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Build an Inexpensive Round Pen
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Round Pen for Horse Training




Horse fencing, including the round pen doesn't usually fall in the category of gifts for horse lovers. But after building a 40 foot round pen at near minimal expense I thought I'd share with you what I did. If your horse lover is in need of a round pen for training or working with horses, purchasing the materials needed and/or building the pen could be a nice gift idea. You don't need to do exactly as I did - you might have a better approach. However the following discussion might serve as food for thought.

A 55 to 60 foot in diameter round pen is generally considered about the ideal size for a training pen. In my case the location constrained me to a diameter or 40 feet, about the minimum size recommended. A pen made up of steel panels is perhaps most typical, with post and rail also being very common. I was looking for a less expensive solution plus I had a desire to design and build a round pen from scratch.

It took approximately a full day for two of us to construct the pen, not including a 12-hour wait for concrete to cure. The effort included locating and digging the post holes, placing the posts and setting them in concrete, adding a top rail plus for strands of braid for the other "rails", and building and installing a gate. The ground had been worked previously, mainly to locate and remove any rocks lurking just beneath the soil surface.

Expenses

The total cost was just under $300 and included:

  • $56 for 7" diameter treated posts,
  • $46 for concrete mix,
  • $55 for a 660' spool of electric braid,
  • $48 for rental of a gasoline driven post hole digger,
  • and approximately $75 for lumber and hardware.

I purchased the concrete in 40 pound bags for ease in transport and used approximately one bag for each post.

Had I chosen I could have hand-peeled my own posts from small trees on the property but decided that the expense of $56 was preferable to working several hours with the drawknife, plus I still would have needed to purchase wood preservative.

Renting the power post hole digger for $48 dollars was an easy choice, preferable to spending several hours with pick and shovel or a manual post hole digger in rocky soil. I could have built the pen for around $200 but it would have required quite a bit more time and effort. If you have soil with few rocks and easy digging a manual post hole digger might do just fine.

Round Pen Construction Detail


Construction

The pen is 5' high with the only lumber used (except for the gate) being a 1"x3" top rail. As our horses are not jumpers and are not too likely to come into contact with the top rail I felt that 1x3 boards would serve as well as 2x4's with the main purpose of the boards being to provide a visual barrier to the horse.

Under the top rail I placed 4 strands of braid at 8" intervals. I used braid similar to the electrified braid we use in the pasture. I don't have any intention of electifying the round pen but could do so if the need arises (e.g. to use it as a holding pen for any length of time). I put enough tension on the braid to eliminate sag between posts and the end result is an effective barrier with a pleasing appearance. The picture at the right shows the details of braid placement and attachment. I have since painted the top rail and the gate a "Forest Green" color.

The posts are at 9 foot intervals. With 10' lengths of lumber I could go plus or minus 6 inches in the placement of a post if I couldn't get it in the ground at exactly 9 feet. In other words, whatever the length of your rail lumber is going to be, plan on a post interval of about one foot less.

The number of posts you need for a given round pen diameter is pi (3.14) times the diameter divided by the distance you want between posts. Using 3 instead of 3.14 will give a close-enough result unless you have a very large pen. I'd just use 3 and get one extra post.

For example, for my pen it was 40' x 3 or 120' (the circumference of the pen) divided by 9' (the desired distance between posts). This gives an answer of 13.3. I could get by with 13 posts but 14 was better since my gate width was going to be less than 9'.

When locating the posts it's best to start with the gate posts, placing them at whatever width you wish your gate to be. If you use a gate width that's different the other post intervals you'll end up having to do a bit of adjusting for some post locations for a nicer visual effect but that won't usually be much of a problem.

The reason for the 9' intervals? I have fairly rocky soil and wider intervals meant fewer post holes to dig. With 10' lengths of lumber I could move a post + or - 6 inches should rocks interfere and this variation in post interval really isn't noticable. Also, a 1x3 top rail begins to get a little "bendy" at longer intervals.

I don't claim this design to be superior to any other. It is somewhat of an experiment and if I find I have to change one feature or another I'll do so. I've had very good luck with using electrified braid as fencing and believe when properly tensioned will not be a safety hazard to a horse.

Rocky soil? Not ideal for a round pen location but you may have little choice. I tilled the ground to kick up and throw out any larger rocks. Talk about "tip of the iceberg".There were 4 rocks poking there noses just slightly above the surface but it took a heavy duty tow rope and truck to dislodge them and drag them out of the pen area. You don't want the horses stepping on solid rock in the midst of a work session. So when you're selecting a location for a pen, before putting in the posts it's not a bad idea to till the area to see what might be lurking just an inch or two under the surface.

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EQUINE-IDEAS.CO.UK is devoted to saving time and money on equestrian equipment. Though based in the UK, the ideas you'll find here are equally valid on either side of the Atlantic. You'll also find a page devoted to putting together your own riding arena on a budget (or setting up one for someone else).

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What Other Visitors Have to Say About Round Pens

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Safety First 
Just wanted to comment on the above pen. While most of us are interested in saving money, constructing something that may be deemed unsafe just to save …

Rowdy Colts! 
Your idea and round pen is great! We really need a round pen, but I don't think the braid, as in your design, will work for us. I think that we …

A Round Pen Design Variation -I t's Portable As Well! 
I acquired a 2 year old Tennessee Walker Gelding from a friend that had too many horses. Of course, he had been running wild with very little human contact …

Think like a horse 
I am working on my round pen putting it closer to the house for easy access. I am constructing mine to look good and be functiional. Use 3 to 4 1x6 boards …

Do It Yourself Footing Not rated yet
Placing 2" x 10" boards along the bottom of the posts creates a 10 inch wall for adding footing to any round pen, be sure to leave a space with chicken …

Liking Your Design Not rated yet
I plan on building your pen as I like it's entire concept. I like to drag my paddocks periodically with harrows. By using electric ribbon I will be able …

Good idea Not rated yet
I built the same pen it was cheap. It is a very inexpensive and good pen.

2 Round Pens! Not rated yet
This spring I will be starting a number of horses ranging from shetland ponies to 16.1hh throughroughbreds, a larger round pen would be unsuitable for …

Rocky Ground Not rated yet
The ranch this pen needed to be built on was severely rocky. White chalk mostly, layer after layer of the stuff interspersed with chalk boulders. …

What is Round Pen Training? Not rated yet
In recent years, "natural" horsemanship trainers have brought round pen training into the forefront when it comes to training horses. This type of training …

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