A round pen is a type of enclosure that is used for training horses, as well as training people how to ride horses. It consists of a series of metallic corral or wooden panels. So, how wide and tall is the average round pen?
The standard round pen will typically measure 60 feet in diameter and have 6-foot-tall walls. The average round pen size range is between 40 and 120 feet wide and 6 to 10 feet tall.
In this guide, I’ll speak about different round pen sizes, how many panels you will need for a specific pen size, and the basics of using a round pen for training horses.
What Is a Round Pen?
You’ve probably seen a round pen before—if not in real life, on TV or in the movies.
A round pen is a circular enclosure that is comprised of multiple panels. It encircles a stony ground with little to no topsoil. Its purpose is to train horses on how to behave and deal with riders. While it can be used for exercise, the enclosure doesn’t offer nearly as much freedom to roam as vast open areas.
It’s recommended that people who wish to own a horse construct a round pen on their property. It creates a controlled environment where there is little risk of a horse escaping, especially a young foal who might not be accustomed to humans. Some round pens are designed to train riders before rodeos.
Round Pen Sizes
If you purchase a round pen package from a supplier, you should have several options to choose from. The most typical round pen size—the one that beginner horse handlers should consider installing—measures 60 feet in diameter and 6 feet tall.
However, many suppliers offer packages for round pens ranging from 40 to 120 feet in diameter with walls that stand between 6 and 10 feet tall.
The individual panels of a round pen will usually measure 8 feet long, though there are panels that are 16 feet long, as well. The shorter the panels, the more you will need to construct the round pen, and the more circular it becomes. However, the higher the panel count, the costlier constructing the round pen becomes, on average.
How Many Panels Do I Need for a Round Pen?
The number of panels you should get for your round pen depends on how wide you plan on making it. After figuring out the diameter, you need to calculate the round pen’s circumference. This is how you do it:
- Round Pen Diameter = 60 feet
- Round Pen Radius = Diameter ÷ 2 = 30 feet
- Round Pen Circumference = 2 × π × Radius ≈ 188.5 feet
Knowing the circumference, we simply have to divide it by the length of each panel.
- Round Pen Count = Circumference ÷ Panel Length
- Round Pen Count = 188.5 ÷ 8 feet ≈ 24
- Round Pen Count = 188.5 ÷ 16 feet ≈ 16
Round Pen Panel Chart
The following chart will describe how many panels you will need based on the size of the round pen and the length of the panels.
|Round Pen Diameter||Circumference||8-foot Panels||10-foot Panel||12-foot Panels||16-foot Panels|
|40 ft.||125.7 ft.||16||13||11||8|
|50 ft.||157.1 ft.||20||16||14||10|
|60 ft.||188.5 ft.||24||19||16||12|
|80 ft.||251.3 ft.||32||26||21||16|
|100 ft.||314.2 ft.||40||32||27||20|
|110 ft.||345.6 ft.||44||35||29||22|
|120 ft.||377.0 ft.||48||38||32||24|
How Tall Should a Round Pen Be?
Most people will recommend that you stick to 6-foot-tall round pens since horses typically only jump between 2 and 3 feet high. Unless you own the world’s highest-jumping horse, which can jump over 8 feet high, a 6-foot-tall round pen should suffice.
You can learn that a horse trailer that typically measures 7.5 feet tall to feed most horse breeds.
Apart from the height of the round pen, you should also take notice of how high the bottom rail of the round pen is from the ground. If you want to train your horse to run in circles, you should keep the bottom rails of every panel at least 6 inches off the ground. That way, you don’t run the risk of your horse’s hoof getting trapped in a panel as it runs at a slant.
Wooden vs. Metal Panels
The panels used to construct the round pen are made of wood or metal. While they serve the same purpose, there are huge differences between them that you should know.
For starters, wooden panels are permanent—i.e., they have to be dug into the ground. That means relocating the panels requires removing the panels and finding another spot with soft soil to install them.
Metal panels are costlier, but they’re a lot more flexible. You and your team simply have to lift and reinstall the panels, so you can increase or decrease the round pen’s size at will. In addition, you can add soft padding to the bottom rails, which further prevents harm to your horses.
Round Pen Basics
As I mentioned earlier in this guide, a round pen is used to train horses. They’re basically a closed, safe environment that allows you to become more familiar with how your horse responds to your cues. At the very least, training your horse in a round pen will drill into its mind that you are the leader, not the other way around.
A round pen creates an environment that makes it impossible for your horse to avoid you. As such, you can also use a round pen to teach your horse to respect your personal space, which will stop it from bumping into you as you lead it from the front.
One of the most common techniques you can teach your hose in a basic round pen is lungeing. This is where the handler stands in the middle of a circular area while holding a rope that is tied to the horse.
You can teach your horse to follow basic voice commands and understand your body language. Any tension on the rope will inform the handler of whether or not their horse is comfortable and needs additional training.
For more information on the basics of training your horse in a round pen, you should check out Clint Haverty and Alana Harrison’s guide to the fundamentals of lungeing.