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Effective Round Penning Techniques




More Desensitizing the Horse To Human Touch

Step by step, the threshold lines get removed and redrawn. But let me give an analogy here to help explain better how further desensitizing is done properly from this point forward:

    Picture you're painting the horse with a paint brush, paint and all. The already-desensitized places represent where you've already painted. The rest of the horse has no paint whatsoever on the body is not desensitized to touch (the paintbrush/your hand) at all. Be fully aware at all times of that very specific line where the horse is painted (desensitized) and where it crosses into non-painted (non-desensitized) areas. Memorize it. Ongoingly. It is crucial. Because that line will expand as you go along, but only if you correctly advance and retreat as described. Keep track of that line, just like you'd keep track visually of where you painted a wall in a room and where you haven't yet. It's that important to keep those lines straight in your mind when working with fear/touch-issue horses as you proceed. Knowing exactly where those lines are, you're going to be quickly darting over them, but just as quickly retreating back to where the horse was already painted to linger there before the horse has time to react. indeed got a "base coat" applied in that quick dart over the line and the horse knows that, but isn't as threatened by it, because it's fast at first. Therefore, the horse doesn't feel compelled to move away. Retreat before the horse retreats and you'll get there faster.

Allow the horse periodic rest breaks throughout, where no touching is going on at all, to give the horse sufficient time to relax, "let down," stop holding the breath, even work the mouth and to think with no pressure whatsoever, to learn that he is indeed remaining safe, even while being touched. Often during this break, the horse will spontaneously begin to work the mouth and even sigh. Wait for that if you can before proceeding again.

Desensitizing is a highly perceptive and empathetic dance. Read the horse carefully and watch for body twitches or movements that indicate you lingered too long in the new unpainted areas and at those times, quickly retreat back to the already-accepted spots. Remember: a horse has to move the feet when afraid. If the horse moves or tenses enough to suddenly feel the need to now actually institute a reaction like movement, you've gone too far over the threshold line or lingered past it too long without you giving a proper retreat (the retreat IS the release of pressure). If the horse suddenly indeed moves the feet, you missed your retreat-before-the-horse moves timing. Timing is everything here! So are heightened perceptions.

If your retreat timing is good, very good, those threshold lines begin to get pushed farther and farther back, until, eventually, the entire horse is "painted" (desensitized) all over and the horse accepts human touch well everywhere and is actually enjoying it now. Most horses melt at this point into the pleasurable stroking. I have found that touch fear issue horses, once past that fear, are actually touch deprived horses and by this point, they can't believe how good it all feels! We are stroking gently, soothingly (never patting!); it feels tremendously good to the horse, and if it is the first time a horse has felt this from a human's direction, well, you've pretty much won a friend for life!

It is vitally important to understand the sensitive dance nature of desensitizing. Advance and retreat is what it's all about! Resist your predator urge to "go for the whole goal," to try to go too far too fast, because the opposite works better. The longer (patient!) advance/retreat way is the short way.

However, done right, with split-second retreat timing and perception skills, desensitization actually can go remarkably fast!

After I have the horse desensitized to human touch all over, and I have created a happier, more relaxed horse, then I can continue with crucial deeper bonding techniques, and I can move the horse along into setting down more training foundation. Generally, I find that even with serious trust issue horses, formerly abused horses and even wilder horses, once I have accomplished all that is described above, and on the preceding round penning pages, they are now officially on a normal horse learning curve! They may need more desensitization to various other things as we go along here and there, but they fully trust by this point that I will never harm them, only nurture them, and will remain their fair, competent leader. And that is all any horse wants!

This round penning exercise has a remarkably healing, and even relaxing effect on all horses by the end of it, especially with those horses who have never been given a fair deal in life from the human direction.

I always make sure I exit this, and all, lessons on a high positive note, with a relaxed horse in a happy spot who is craving far more of this good, loving human contact stuff! It's important to do, because that makes the horse much more willing to enter into next-lessons up the road.


It may be hard to believe, but the above horse, and in all these round penning pictures, is formerly wild horse, fresh off the range. Via natural horsemanship gentling methods, her true, sweet nature is unburied and allowed to flourish. This horse was a true pleasure to work with and quite the sweetheart!

How do I end a first round penning lesson on a proper positive? Easy! Just walk away. The horse will often follow, while displaying, "Huh? Wait...come back...but...but...I was really enjoying this! We were only just getting started here!" Still... just walk away.

Always leave a horse wanting more!  

To see more pictures of Sylvia demonstrating round penning
and training the Natural Horsemanship way on
3 1/2-year-old Thoroughbred "Belle," click below:
To see more pictures of Sylvia demonstrating round penning
and training the Natural Horsemanship way on
4 1/2-year-old Spotted Draft "Sampson," click below:
To see more pictures of Sylvia demonstrating training the
Natural Horsemanship way on Roanoke Valley Rescue Horse
10-year old Arabian "Cassie," click below:
To see more pictures of Sylvia demonstrating training the
Natural Horsemanship way on 2-year-old Paint "Doc," click below:









To Learn More About Round Penning Via Video

Round Pen Leadership -
Establishing Leadership and Communication With Your Horse In The Round Pen

Featuring Sylvia Scott

    Proper round penning is not about mindlessly longeing a horse around and around a round pen, but is about the opposite: it is direct one-to-one very precise communication with very specific cues and instructions. When round penning is done correctly, the horse will be quieter, more compliant, and a much more willing partner in all of your other training activities.  Round penning can be an invaluable tool in developing a happier horse -- and a happier rider!

    What You Will Learn
    In this video, you will learn how to effectively communicate with your horse in the round pen to establish respect for your leadership position. The video begins with a discussion of some of the fundamental techniques for effective round penning using Natural Horsemanship principles. Then, these round pen techniques are demonstrated in actual round pen sessions with four different horses of varying temperaments:



Nervous &

Aggressive &

You will also learn about round pen body language, “volume thinking,” controlling the horse’s feet, direction, inside & outside turns, “eye changes,” the 4 signs of compliance, latch-on, controlling the hindquarters, building the “come here” cue, and much more!





Running Time: 71 Minutes

To Order Round Pen Leadership Now: CLICK HERE

In this DVD, Sylvia Scott clearly defines how to be effective in the round pen. Her understanding of both equine and human psychology makes her the consummate professor for any horse owner with a desire to improve their communication skills with their horse.”

Tess Vanattia, Editor/C.O.O.
HorseSouth Magazine





To Read More Whispering Way
Round Pen Leadership

Video Testimonial Quotes CLICK HERE







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