In a perfect world, we all have a facility that meets our requirements to train our horses year-round. Reality is far from perfect, though. I’ve been there myself, some of the situations and conditions I’ve had to train horses out of throughout my career were far from desirable, but I found a way to get the job done. I’m thankful for those experiences because they made me a better horseman and deepened my appreciation for the facilities I have today.
If you find yourself having to train your horse in less-than-ideal conditions, whether that’s at your own place or at a location you haul your horse to, here’s the good news – you can train your horse through the Method and do a great job. When I started out, all I had was a roundpen and miles of dirt roads to train my horses.
The best horsemen in the world don’t necessarily have the best training facilities; they just learn how to make the best of any situation. Ian Francis taught me early on that your imagination is your greatest asset as a horseman, and he’s absolutely right.
I hear three excuses from people about why they can’t follow the Method or aren’t making progress with their horses and how they can be overcome. Here’s No. 1 and how to get over it.
#1 You Don’t Have A Roundpen
Roundpenning is the first exercise in the Method because it is the safest exercise from which you and your horse can initially build a partnership. By working in the roundpen first, you can establish the fundamentals of respect without being connected to the horse. Because you’re not connected, the horse is able to get farther away from you, which makes these initial training sessions much safer for you.
If you don’t have a roundpen, you can still teach your horse the roundpenning exercises in a square or rectangular pen. Just be aware that the horse will likely have a tendency to stop in the corners. To overcome this, you’ll have to adjust your position to drive him around the pen. You can also set a barrel in each corner of the pen in an effort to “round out” the arena so that the horse won’t be able to “hide” in the corners as easily.
If you don’t have any sort of pen, you have two choices. The first is to haul your horse to a facility that has a roundpen you can use. The second is to skip the exercise and follow the Method in order from there. Obviously, I’d recommend finding a way to do the roundpenning exercises, but if it’s not possible, it’s not the end of the world.