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Horse pens are essential for training; they help horses improve their attention span and have marked benefits on their cadence and balance. They also facilitate a better relationship between the horse and its trainer because the enclosed nature of the pen gives the trainer the horse's undivided attention.
There are many different types of round pens, from an open enclosure for domesticated horses to solid-lumber bullpens for horses that are wild or simply in need of more training. However, there's a large debate as to what the best size is for a horse pen. So, how big should a horse round pen be? Is there a standard size that you should use to ensure the best possible connection with your horse?
Horse pens typically have a diameter ranging from 30 feet (9 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters), though most horse trainers and riders typically encounter models that are 50 feet (15 meters) in diameter.
The inventor of the Noavel headstall, Rick Wheat, often uses a 30-foot pen to train horses. While some argue that it’s too small a size to start out with, others note that Wheat has had a considerable measure of success. Does this mean that you need to be working in a 30-foot pen, even with larger breeds, to ensure results?
In some instances, the size of the horse that would be using the pen should be the major criteria for determining the pen’s diameter. A Clydesdale or any other horse over 15 hands would probably not suit a smaller round pen if intensive training and handling is needed, while a Welsh pony might struggle to learn about cantering and pace if it's in a pen that’s too large. You also need to make sure that the walls of the pen are high enough to discourage new horses from trying to escape.
It's always a good idea to think about what you want your horse to get out of the round pen sessions, this helps determine an appropriately-sized training venue that might suit that purpose. Perhaps you have a colt you'd like to train up or do ground work with. A pen that has 40 or 50-foot diameter might be adequate. If your horse is going to do arena work, a 90 or 100-foot pen will provide you with the space you need.
A younger horse will respond better to round pen sessions with provisions for gradual increase of the pen’s diameter over time, this helps build their stamina. A larger pen might be more appropriate in building the horse stamina as it provides enough room to move, but that would require you be in good shape yourself, in order to be able to keep up with them! Older horses can feel the stress of round pen work in their joints and ligaments, you might want to use a smaller pen and limit their time in training.
Your relationship with your horses is unique to you; why should your horse pen be any different? If your horse attention needs to be worked on, a smaller pen might help provide more focus during training. If you want to work on other issues like balance, cadence and rollbacks, try a larger pen to give you a bit more space. You might find that the question "how big should a horse round pen be?" has as many answers as there are horse trainers.
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