What material would you use when building your own round pen for horses?

“I’m looking at building a round pen for starting and working my horses. I have seen ones with full wooden sides, some with boards, with shade cloth for sides and even some with electric tape. Which would you recommend? I’m not keen on the tape type incase the horse goes through it.”-Laura R.M.‎

As you have noticed there are quite a few options when it comes to building a round pen. Taking a look at how you are going to use the round pen as well as the climate might help you make your decision.horses and round pen safety

While I was training in Ohio I had a round pen made from the metal panels. You can see this round pen in the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac series. The reason I chose to use this type of round pen was because I knew I was going to need to use it in my indoor riding arena when the weather was bad outside. I dreamed of having a covered, enclosed round pen but it was never in the budget. The advantage of having the portable panels was that I could also move the round pen to my outdoor arena when the weather was good.

The biggest advantage for me was that I could take the round pen down when I needed to drag the footing. I have had the opportunity to use a few enclosed round pens and the one issue that I have seen was when people don’t plan for how they are going to maintain the footing inside a small pen. Without proper maintenance the footing can get extremely packed and it can also become very sloped, like a bowl, which makes it more likely for a horse to trip. Be sure that the pen has a gate large enough for a tractor or drag or whatever equipment you plan on maintaining the footing with.

I have also used round pens with solid walls half way up and all the way up. One advantage of the solid walled round pen was that the horses were very focused as they couldn’t look out. One disadvantage was that no air could get in, during the summer months it was like an airless desert. The pens that had solid wood bottoms and then bars above allowed for air movement.

The round pen in this photo was at one of the horse motels we stopped at along our trip. It was in New Mexico and they wanted to maximize airflow so they used the mesh wire but they also wanted to minimize the sand blowing out so they added a row of industrial belting, similar to a rubber mat, as a lower barrier. After using it for awhile they decided they want to add another layer of the belt and they think it will still allow enough air flow. Consider how you want to use your round pen, what type of footing you will use and how you will maintain it, and what materials are available and will hold up well in your climate.

Have you built your own round pen? Where do you live? What materials did you use? Are you happy with the results?


  1. Dennis Rymon on February 1, 2015 at 7:22 am

    I built one using lawn timbers for rails. It was 50′ feet in diameter, with a 6′ gate, as well as a 12′ gate (for unloading really unruly horses directly into the pen from a trailer). I left enough clearance under the bottom rail to allow for an escape route out of the pen if things went bad. The whole project cost me less than $600.00. I was able to turn some horses that would have otherwise been put down due to their aggressive nature into descent, kid friendly, working horses.

    • Liz Kanan on August 22, 2023 at 6:51 pm


  2. firnhyde on February 1, 2015 at 3:17 am

    One thing I learned is that the pen must have high fences. Impossible to put pressure on a horse if he could just hop over and be gone. My pen is 1.2m (3′ 9″) and it is quite low. The pen at work is about 4′ – 4’3″ and is much better; I have only ever seen one horse jump clean out.

  3. Jamie Calvert on January 30, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Metal panels with plywood as visual barrier.

  4. Nikki Larson on January 30, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Check with the professionals at equine concepts LLC , they specialize in round pens and also fabricate the Equi cover.

  5. Sara P on January 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    I have seen railing made of old fire hose. Can’t remember how it was attached to the posts, but it gave the look of post and rail but safer for the horse.

  6. Shelley Massey on January 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I live in NW Colorado. There were two round pens on this property when I moved here. They were probably intended for sorting cows, but I have used them for the horses. There is plenty of room for our medium and small tractors to work the ground. One thing to note: make sure your vertical posts are on the OUTSIDE of the other material (if you use posts). The posts being on the inside could smash your knees, or the horses shoulder or hip.
    On a similar note that would warrant planning–most horse folks also need a place for HAY. We have a hay business, in which several deliveries we make have us scratching our heads. The clients often have a beautiful home and property, but do not plan for vehicles coming in with things such as hay. We have a GMC 5500 and a 24 foot trailer (tongue pull) that we haul 343 bales on, or a larger gooseneck trailer that we pull behind a GMC pickup (about 200 bales). MANY times we hear something like, “I want my hay in that far back stall.” or “Let’s carry these bales up this ramp….hmmm maybe 1/2 the load in the loft and 1/2 the load down below.” We had one client that called my husband when they were ready to build a hay storage area to ask his advice. Even with a small turn around area, she built an open-faced shed (kit from a home supply company), and her husband added sliding doors for a WIDE opening. We pull up right beside the shed and throw the hay off the side of the truck, then pull up and throw off the side of the trailer.
    Most horse people welcome others coming to look at their horses and property—-look at lots of “what has worked” ideas others have used!

