The Round Pen

If you have been in the buisness of breaking or starting two year old colts, you have heard someone refer to the round pen. It was usallly a sturdy circular pen that was bullet proof… and bronc proof.

Back in my day, you would snub a broncy colt up to a big ole stout horse and mount up and see how long you could hang on. But let me tell you from experience, it’s a whole lot safer in the roundpen than Daddy’s old fashion way of get on, hang on, and stay seated at all times. I think them old timers really liked to see if they could get you bruised up or see how high an ole colt might launch you.  And on many a Sunday afternoon the round pen was either as a form of torture or entertainment.

The typical roundpen was a trotted, packed, round circle about eighty feet in diameter. The outside barrier was cedar stave’s woven into the fence. This pen was were school began. Classes started early and sometimes went overtime without recess. My dad taught us that you can learn a lot from a horse and the relationship you build together can change lives if you listen and learn. Now that goes both ways for the student, being the horse, and me, being the on-looker.

Horses are naturally a herd animal and when you take a horse away from the herd he feels vunerable. Now ain’t it amazing- the same thing happens to us when we get in a new situation and new surroundings. Just like people, colts rely on trust. In time he will begin to trust you and then become part of your herd. 
Daddy would tell us, “Learn from your surroundings and change to suit them.” There are uncomfortable moments in life when you are away from the familar things you have grown accustomed to. Just like a colt, we must trust what we have learned in the past to help us through unsure times in the future. You either come prepared or you learn to bend around the things that make you shy away.

That old round pen taught us a whole bunch about horses and twice as much about life. There are a lot of similarities in that round pen and the round pen of life. We all have gone to school and took lessons whether they be from an institution or from the school of hard knocks. My dad and my older brother Randy, who was one of the best horse trainers I have ever known, would always say it takes a lot of wet saddle blankets to make a two year old into a horse you can trust. Just as it takes repetition and sweat, determination and hard work, to become a man and then to become a man you can trust.

We build safety and trust in the surroundings we are accustomed to and then through lessons and trials we graduate. Life is a series of round pens, you break one and move on to the next. If you’re lucky, you’ll never stop learning, listening and being a student of the round pen.

Until next time make sure your cinch is tight and take a deep seat in the saddle.

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