Preliminary investigations into the ethological relevance of round-pen (round-yard) training of horses

Document Type


Publication Date



Recently, training horses within round-pens has increased in popularity. Practitioners often maintain that the responses they elicit from horses are similar to signals used with senior conspecifics. To audit the responses of horses to conspecifics, 6 mare-young-horse dyads were introduced to each other in a round-pen and videoed for 8 min. These dyads spent significantly more time further than 10 m apart than they did less than 1 m apart (p < 0.001). The time they spent less than 1 m apart decreased over the 8 min test period (p = 0.018). Mares occupied the centre of the round-pen and chased youngsters for 0.73% of the test period (p < 0.001). All agonistic approaches were made by mares (p < 0.001) and all investigative approaches by youngsters (p = 0.018). Head-lowering and licking-and-chewing were exhibited most when the youngsters were facing away from the mares (p < 0.001). The frequency of head-lowering increased during the test period (p = 0.027) while the frequency of licking-and-chewing did not change. The current results bring into question the popular interpretation and ethological relevance of equine responses commonly described in round-pen training and show that mares did not condition young horses to remain in close proximity to them.


pre-publication version

the published version can be purchased here