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.
The total cost was just under $300 and included:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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