  7. Kathi on January 30, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Not having a lot of money, we used what we had on the farm … wooden fence posts and 1×5 fence boards … only 3 boards from top down on inside, spaced so that a board is at stirrup height so you don’t get a foot caught on post when horse is way too close … and perfect to use to mount/dismount if there is any need. 60 foot diameter … and our is outside in my “arena” … which does have some slope, so horses do get a bit of extra workout … and placed so that you can ride right around the outside between arena fence and round pen … one section with ground poles to walk/trot over and one section with little ‘bridge’ to go over. Next to round pen, weave poles comprise one side of main riding area to provide more interest. Whole arena area used to be small stud colt/ stud pasture … so all grass. Love having ‘open’ view from round pen, as I have one horse who needs to be with a buddy, and she can go in arena when I work in round pen, or in round pen when I am riding in arena. Great use of space!!

  8. Lori on January 30, 2015 at 12:22 am

    When I lived in Idaho, I built a round pen out of rail road ties for posts and half logs for rails. I used rubber mats from the ground up approximately three feet high. I adopted two Mustangs from the BLM (yealing and weanling) so the round pen was eight feet high. It had two gates in it so I could run the horses in and then out of it until they were trained. I loved my round pen!

  9. Diane on January 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    We live in northern WI. We were able to get landscape timbers for a reasonable cost and we used those with 1 by 6s for the rails. It was a good choice for us as we could also use it for a turnout if we needed to get them to a different spot when things we damp. The air flow was good in summer. Would have preferred the movable panels but, the cost for us was prohibitive. Not sure what we will do this time. We will be building another at our new place soon.

  10. katzarr on January 29, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Panels are the best option.;; would not use any wood of any type.; be on the safe side, and use the pipe panels.

  11. Cindy Overton on January 29, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I just built one late this summer in barn lot that is shared with our replacement heifers. Started by tilling it up several times to bury cow patties & work up any large rocks – in the process found 15 old foundation supports buried about 8 inches under ground. Guess there used to be a shed in the middle of this lot 🙂 With sharing the lot with cattle I couldnt put up any thing permanent so I purchased enough portable round pen panels for a 60 foot pen & then spread 6 dump truck loads of sand inside it which gave me about an 8 inch base of sand . I can open panels when I need to drag it & have a ride through gate. So far working just fine but havent been able to use much this winter here in Illinois. May have to add some rubber panels to bottom to keep sand in & from blowing to bad. Its in the open so dont know how it will be this summer in the heat- hoping to build an indoor arena in near future so that will eliminate problems with summer sun & winter weather 🙂

  12. karen on January 29, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    we live in arizona, our round pen is built under a huge mesquite tree for shade, we used horse wire and rail road ties for most of it and piping around the top we love it, it also is used for when the rain gets bad and washes out the corrals.

  13. darlaflack1 on January 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    lol. Roundpen talk!!! Love it. We have one at my place now, panels for about 1/2 and tires for the balance. Agree the moveable ones are Ideal if you want to make switches from indoor to outdoor. Best one I ever saw for starting colts though was way back in my dim past. Solid Tires (taint purty). No horse could get hurt, climb, no distraction. For the serious person training colts it is awesome. (Tires are free!). but for most situations the panels work perfect and cost effective.

    • karen on January 29, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      p like the tire idea. might have to try that.

  14. shelybo65 on January 29, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    My husband & I recently built a round pen a few months ago that out of PVC pipe. It’s approx. 4-1/2 ft. Tall and 60′ diameter. It suits my purpose for lunging/exercise and works for me without spending a lot of money. We live in Florida 🙂

  15. Christi Lowry on January 29, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I use a Priefert round pen! It’s sturdy, durable, and moveable! You can’t go wrong with Priefet products.

    • Christi Lowry on January 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Oh, and I live in Texas!

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.