Myth #1 – Sending a horse around the round pen will decrease his adrenaline.
This truly depends on what speed you are “sending” the horse around the round pen. Most often “sending” a horse means at a canter or a lope. Tell me, how often do you see horses cantering or loping, especially at mock speed, and their adrenaline comes down? For some horses this can be true, but it requires the right circumstances for this to be true. For most horses, their adrenaline goes up. Especially Arabians and Thoroughbreds who are built for speed, they get more amped up the faster you make then go around the pen.
Myth #2 – Round penning a horse makes him easier to catch.
Each horse is an individual, so this will depend on the specific horse. Obviously it has worked in the past, otherwise trainers wouldn’t recommend it so often. But, if you always chase your horse around to catch him, why would he want to be with you? All this chasing around is only scaring the horse, making him mad, and ultimately creating a scenario where the horse does not want to be with you. Especially if you’re repeating this exercise over and over again. I will admit that I have “sent” a horse that was being difficult to catch, to the other side of his pen, but I did not chase the horse around for any length of time. And I only use this method if my other attempts at catching are not working.
If a horse is difficult to catch there is a reason for it. Is he being worked too hard? Does he not trust you? Is the horse in pain? When you establish a true partnership with a horse, the horse wants to be with you.
Myth #3 – Sending a horse will get his attention on you.
We’ve all heard that horses have two brains, a thinking and a reacting brain. If a horse is going 90 miles an hour around the round pen, he is NOT thinking. The horse is using his reacting brain. When I train horses, I want them to use their thinking brain. Horses do slip into reacting brain during the training process at times, that is natural, but I want them to come back to thinking brain as quickly as possible. When we send a horse around the round pen at mock speed, the horse has a hard time thinking. Of course the horse is tuned into your body language, and as long as your body language stays in send mode, he will not be able to think. However, if you send a horse at a walk, or he starts off at the canter and you quickly bring him down to slower and slower speeds…now the horse has time to think and use his brain to figure out what it is you are asking him to do.
I’m not saying round penning is not a good training tool. I’m just saying use this tool with a little more attention to detail and skill for the maximum benefit of your horse. Each horse is an individual. It’s our job as trainers, and yes all of us are horse trainers (we train our horses every time we interact them), to figure out how the horse learns and what are the best tools to help him learn and succeed.