The round pen helps horses that are agnostics or atheists become believers.

It is the best place to help an evasive horse learn how to come to their human. It teaches a horse that they can be guided without ropes or reins, therefore helping them become more responsible. It makes it easier to get better with all the basics, whether it be human or horse.

And perfecting the basics is really the main thing that makes us better.

I would say an agnostic horse is usually comfortable around humans, but is probably lacking in respect. They can come for food or seek attention on their own terms, but generally ignore our commands and can push us around, not respecting our space. Most of the time, these are easy-going horses that has been spoiled by a sugar daddy or mommy. They can be the most dangerous types of horses, because they have little respect for our frail human bodies. Just as an agnostic human has little interest in God or his laws, an agnostic horse ignores our commands and does its own thing.

An atheistic horse is one that does not feel comfortable around humans, and is usually a more fearful, sensitive animal. We may automatically assume that this kind of horse have been beaten by someone, but we would probably be wrong. These individuals are just naturally more paranoid. They can be dangerous when cornered, but do respect our space and give us a wide berth. Just like a human atheist who despises God, they are naturally prejudiced against humans, as well as many other things.

I tell people that the round pen helps us frail humans play God. This is important because it’s a good way to help us understand what God has to put up with in us. The round pen helps us become omnipotent (all powerful) because the fence helps us turn them. It helps us become omnipresent (everywhere) because when a horse tries to outrun us, we are still with them. And we become omniscient (all knowing – OK, that might be overdoing it, but kind of) because we know they are sweet on the gate, and rest for their muscles and lungs.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

The way I like to explain round penning to others is like this: We convince a horse it is better for a horse to find and listen to us, rather than us chase them. We chase a horse when they leave or ignore us, and we give them rest and back away when they are watching or moving toward us. I always stress the importance of “timing” in regards to when we do these things, and get us thinking about God’s Ninth Commandment (“do not lie”) for clear communication. We also need to respect his Eighth Commandment (“do not steal”) for “sensitivity” in order to read a horse so we will know when to move and how much.

Where people usually go wrong in round penning is they position themselves in front of the horse instead of to the side. We then try to get their attention by voice noises or tapping noises. If they look at us, we back off so we can ultimately get them to follow us. They need to follow us with their head before they can follow us with their feet. If they ignore us or leave us, we will chase them for a bit (higher energy horses need more, lazier ones need less), and then give them another chance. If our sensitivity and timing are right, it will not take long for them figure out what we want.

A godly person figures it makes sense that they try to tune into God, because he is in the best position to grow us. The round pen helps us get better draw from our horse so they will acknowledge us more as being in a better position to help them. The round pen is a great way to explain what God is putting us through in real life. When we ignore him and/or his laws, life is tougher. When we respect his laws and acknowledge him and his guidance, it is easier for us to prosper.

The round pen can also be thought of as a gym, dance floor, or circus ring. This is where we can practice our basics with fewer distractions, much like athletes would in their own endeavors. Renowned trainer Pat Parelli would say, “this is the best place to bore a horse or better them, depending on how you use it.” Since our goal should be to be able to guide our horse with body language – so equipment can be used more lightly, and be relegated to back up or safety net status – the round corral helps make this a reality faster.

A horse person needs to learn to be comfortable on a horse while it is turning. We acquire better balance from practicing this than from moving straight. I remember when I was an 11 or 12 year old, my mom took us five kids horseback riding at a horse rental place. Riding along the trail was easy, but practicing turning corners in their arena took more skill. This consistent circling helps develop steadiness in horse and rider. It also develops the work ethic in both, because the work ethic is mostly about consistency and dependability.

When I first introduce a bit to a horse’s mouth, it usually takes only one session in the round pen to get them to understand it. In the beginning, the fence helps them turn if they need more assistance, so I don’t have to pressure them so hard. The round pen is a great safety net, while we more comfortably practice giving to pressure through the mouth.

For economic reasons, I’m advising people more and more often to set up electric round pens. Even if you have panels, you might not have enough to do a 60-foot round pen. Also, it seems that people are always moving them and using them for their cattle, so instead, set up an electric pen that can stay put. Setting one up can cost less than $100. You can contact me for details if you’re interested.

I always suggest to people to have a round pen placed so horses can come into it from the pasture for a treat. That way, if they want to play games with you about being caught, you can have the upper hand. It is much easier playing God in the round pen than out in the pasture. I always think of the book of Jonah in the Bible when it comes to the round pen. Jonah learned that he should not run from God. We and our horses learn the same thing here.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: