Although many horsemen and trainers extol virtues of round pen, many horse owners still overlook just how powerful such a pen can be in developing or maintaining a relationship with a horse. This is a shame because it is truly what I call Great Equalizer in a horse-human relationship. Perhaps that bears some clarification…
I've found many horse owners to be concerned about their physical strength as opposed to that of their horse. They fear they simply cannot firmly establish themselves as alpha, or leader, of relationship because horse is so much stronger. Thus when their horse displays poor ground manners or commits an inappropriate action they are more prone to ignore it and hope it doesn't develop into worse behaviors. After all, what choice do they have? The horse is just too strong.
The reality is that, except for youngest of foals, a horse will always possess more raw strength than a human. Any attempts to overpower a horse with sheer strength are doomed to fail. Techniques such as raising your voice towards or slapping a misbehaving horse do not rely on strength – they are psychological. The horse does not want conflict to escalate as it is uncertain exactly what your capabilities are, therefore it submits.
Of course there are exceptions, and truth be told such techniques are best used on already-trained horses or in situations where you cannot properly establish your authority due to lack of time or proper surroundings. The best way to instill respect and discipline into a naughty horse is by incorporating Great Equalizer: round pen.
Whereas many people view a round pen as a means for exercise (and it is true that it's a great exercise tool), true power behind round pen is its ability to establish dominance in a completely non-forceful method. In round pen, physical strength means very little. It is a quick and easy (as opposed to other methods) technique to make your alpha status known.
Allow me to share an example that will better illustrate why a round pen will serve you better than strength.
I once owned a willful young colt raised by a first-time mother, so unfortunately mare wasn't all that familiar with need to discipline her colt. In fact although colt was really quite a nice horse, he was unruly and tended to do whatever he wanted from day one. An experienced mare would not have permitted such antics, and had she "laid down law" better from first day colt would likely have been a little less rambunctious.
Soon it came time to provide halter and lead training to this young upstart, and true to his form he made sure task was trying. Although more than willing to walk with you, he felt there was little need to do so in an orderly fashion. If he "accidentally" bumped into you, or strayed so far from your side that you had to cling to lead line with an iron grip, so be it. Snapping or jerking lead line didn't impress him much.