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Round Pen Clinic

Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I am a stickler for ground training. In my opinion, it is the best thing we can do to help ensure future training success with our horses. It is the place where we not only win over the mind and the body of our horses, but their hearts also. During last years round pen clinic, we concentrated on three main ground-training lessons: round penning, leading, and lunging.

Round penning focuses on establishing control and building a balance of trust and respect from our horses…and all that with no restraint. The horse is loose in the round pen. They develop the intrinsic motivation to stay with us because they want to—not because they have to. The leading exercise focuses on the horse being even more in tune with the handler’s body language. They are expected to keep their throat latch at the handler’s shoulder no matter what the handler is doing: walking fast, walking slow, running, stopping or backing up. The horse is also taught to move away from pressure on a forehand and haunch turn. And they are taught to lower and give their head laterally to pressure.

The focus when lunging is about the discipline of the horse staying arced on a circle and maintaining consistent gaits. The horse also learns about voice commands and waiting to respond until told. If lunging is done correctly, it gives the handler a head start when he/she gets into the saddle. Horses will already be locked into a circle and they will be maintaining consistent gaits. And if the handler is really skilled at lunging, they can also develop some collection in their horses.

Not only does the horse learn some invaluable foundational lessons from the ground training, the handler can also learn some fundamental lessons. Ground training teaches the handler self-awareness of their body language. Many people do not know the messages they are sending their horses. Also some of the exercises we do can teach timing and feel when teaching a horse to give to pressure. Being aware of the cadence of a horse’s lope on the lunge line can also help develop the foundation of rhythm. And one of the most important things ground training will teach the handler is how to read a horse, which is a skill that becomes invaluable. All these skills are essential to being a competent rider. So don’t look at ground training as being boring…it helps you become a better rider!

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