Round Penning is a method of horse
training (similar to free longeing
that is considered to be humane
. Before this method was made popular, techniques such as sacking out
were used: the horse was tied to a fence or post and anything that it might encounter was thrown at and around it. This resulted in injuries and fatalities on the part of the horse.
The basic philosophy behind Round Penning is that the horse realizes that allowing the trainer to have control is easier than having to work. The horse is placed inside of a circular pen and is asked by the trainer to trot or canter around the edge. The trainer will ask the horse to change direction in various ways by positioning his body in front of the horse. Once this control is established, the horse is allowed - if he so chooses - to walk into the center of the pen. The trainer approaches with his hand outstretched and allows the horse to realize that he is not a threat. The trainer then talks to the horse and moves backwards and sideways to see if the horse keeps his eyes on the trainer. If the horse's attention wanders, he is sent back out to run, and control is established once again.
Once control has been established, the trainer can use the same technique to cure the horse of many vices, including kicking, biting, and head-shyness. He does this by allowing the horse into the center and doing whatever it is that brings out the negative behavior in the horse. If the horse stands still and acts appropriately, he is rewarded with a pat and the training session is over. If he does not behave correctly, he is asked to run around. Eventually he will realize that he must behave or be forced to work.
This training technique is useful for breaking young horses and teaching them manners as well as curing vices in older horses. It establishes trust without fear, and creates an atmosphere in which the horse wants to learn. Round Penning is not the only way to humanely train a horse, but it is among the easiest and quickest if done correctly.
www.johnlyons.com/ - John Lyons, probably the best Round Pen-er in the United States
http://www.kbrhorse.net/tra/round01.html - an excellent, more in-depth discussion of round penning and longeing