Hobbles: Who, What, Where, When, Why or Why Not?

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

I had some interesting feedback from a few of our readers with regards to hobbling horses. This leads me to write about the who, what, where, when, why or why not, when it comes to using hobbles. In the previous article, I shared this thought:

Also, I will not recommend, or tell you, EVER, that you should use hobbles on a horse that paws when he’s tied. That’s just me, you do whatever you want with your horse. If your horse paws when he’s tied, that’s a discussion for a different day altogether.

WHO: I will eventually hobble break all the horses I handle. I want them to be good with things around their legs because I’m likely going to rope on all of them. Also, it’s important to have that tool in my kit, in case I have to get off in the middle of the pasture for some reason and there’s no place to tie my horse.

WHAT: The purpose of hobbles, for me anyway, isn’t to keep a troubled horse still. I will do my best to make sure they’re solid, quiet while being tied and confident being by themselves, before I go to hobbling them. That’s why I said that I typically wait until they’ve had 30-60 days of good riding before I start the process. That’s not to say on some I might not start it earlier. But I want to be sure the horse has a good understanding of pressure and release.

The primary reason we wouldn’t use hobbles to keep a horse still is because we’d like him to learn to be still on his own. If he doesn’t arrive there of his own accord, the hobbles are merely a bandaid for an insecure, troubled horse. His mind is busy if his feet are busy.  One might argue that the horse hasn’t spent enough time tied up to learn that being still is the easiest thing to do.  You don’t generally see horses being bothered, out in their natural setting — they prefer to be at peace — so as horsemen, we need to help them find that in any and all circumstances.

This means that we may tie them to a high line — or in our case — Blocker Tie Rings, allowing them to move a half circle. We will leave them tied (once we start teaching them to tie — which is again something we wait until they’ve had at least 30-60 rides, or more to teach) until they arrive at being still of their own volition. Horses that are at ease and comfortable are more inclined to return to stillness once stimulated.

WHERE:  Hobbles are typically used in the pasture in instances where there’s no place safe to tie a horse.  You’re not likely to see a working cowboy use hobbles on a horse that’s tied. In my opinion, that’s also a good way to get your horse in a terrible bind. If he learns to hop with both front feet while tied he could manage to get his feet over his lead rope and that wouldn’t be a good wreck to help him out of, to be sure.



WHEN:  I won’t introduce hobbles to my horse until he’s very solid with having his feet roped, giving to pressure, and understands how to find the release from said pressure.  I use them in the pasture, frequently! It allows my horses to graze when they’d otherwise be tied to a trailer. If I have to get off and do something, or choose to get off and take photos, I can hobble my horse, complete my task and know he’s not going anywhere!

WHY: Hobbling is a great way to continue teaching your horse pressure/release, and it will help them learn to think through situations.  If we can have a horse that thinks, instead of reacts, isn’t he safer? I’d say, yes! However, using hobbles when their mind isn’t still doesn’t help them learn to think, it just bottles up the bother.

WHY NOT:  I don’t want to force my horse to be still. I want to help him learn that regardless of the situation he can be calm and quiet. If he’s buddy sour, I’ll make sure to help him through that situation. What one might try, is to tie him in the barn,  bring horses in, take horses out, leaving him by himself, for a few minutes at a time, so that he learns that it’s not a big deal. He won’t be left on his own forever. I can’t get as much done on a buddy sour horse anyway, so why not address that issue of its own accord?

I hope these tips will help you make the most of your partnership with your horse. As always if you’ve questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Until next time — Happy Trails!


Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

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...

View all posts by Jenn Zeller