How To Build A Round Pen Out Of Pallets

These days all sorts of things are being built out of pallets, and while this is an intriguing way of constructing everything from garden fencing to furniture to round pens, is it really a good idea? The simple answer to this question is “Yes and no”.

If you’re able to score very high quality, uniform pallets that are undamaged and have not been treated with dangerous chemicals, pallets can be an inexpensive or even free way to build simple structures. Unfortunately, very often the pallets you can get for free are full of splinters, have nails sticking out, are broken and may have been treated with powerful pesticides.

In this article, we describe ideal round pen construction, discuss some of the concerns surrounding pallets and explore the idea of how to build a round pen out of pallets. Read on to learn more.

The Basics Of Solid Round Pen Construction

Solid Round Pen Construction

A round pen is a structure that is intended to give you a safe, secure space free of distractions where you can work with your horse. It should be sturdy, and it should not be built of materials that could be hazardous in any way. Let’s begin by reviewing some ideal round pen building instructions:

1. Begin by preparing the ground. You want an area that has solid, secure footing and that is free of rocks and other potentially dangerous items. The best thing to do is to bulldoze an area of at least 51 feet in diameter. You should go down about a foot, and once the area is completely cleared, you’ll want to fill it in with layers of graduated stone and stone dust. Soak and compact the materials after each layer is added.

2. Once you’ve prepared the ground, you’ll want to set up sturdy, pressure-treated posts 4 feet apart (except for an 8 foot space for the gate). The posts should be 10 feet long, and you should set them 3 feet into the ground using a full sack of concrete to set each one.

3. You’ll need enough 16 foot long pressure-treated Douglas fir boards to build a solid wall. To make them pliable, you must soak them for an extended period of time. This will allow you to work with them and attach them to your sunken posts. Attach them on the inside, not the outside. Be sure to stagger the rows as this will help to distribute the pressure on the posts more evenly.

4. You’ll also need to build a gate or purchase one ready-made to fit into the 8 foot opening.

Overall, an ideal round pen should be about 51 feet in diameter, at least 6 feet high and free of gaps where a hoof could get caught and sharp protrusions that could cause injury to horses and riders.

Should You Build A Round Pen With Pallets?

Should You Build A Round Pen With Pallets

Now that we’ve had a look at some ideal round pen building instructions, let’s consider whether or not it would be a good idea to use pallets to build a round pen.

Some problems present themselves right away. Consider these concerns:

  1. Most pallets are smaller than 6 feet across, so to use them to build an acceptable round pen you would need to stack them or cut them and reconstruct them.
  2. The space between the boards in pallets is typically just about as wide as a hoof. This means that your horse could easily get a hoof stuck thus necessitating some pricey veterinary assistance and/or causing rider injuries (or worse).
  3. Pallets very often have nails sticking out, broken boards and sharp splinters. All of these negative qualities cause hazards for horses and riders.
  4. Sometimes it’s a good idea to let your horse spend a little loafing time in the round pen to get used to it. This is especially true when dealing with inexperienced or untrained horses. A round pen built of pallets may not be strong enough to contain a loose horse. Additionally, pallets that have been treated with pesticide may present chewing hazards.

Is There Any Upside To Building A Round Pen With Pallets?

If you just want to do some light training with a very well behaved horse, or if you are dealing with miniatures or ponies, a round pen built with pallets could be adequate. You’ll need to remember that you must be with your equines at all times, and that this sort of structure would probably not be adequate for letting the animals loaf.

You must also be certain that the pallets you acquire are of uniform size, in good condition and not treated with dangerous chemicals. You can tell by inspecting the pallets you are considering and looking for the HT marking. This means “heat treated”.

Most pallets that come from Canada have been heat treated. Those that are made in the United States are typically treated with methyl bromide, which is a carcinogenic neurotoxin. These pallets will be marked MB.

You can shop for pallets by visiting Pallets Classified Ads.

Be advised that once you’ve entered all of your criteria, you may find that the pallets you need to build a decent round pen are just as pricey as proper lumber.

What Steps Do You Take To Build A Pallet Round Pen?

What Steps Do You Take To Build A Pallet Round Pen

1. Prepare the ground

If you decide that despite the potential downsides, building a round pen with pallets is just the DIY project for you, you’ll want to begin by preparing the ground in a 51 foot diameter area as well as you possibly can to make it smooth, even, free of dangerous objects and conducive to good footing.

2. Understand how big a round pen should be

Depending upon the size of the pallets you’re able to obtain, you’ll need to acquire enough to lay all the way around your prepared area to create a circle of pallets 51 feet in diameter. That would be a little over a hundred linear feet. You would determine it by measuring just over 25 feet out from proposed center of the pen in all four directions. Mark your circle with twine and lay your pallets all around the perimeter to have them ready for installation.

3. Acquire and install your posts

When using pallets for your round pen fence, you’ll probably need more posts than you would if you were using standard lumber. You’ll need a post at each joining between pallets. To make up for the lack of height in pallets, you’ll need to secure them about a foot off the ground, and then you’ll also need to use lumber to top off the posts to attain a full 6 feet.

4. Leave space for your gate

Just as with building an ideal round pen, you’ll need to leave an 8 foot opening for the gate or a pallet round pen. Don’t try to use two pallets to make a gate. Instead, build or purchase a proper gate.

Is It Possible To Build A Cheap Pallet Round Pen?

In the final analysis, yes it’s possible to cobble together anything using found materials and making do with what you have.

The problem is when you’re building something that really needs to be strong, sturdy and reliable, in the long run you’re just better off sucking it up and investing the money necessary to do the job safely and correctly.

If you use cheap materials and cut corners, someone is going to get hurt and you’ll end up shelling out a whole lot more money than if you had just done it right to begin with.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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