Looking to add one to our farm ... any thoughts or advice? I think I have enough space for a 60' one, but not sure yet. Recognize that a 60' solid wood round pen would be best, but price makes that not feasible at this time. Would love thoughts on brands, construction issues to consider, and footing. Thank you!
One of my old boarding barns had a Barnmaster metal round pen. It was constructed of those ubiquitous pebble-textured, flesh-colored (honky flesh, that is) metal panels. It wasn't, perhaps, the most attractive structure on the planet, but it took a lickin and kept on tickin. Priefert makes what I consider a fairly good-looking metal round pen, in a westerny, ranchy sort of way, but a 60-footer costs like $10 grand! Yowch! And the panels are rails, not solid.
Consider a gate wide enough to pull the drag in. There's nothing worse than a round pen with funky footing. Also, put it up on a pad.
Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life
The solid wood round pens at one of the TB training places are made of plywood, and the last time I priced 3/4 ply around here it was $25 a sheet. The el cheapo corral panels were IIRC $125 to $140 for a 16 foot panel, materials cost is very close. Or was around here anyway.
Last year I bought a Priefert 50' round pen with a bow gate. It's 16 gauge, 62" tall and the panels are 12' long. It has the chain connectors which worked best for me since I wasn't sure if the ground would be perfectly even. (As it turned out, I ended up having the area graded so it wasn't really an issue.) I had space and budget constraints so this was the best option for me at the time. All of the horses I have now are pretty gentle - even the youngsters, so they don't put any pressure on the panels at all. If I had any rough horses, I'd be disinclined to trust my round pen. The panels are not tall enough and too light for use with horses that are apt to challenge the panels.
If I could have my ideal portable round pen, I'd get a 60' or even a 70' round pen and taller, heavier duty panels. This one was my first choice http://www.noblepanels.com/round-pens.htm but its pretty pricey. Make sure to watch the little video clip with the horse crashing into the panels.
I put in 4" deep crusher sand after the area was graded and leveled. Again, not my first choice, but it works fine and was my only option locally. Just having the area graded and the sand put in cost a fortune.
Some other things I considered:
1. Connectors - I have heard that pin type connectors are not ideal. If they get bent, it's a nightmare to try to get them to fit together again. And if a horse gets trapped/tangled in the panels and bends the connectors, you won't be able to take panels apart to aid in freeing the horse. With chain connectors you can just bolt cut the chain. Chain connectors are noisy though. The hard rubber ones are better in my opinion.
2. Legs - I would have preferred the J-legs, but have the looped legs on mine. I think looped legs are less safe as horses can potentially get their feet caught in the loops.
3. Caps - All panels have capped ends so there are no sharp edges.
4. Ride through gate - I can work the gate latch from my horse and ride through.
I will say that my round pen has been up for almost a year now and it still looks brand new.
If you can find it, Cherry Hill has some great guidelines for buying round pens (and building wood ones, IIRC) in her books, and some of it might be available online. I seem to remember sections in the Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage book, as well as another one she has about buying equipment for horse farms. If you google, might come upon some articles online by her. I don't have time to do so right now.