The Use and Mis-use of Round Corrals in the Horse Training


a Horse Training Article by Pat Parelli

Round corrals are like a double-edged sword. A round corral can be a great place for horse training, but also to teach people how to be savvy.

The challenge has always been knowing how to have polite and passive persistence in the proper position. In the round corral, it’s easy for the human to be out of position by only a few inches. And by being out of position, they’re pushing buttons on the horse they don’t even know exist.

This is why we don’t start with the round corral. The On-Line skills we give people on a 12-Foot Line and a 22-Foot Line teaches them where to be, when to be, why to be, and what to do when they get there.

Where people often go wrong with the round corral is letting the horse go around and around and around in a circle until he either quits running and faces them, or using the round corral to exercise the excess energy out of the horse. What I try to get people to understand is that if you exercise only the body, the mind will go to pot. However, if you exercise the mind and emotions, the body will follow.

That’s where the Seven Games come in. By playing the Seven Games with a horse, rather than just running him around in a circle, what happens is that the horse starts tuning in to the human. The secret is to use the round corral as a safety net so that the horse learns the principles of a classroom and how to interact with the human seven different ways.

Basically, by just running the horse around in a circle, it becomes merely a physical act of getting rid of energy. One of the analogies I like to use is that if you took a bottle of milk with about three inches of cream on top, and if you wanted just the milk, the first thing you would do would be to pour the cream on the ground (not even in a bowl so the cats can drink it). You’d just waste the cream. That’s what a lot of people do; they waste the pent-up energy that horses have when they’re ready to play.

I prefer to use that energy (the cream) by playing the Seven Games — which to me is like saying to a kid: go out and run ten laps, play basketball, dodgeball, volleyball or hopscotch. This gives kids on a playground something constructive to do. When they’ve got excess energy, take that energy and concentrate on these things rather than trying to get a kid full of corn flakes to sit still!

It’s the same way with horses. When they have that exuberant energy, teach them to concentrate on you mentally, emotionally and physically. Use the Seven Games. Don’t abuse the round corral, which can be a very good tool, by just running a horse around until he gives in or becomes exhausted.

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