Sunday, May 5, 2019

Reverse Round Pen

Gray has some issues with forward. Number one is he is naturally an energy conserver. He does not do a lot of recreational gallivanting in the pasture despite being a young dude. The exception is chasing. He loves to chase a ball, or a dog, whatever. I have been told it’s an Iberian horse thing. Frolicking with him in the pasture has always been pretty harrowing. Now add lack of confidence in moving freely due too multiple injuries to a weird predatory sloth and that pretty much sums Gray up..

I have worked on getting him moving in a variety of ways including using pressure and release and using a target and a clicker. He does best out of a round pen and when you help him by walking with him on a big circle though he still feels sucked back and sluggish most of the time. With the target, anything over a walk and he has a tendency to get over-excited and go into chase mode which is not very fun.

Enter the idea of reverse round pen. It is a reverse because the person stands inside a ring and the horse is on the outside. This technique is great for green horses that might get too excited when you add some speed to your liberty work. Here is more information for anyone interested.

I made my reverse round pen out of rope and temporary electric fence poles. Mine was small — around 20 feet white. I plan to make it larger once he gets the hang of it. They don’t need to be super sturdy, they are more of a visual reminder than anything else.

I did 2 sessions with Gray this weekend. First one he was very nervous of the ring itself. I think he assumed it was hot! So our first session doubled as a targeting and approaching scary objects with confidence session. The second session we worked on walking forward and relaxed, changing directions, and a little trot. We started out with his familiar target, but I quickly started to phase out the target for hand signals. The idea is to start near the outside of the circle guiding the horse around and as he starts to understand what is asked you can more be to the center and reduce your signals.

Here are a couple videos I got from the second session.

This first one shows us with our target switching directions and walking. Right now I am reinforcing him when he matches my steps and when he is relaxed and stretching.

In this video you can see I dropped the target and I am using my hand and energy to prompt him.

This last video I just like how happy and forward he looks and how he is matching my walk.


  1. I've never seen it done like that but it looks like it's working for him. Interesting. And I like the baby talking in the background, so cute.

    1. I have a feeling most of my videos will have baby commentary from now on :)