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We recently went on a group trail ride, and one of the men hobbled his horses for the night. It was their first exposure to hobbles for some riders, and they had a ton of questions, so I decided to answer their questions here.
Hobbles are binds secured to horses’ legs that restrict their movement. It works by limiting the distance a horse can separate its legs. However, they do allow the animal to move around and graze. Hobbles are commonly used to train horses.
Hobbles are useful tools, and when used correctly, are safe and don’t harm your horse. However, there is a lot to know before you strap hobbles on your animal.
Why use hobbles on your horse.
Uncontrollable horses have a common problem, their owners. Many horse owners don’t have the knowledge or experience needed to understand or treat their horses.
There are some basics all horse owners should know: horse nutrition, foot care, and instilling trust in your horse. These issues need to be addressed before you ever put a saddle on your horse. Hobbles, when used correctly, create trust between you and your horse.
Hobbles help horses learn to yield to pressure and relax.
When a horse is first put in a pair of hobbles, he may try to get out and fall. However, he will quickly learn he isn’t breaking free and soon becomes comfortable standing still and relaxed.
This is the first step in teaching your horse manners and yielding to pressure, which is the building blocks’ base to train a horse. Once your horse learns this concept, he prepares for riding easier and enjoys learning new things.
I typically attach restraints to my saddle when trail riding, when we stop, and I reach for them, my horse immediately looks content. He understands the riding is finished for a while, and he will be able to relax and graze. And he won’t be tied to a tree, like the other horses.
Hobbles teach horses to manage stressful situations.
Horses sometimes get in trouble; if they’ve trained in hobbles, they understand patience and remain calm during these times. For example, if a correctly trained horse finds itself in a bind while unloading from a trailer, he stops and waits for help, or if the animal gets tangled in fencing, he knows to stands still and remains calm.
Horses not appropriately trained often bolt and injure themselves in difficult positions. We could describe numerous circumstances when a horse didn’t get hurt because it learned patience and trust from wearing restraints.
Hobbled horses can graze.
During trail rides, it’s nice to unsaddle your horse for the night, put hobbles on your horse and let it roam. Horses need forage, and some time to move around after riding, leg restraints allow this.
Hobbles help teach a horse to ground tie.
Leg ties teach a horse to stand still and relax without holding or tying the animal. Horses that continuously move when you are trying to work with them is dangerous.
If you know how to train correctly with hobbles, you can teach your horse to ground tie. Once you’ve owned a horse that ground ties, you will want to prepare all your horses to do the same.
A horse that ground ties display a high level of self-control and obedience. You can drop the lead rope, groom your animal, saddle it, walk around and check it for injuries while they stand quietly without restraints.
Hobbles are useful when you have no place to tie your horse.
Leg restraints have been used for thousands of years to prevent horses from running off when riders have no place to tie their horses and are likely the most common reason leg restraints were invented.
There are different types of hobbles.
Up to this point, I’ve only discussed standard hobbles; however, there are various types of leg restrictions. These different leg constraints are used for specific purposes, so be sure to choose the appropriate one for your goal.
Standard hobbles are typically leather straps or ropes that connect the front two legs of a horse together. These leg restraints are the most common and are used for training, or when taking breaks during trail rides.
They come in various styles and materials, not all are leather, some are made of nylon, and others use links of chain to secure horses legs. They also use different securing methods like buckles, knots, and tabs.
Horses can still move around and graze when wearing them, but the animal will not be able to run away from you. Sometimes if the restraints are loose or the horse is very athletic, they can move quite fast in them.
Amazon sells most of the styles; you can click here to see the set that I use and browse their site to check out other types. The Tough-1 style is made with buckles to secure the binds which aren’t the easiest or quickest to put on and take off, but its the kind I’m comfortable using.
Some horse owners prefer restraints with tabs such as the Weaver Leather; these styles are advertised as more straightforward to use than the buckle models. I can’t say because I haven’t tried them, but they do look proficient.
You can also make your hobbles from a lead rope or soft cotton rope. Homemade hobbles work well on horses that are already trained in leg restraints but aren’t suitable for an inexperienced horse.
Scottish hobbles are primarily used by farrier when they have to deal with uncooperative horses. The restraint allows him to trim horses back hooves without getting kicked in the process.
It’s critical to work with the horse and desensitize it before you tie its leg. Horses need to be comfortable with a loop around their lower leg before you start applying pressure.
When a horse is restrained, his rear foot is in the air and held with a rope tied around the horse’s neck. The loop around the neck can be adjusted to allow the horse’s foot to rest on the ground, but never lift it higher than approximately six inches.
To perform a rear-leg hobble, place a 12- to an 18-foot-long rope over the horse’s neck and loop the long end of the rope around the rear-legs’ pastern. Bring the ends of the rope together and tie with a slip knot.
I’ve provided a simplified explanation; if you find it confusing or need a visual, I suggest watching the video above.
Sidelong hobbling is a restraint that binds a horse’s rear leg and a front leg on the same side. It serves the same purposes as the standard front leg models.
Three-way restraints bind a horse’s hind leg to front hobbles. For many horse owners, it’s the preferred method to start a horse. They force a horse to stop and think; these restraints engage a horse’s mind; they learn about pressure and, more specifically, relief/release.
Besides training, three-way restraints are very useful on trail rides. They provide more restrictions, so it’s less likely your horse will outrun you. Amazon sells a nice set; if you want to read what some customers who have used this product have to say, click here.
You can make hobbles.
You can use a lead rope or other soft rope to make your own hobbles. However, I suggest you only use homemade restraints on horses that are already trained and are comfortable wearing them.
Here is a good video showing how to make and use leg restraints from lead ropes:
How to put hobbles on your horse.
The first step to training your horse to wear hobbles is to get accustomed to having something around their legs. Rope their legs and give a tug, or simply have your horse step into a loop and give the rope a steady pull and release pressure when it reacts.
Do this until your horse understands and seems comfortable once you have desensitized it to having a rope on its lower legs, its time to put the restraints on.
Stand to one side, put the hobble cuff on the opposite front leg, secure the buckle, and put the other cuff on the closest front leg. Stand up and out of the way of your horse.
There is a danger your horse could move quickly and fall; you don’t want to be near it if this happens.
Where on the horses legs do you put hobbles?
I typically place standard leg restraints around the horses’ pasterns, between the fetlock joint and the hoof. However, some of my friends secure their hobbles above the fetlock, and I think either is fine, the most important thing is to be consistent.
Hobbles are tools every horseman should have on their ranch. With proper use, they benefit your horse, and you will appreciate the results.
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