KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

The Human Round Pen
(Navajo Circle)

Sometimes we'll come across a horse that has particular issues with people. He may be uncontrollably wary of humans in general. Most often, he is "stuck" processing humans with one eye and gets very worried when he has to deal with humans on his "weak" side. Forcing the issue with a one sided horse often gains poor results since horses learn little when highly stressed. The human round pen, also known as a Navajo circle, creates an environment where the horse is passively surrounded by humans and learns to process their presence in a non-confrontational manner.

Key Points When Setting up
the Human Round Pen

  1. The horse should not have exhibited aggressive tendencies.

  2. The round pen should be large enough so that the human circle can start out wide.

  3. The humans need to all understand that the object here is not to directly interact with the horse, but rather indirectly interact (do things that are not directed towards the animal.)

  4. The human pen is dynamic and can change shape and dimension according to the activities taking place and the horse's behavior.

  5. Each participant needs to constantly observe the horse but not stare at the horse.

  6. One person needs to call the activities, similar to a square dance caller. The participants need to respond in a quiet, flowing and coordinated manner.

  7. Humans shouldn't approach the horse. The horse will eventually come to the humans.

  8. The person "calling" the session should have some predesignated safety strategies which should be predefined and clearly conveyed to all participants prior to inviting the horse into the game.

    • Identify where the horse would want to go and "nest" if he gets stressed.

    • Identify where the participants will move if the horse gets agitated and needs some time out in his "nesting" spot.

  9. Don't wear out your welcome or the horse's attention span. If the horse stops interacting, it's time to give him a break and reassemble the circle at a later time.
An overhead view
Floor level view
Coming over to be haltered
Hugging burros
A smaller group still works
The important elements here involve safety and attitude. Everyone needs to pay attention, but everyone also needs to have fun. This should be an exploratory adventure for both horse and humans; a low key version of a strange horse meeting up with and bonding with a new herd. The herd discovers what the new horse is all about and the new horse discovers the herd.

If everyone maintains this attitude and allows the horse to make some decisions, the horse will eventually try to make friends.

Ranger used to be anxious around people
Playing "horse volleyball"
Playing "horse soccer"


Important Note: If you take on the project of developing an untrained horse, everybody will want to give you advice. Don't act on any advice, including the ideas offered in this site, unless it makes sense to you and fits your individual situation. Your abilities and the sensitivities of your horse(s) may differ from the examples given. Be alert and rational with your actions so neither you nor your horse will get hurt. This information is offered as illustrations of what we do and the reader must apply common sense since he or she is solely responsible for his or her actions.

Happy trails!


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KBR Horse Training Information, 1997 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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