- July 6, 2015
- Jenn Zeller
Having a horse that will hobble is one of the handiest things a person could need; especially if you’re in the ranching business. But hobbling isn’t only helpful for keeping your horse close when you’re out of places to tie him up. It teaches him countless other things. It teaches him how to yield to pressure, and might save his legs if he were to get caught in a fence. It teaches them patience. It teaches them to think things through. It makes a big change in your horse if done right.
Now, you wouldn’t just want to go put some hobbles on your horse and leave him to figure out why he can’t move his feet. There’s a couple things you’ll need to have your horse good at before he’s ready. Most all the things you need to have your horse good at, we start when we get them in to put the first rides on them. You begin by roping their feet, which I’ve explained in detail here and here. I believe it’s also helpful if you can isolate a single foot on the end of the lead rope — set it to the side, set it back, set it forward, as this will further help your horse learn to think. Plus, its not much different than attaching a rein to a foot which you’ll want to have working good for you when you go to riding them. Also, I think it’s important to have your horse riding around pretty good before you go to hobble training them. If you’ve been thoughtful on their back in allowing them to search for a release, they’ll relate that to the restraint on their feet, and it’ll go better for you.
Once all of the above are working good for you, you would hobble your horse, but first, you’ll want to use a three way hobble. Placing the hobbles around the fetlocks, NOT the cannon bones, during this stage is important, as it’s safer. A Three-way hobble, is a single hobble that goes on a hind leg, and is connected to the front hobble with an additional lead rope. This will allow your horse to learn to be still, not to hop like a gazelle in hobbles (many of you know exactly what I’m talking about). You’d like them to learn that they can just be still while wearing hobbles. This is a great way to do that. There may be a struggle or three, but eventually they’ll figure out that there’s some pressure there, so they’ll search for the relief/release if you’ve got them properly prepared from roping their feet. You also will want to be close when you hobble your horse the first couple times, because he may need your support as he searches for the answer (which is to be still).
It may take an hour, it may take a few days, but each horse will eventually figure out how to operate with his feet hobbled. Then you can go to a regular hobble and take the three way hobble off. To note: Never walk your horse forward once the hobbles are removed. Always step them sideways.
If you’ve done your homework you’ll have a horse that will stand quietly at a branding or campsite, eats a circle around himself, and waits.
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...