The Best Round Pen Size for Horse Training

There is no doubt a round pen is one of the best tools to have when working with horses. However, with so many package deals and single-panels available for purchase, choosing a correct round pen size for horse training can be a challenge. Is there an “ideal” size?

Round Pens For Horses

Round pens, also referred to as bullpens, are exactly that: a round pen or enclosure used to train or workhorses inside. They can create a circular path of motion for horses. They are excellent training tools as there is a limited amount of space. This allows trainers to create “pressure” on a horse from a certain direction. They are very useful for lunging and in-hand groundwork. Some stabled horses are turned out in round pens for free exercise. Many riders will take their first few rides on young or new horses to limit “escape paths” and extended range of motion in the event something goes wrong.

Round Pens For Horses

Features

Unlike other corrals or a catch pen, round pens are specifically round. “Circle work is dream work,” many trainers say. Proper turns and bending are foundation basics in equine athleticism, riding, and driving. Trainer Garn Walker of Bartonville, TX says, “A circle is a series of arcs. One mis-angled arc; and you no longer have a circle.” The round shape is vital for optimal use.

Round pen footing has drastic variation, largely dependent upon geographic location and budget. Many owners simply choose a flat area and keep the grass short or drag the round pen surface to remove greenery and soften the top layer of soil. Others opt for traditional layered arena footing, utilizing French drains, screen gravel, sand, etc. In some areas, river sand is brought in on top of a bare and flat round-pen space. Regardless of footing choice, the footing should be a minimized risk for tendon injury or tripping.

Sizing

The round pen size for horse training is typically 50 to 60 feet in diameter. The minimum recommended size for a round pen is 30 feet, while the maximum useful diameter is 100 feet. Lunging and groundwork can be performed with ease at an approximate 50-foot diameter, but 60 feet may be ideal if there is riding within the pen.

Some trainers even prefer a size up to 80 feet for riding. A horse’s stride may also be a factor in choosing a round-pen size. Larger warmbloods with a long reach will require more space than a Section A Welsh Pony!

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Materials

Although the standard round pen material is typically a metal panel, there are several options. Panels are handy if the round pen is going to be moved, or if you need to add/remove panels for specific training purposes. If a permanent fixture, some horse owners create lavish (sometimes covered!) round pens with beautiful decorative fencing and even shrubbery! Some trainers will opt for more wood-lined or solid material panels to decrease the chances of a horse or rider getting “hung” in panels.

Final Words

Although the standard round pen size for training horses is 50 to 60 feet, there can be significant variation based on your needs and finances. Regardless of the pros and cons of each material and size, it is important to evaluate the overall safety of each design for you and your horse.

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