Round Corral Logic
Round penning and longeing are two of the most important activities which you have available to you to establish yourself as the leader in your horse-human partnership. They provide a controlled environment where you can "tune up" the horse's attitude and at the same time establish your dominance in terms which the horse understands and naturally accepts... and more importantly, naturally wants to follow. This is the environment where you are stronger, faster and more agile than that 1000 pound horse... at least in the mind of the horse.
The round corral is also not some place where you simply run your horse around in mindless circles. The horse has a front end and a back end. You need to be able to steer both and to do this the horse needs to yield to pressure at both the fore and hindquarters. The round corral gives you the opportunity to test and tune up this steering. (If you swing a rope or shake a crop and the hind end swings away, you can pretty much be assured that he's yielding just fine in the hind. So, you direct your energy toward that shoulder to get the forehand to yield.)
Basically longeing is getting those feet to move how and where you want them to so your horse should be pretty handy in yielding to shoulder pressure as well as flank pressure prior to your getting into the saddle.
Before we discuss how to operate in the round corral, let's consider why it works. Horses respect assertiveness, confidence and athletic prowess. The leaders in the herds possess these attributes which are key to herd survival in hostile environments, so it naturally goes that if we can project these attributes we can get more from the horse than we can through traditional "control and punishment." Basically we set it up so the horse wants to learn! So, how does this work?
First thing, one must realize that the horse has no depth perception but he does have wide lateral vision. Secondly, in a round corral or on a longe line the horse is travelling over a large circle while we are travelling over a very tiny one. Thus it takes us very little effort to "keep pace" with the horse or even overtake him. We can use this geometric advantage to appear superior in our ability to the horse, and in fact outmaneuver him no matter what he tries to do, so long as we keep him scribing a larger arc or circle than the one we are moving in. Also, since the corral or longe line keeps the horse in a circle, he can't outrun us no matter how many "miles" he runs, so eventually even the crankiest horses realize that they have to deal with us.
Once we understand this geometric relationship, we can start applying the principles of horse leadership. The dominant horse can "send off" his subordinates. He can make them run. He can make them stop. He can make them yield to his space. This is how he establishes the herd order; by being athletically capable of "working" his subordinates, and so can we.
The following illustrations are performed in the round corral. I'm using no tools or aids other than my hands. You can get the same results with a longe line and a longe whip, provided you apply the natural principles of being the dominant horse.
Please note: I am working closer to the horse than you should in order to keep the photo images a reasonable size and so you can see my body position relative to the horse.
When I send the horse off into a circle, I want to travel with him. This does not mean that I want to wear myself out walking in a large circle, however I want to apply some pressure to get him moving and appear to him that I am moving with him. (The goal is to get your horse so sensitive that you are barely moving in the center of the round corral.)
I'll send the horse out to the wall with whatever means I need to. More nervous horses usually will head out on their own. With clingy horses, I may have to raise and wave my hands a little in an assertive, but non-aggressive manner.
Once the horse is moving, I will apply pressure behind the "drive line" by directing the energy of my "active hand" to this point, as illustrated by the blue line in the photograph.
Don't worry about making mistakes... You will!
Drive Line: An imaginary line which runs down the center of the shoulder. Pressure behind this line tends to drive the horse forward. Pressure in front of the line tends to drive the horse backward. I want to stay as close to this line as possible so that it takes very little repositioning or redirection of energy on my part for the horse to sense the change; a true sign of superiority.
Energy: "Energy" can be any focused directional movement such as the wave of a hand, shake of a flag on a stick, toss or whirl of a rope, shake of a longe whip, etc. Energy as applied here is focused on a particular spot, just as a pitcher targets the destination of a baseball.
Active Hand: I have two hands. One is an active hand which directs energy and the other is a control hand, which "opens and closes" doors for the horse to move through or avoid when he is moving away from the energy. My active hand nearly always follows the direction I want the horse to go. My control hand directs the horse. In the photograph above, my active hand is sending energy along the "blue line." If I want to shut down the horse, I will "hold" the horse through raising my control hand. If I keep sending energy while holding the horse, he'll roll away on the fence and reverse himself. If I retract my control hand and step back, the horse will follow me. (This should all make more sense as we progress through this section.)
In this photograph I have stepped slightly forward relative to the horse and am applying pressure in front of the drive line. Note the horse collecting himself to stop. With a horse who starts out disregarding my aids, I may "switch hands," making my left hand the active hand so that I can make the energy which is redirected to the front of the drive line more obvious to the horse. (These are things which you have to play with as each horse has a different level of sensitivity at first.)
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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