was an ad. I've never been active on these forums before and thought I would just jump right in. I have to say - Good or Bad - at least it got a discussion going. :-) I'm still on the fence on this topic. I mean... used correctly, the round pen can be a great training tool. It's a great environment to train in. However, used incorrectly - it's like some of you said... it can cause more harm than good. I have a TB gelding and he's never really responded well to me in a round pen when I try to "round pen him". Do you think it's just because his breed is 'hotter' and more flighty?

    Sly,
    Nope, i don't think so at all. We use round pen, join-up based training with all types of horses of all breeds. I currently have 3 TBs, all of whom are working in the round pen for various levels of training or simply exercise work. All 3 easily respect the body language, and will provide all 3 gaits on the rail, halt nicely, pivot and halt if asked, and walk out easily and calmly, then join up when a back is offered.

    What the author I THINK to say was something we try to teach when we do seminars or simply have volunteers here learning -- we work as a LEADER/alpha, not as a Fear Monger Dominant.

    Using any type of at liberty work to communicate with a horse isn't something that is learned and effective from watching one 15 minute video on RFD, despite what so many sadly think. It takes an enormous amount of work and attentiveness to read the nuances of your horses' responses, and to realize what you unintentionally said, etc...
    AnnMarie Cross, Pres, Crosswinds Equine Rescue, cwer.org
    Sidell IL (near Champ./UofI/Danville IL/IN state border)



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