Round pens can ruin horses and here's why - by Don Jessop

Round pens can ruin horses and here's why - by Don Jessop

July 08, 2019 7 Comments

Stand in the center and drive your horse around in a circle. Does that sound like a good idea? If it does, you're may have been sadly misinformed, as is much of the population of horse enthusiasts. Round pen training can ruin horses if it's done incorrectly and here is what I mean by incorrectly.

Mister mustang trainer thinks he knows what he's doing by standing in the middle and teaching the horse to run, tire out, then face up. He's got it all wrong. Well... I shouldn't say "all wrong," I should say inside out. Sadly, this technique works well enough that people think it's the way you should work with a horse. But "well enough" is only one-tenth of the way to mastery. Master horseman do not stand in the middle and push the horse around. All that does is force compliance but fails to create a true connection. There is no value in teaching horse the skill of trotting or cantering in a round pen without first establishing a true connection to leadership and bonding. To accomplish this kind of connection, master trainers DO NOT stand in the middle. In fact, they do the opposite. They encourage the horse to stand in the middle, face up and start to follow them. 

Every time I see a mustang makeover or a colt-starting competition, or some famous trainer teach round pen work, I cringe inside. I've been with true masters and I know the difference. I can show you that difference. At those competitions, I see the same thing over and over... Push the horse, make the horse face you, then teach the horse a series of skills. Nowhere in the process is there time for a true connection and real bond. If you asked a master what they would do with their own horse you would never get the answer that you see average trainers perform in competitions. What masters do is take their time and balance bonding with training. There is no value in speed training. And even less value in showing the world what only a handful or athletic trainers can do. I want to show the world what you can do. I promote techniques and principles that everyone can apply. 

Just the other day the veterinarian came to check out our new wild Mustang. This horse had been with us for only two weeks and the vet is the kind of professional that has been there and done that. He's seen it all. He's a roping trainer himself and a darn good one. When he arrived, he said to me, "I've never seen a mustang so calm, healthy, and happy in such a short time. It's like he really likes people and he truly trusts people. I could touch him anywhere with no resistance or brace."

So how did we get that compliment? How did we get those results? It wasn't luck, the horses only previous experiences with people were related to castration and vaccination. He truly feared and hated people in the beginning. He wasn't an easy horse to connect with. The amazing results were most certainly not done by feeding him treats. It was most definitely not by chasing him in a round pen, and it's not by teaching him progressive riding skills either. It's by establishing true leadership through a simple process. A process I call CB4 (like "see before"). That's an acronym for Connection, Boundaries, Bonding, Bravery, and Basic Skills. That's the order of training the masters do. It's all in my book about leadership and horses. If you don't have a copy, click here and order yours today.

Watch the video here and I'll show you how Masters work in the round pen.

Please share this article with the world you know and comment below. Thanks for your support. I appreciate you more than you know. In fact, my logo for Mastery Horsemanship is a picture of a horse protected by a shield. You are part of that shield against an ignorant and harmful world. Together we can change the world.

PS. I may offend some people. I don't intend to offend. I know that if you use different techniques it's because you find them effective. Just know that there is no technique you've used that I haven't used. My study is the study of Mastery. I've been fortunate to learn from the most difficult horses and the most masterful leaders in both the horse and human world. What I share, I do so in the hope it awakens new leaders in this space. The horse deserves the best humanity has to offer. Think about what they have given us.



7 Responses

Jenny Drake
Jenny Drake

July 11, 2019

Don, I ruined a horse with a round pen. She was born here and super sensitive and I didn’t see it. Instead of teaching her to be caught, I taught her to not be caught. Instead of teaching her to be brave, I conditioned her to be reactive. Instead of sowing her partnership, I reinforced her fears by being an unrelenting predator inside the circle fence. 10 years late I’m STILL dealing from the fallout of MY mistakes.

Nina Black Reid
Nina Black Reid

July 11, 2019

That was beautiful. I wish every good horseman I knew adopted a Mustang and learned to Mastery.

Eileen Coe
Eileen Coe

July 10, 2019

It was very touching when she removed the BLM tag – definitely sharing! This is so important to get out not into just the Mustang world – but the horse world. Thank you Don!

Ruth Umfleet
Ruth Umfleet

July 10, 2019

Very touching. This is a lucky mustang !

Renée
Renée

July 10, 2019

Thank you so much Don for bringing this to our awareness. I will definitely pass this along. You are a true Horse Master and I am so grateful that you are my teacher. ❤️

Cindy Hartzell
Cindy Hartzell

July 10, 2019

Pushed the wrong button and sent before completed.
I first got exposed to wild mustangs in the winter of 2012-2013.
I was so moved by them and their plight, I knew I had to do something to help them.
I eagerly got involved with the local mustang advocate groups in our area and was excited to learn more about these amazing beings.
It didn’t take long to realize that most knew nothing about horses.
I could see the confusion being created in the wild ones and the dangerous mixed messages being sent to them.
Knowing these people were gonna get hurt because they were teaching these wild horses how to dominant humans.
As the years went on I continue to be involved with the mustangs and have taken much criticism for my approach with gentling and building trust and connection first before moving into training.
The only time line I have is that of the mustangs.
I have been accused of not knowing what I am doing because normal horse people or horse enthusiast are use to seeing the mustang makeover and other competitions and programs where they force these mustangs into conforming and they think that is correct.
Yet I also see so many mustangs being sold time and time again or at the auction because they have major holes in their foundations and so many seem to not understand that.
So thank you Don for your mastery horsemanship program, thank you for branching out into the wild mustangs because they need more people like us on their sides.
I can’t wait to watch Justice and Freedom and learn more about how to improve my gentling program.

Cindy Hartzell
Cindy Hartzell

July 10, 2019

I am so glad I have joined your mastery group!!

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