How to Correctly Round Pen a Horse

To watch my full length, in-depth training tutorial on round penning for free, simply head over to my Youtube channel Andrea Cao or click here :)

To start this off, let's first go over why this is the very first exercise in my series. Surprisingly, I didn't choose the order of my exercises by random chance. They are all designed to build off of each other, and lay the foundation needed for the next. I start all of my horses in the roundpen-yes, every single one of them. That means that the way I start a wild mustang is almost identical to the way I re-train a senior rope horse. Even though the approach may be slightly different for the individual equine, everything laid out in my videos is completely universal. It's a template for awesome horse training, and you can mold it and shape it to fit your style and your horses! 

Now- there are various reasons that the roundpen and the roundpenning exercise are my first tools of choice. The first and arguably most important reason of all is safety. When I get client horses in for training, I never rely on any information they give me. I always perform my own checks, do my own assessment, and my own introduction to the horse. Even if someone hands you a horse that is said to be "kid safe", never ever trust them. You have no idea how that horse could react to a different person, different environment, different training approach, etc.. That's why the roundpen is such a great tool- it's the safest way to get to know the horse. But what if you're training a horse you've had for years? I guarantee you that by roundpenning him, you'll get to know him even better. A roundpen provides a full Facebook-stalking level of knowledge about your horse, at a safe distance. I recommend using a roundpen that is 50-60 ft, which means that you'll maintain a 25-30 ft distance from the horse at all times. This gives you time and distance to react if he were to charge, spook, or react in any way. During this exercise, you'll be applying pressure on your horse, which is the perfect opportunity to know him better. Always be asking yourself these questions: "Is he more reactive/hot?" "Is he on the lazier/cold blooded side?" "Is he showing signs of aggression, such as tail swishing, ear pinning, or charging?". This is why I LOVE this exercise for wild mustangs- there's no better way to meet them and their quirks than in the roundpen. 

Next up is respect and leadership. Think about it- the leader in a herd of horses is always the horse that's able to move the other's feet. Isn't that exactly what we're doing in the roundpen? By moving the horse's feet, we are establishing our position as leader. This is not meant to intimidate or scare the horse, but we need to gain a high level of respect from him. I have no intensions of being dominated by a 1200 lb animal... it's just not going to happen. A lack of leadership and respect is the main cause for injuries and deaths involving's never the horse's fault, it's the owner's lack of preparation and work. Horses need a leader- and if you're not stepping up to the plate, they won't hesitate to take the spot themselves. Now that's not to say that horses don't want us to lead them.. they do! It takes a ton of burden and worry off of their hands (or hooves) if we can protect them. But-- horses have very high standards. That's why they constantly test our leadership, to make sure we're still fit for the job, to make sure we're keeping watch. Knowing this, it may take some time for your horse to accept you as his leader. The good news is that by roundpenning him, you're on the perfect track- by the end of my series, you'll prove to your horse that he can trust you. 

Lastly, this exercise establishes natural draw. Have you ever considered liberty training? Have you ever wanted your horse to follow you at will? And no, I'm not talking about treat based training. I'm talking about leadership based liberty-- this is the first step of it. Once your horse knows this exercise, you can get him to follow you with no halter and lead, just natural draw. Draw is an instinct that comes as a byproduct of trust. Once your horse has accepted you as a leader, he'll follow you! 

And that's a wrap! Thanks for reading through this, I hope this information was helpful and understandable to you :) I am so excited to help you and your horse establish an unbreakable bond built on trust and respect, you're already on the right track! Show me some love in the comments, be a good friend and share, and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me at

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