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hobble breaking & using as a restraint


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#1 Cheri Wolfe

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 05:49 PM

I have been asked before how I hobble train a horse. I was asked again in a current post so I thought I would try to explain what I do. There are several different ways to hobble a horse and many different types of hobbles. They all have their good and bad points.

Please remember, young horse handlers and inexperienced handlers should not try any of these ways or any other way of restraining an un-cooperative horse or try them on a gentle horse without good, responsible help around.

This is kind of like riding a bronc. It is pretty hard to do with the reins in one hand and a book or a print-out of directions from HC in the other hand. Please leave these things to the very experienced horsemen.

Teaching a horse to accept hobbles

I will try to explain how to hobble break a horse and use hobbling as a restraint. This will be brief and will probably miss a lot as an entire book could be written on all of the hows and whys.

There are two kinds of horses that may need to be trained to accept hobbles:

First: The Gentle horse that you can safely handle, can safely kneel around his front and hind feet and that won’t throw a fit as you place hobbles on him.

Second: Broncs, rank and mean horses and those that need to be restrained as a part of re-training. These are horses that are NOT safe to kneel down around their front or hind feet. These are horses where you have to be very concerned about your safety. These horses should not be ‘restrained’ by novice horse handlers and should never be handled unless there are at least two knowledgeable people around. No one should do this when they are alone.

First – hobbling the gentle horse:

I prefer to have a horse tied in a safe place for this first part. I like to start by ‘messing’ with a horse’s legs using a soft cotton rope. I will loop a rope around a horse’s front pastern and pull the leg forward, to the side and out behind the normal standing place for that foot. When the horse allows me to pull his foot any direction without resistance, I move on the other front foot.

I does not usually take very long for most horses to accept you pulling his front feet around with a piece of rope.

To actually hobble the horse, I like them untied and in a soft place in case they go down on their knees. I prefer to have a second person hold the horse. A big sandy round pen or a place with deep grass or any other place free of rocks and really hard rough ground is ideal. If you do not want a horse’s skin chaffed, you can put a light wrap in their front legs or cut the toe out of an old sock and pull it over the horses hoof and put the foot part of the sock on the pastern and top of the sock on the cannon. You can tape the top and bottom of it to the horse’s legs with a couple rounds of Duct Tape. Sometime, I just put Duct Tape on the horse’s pastern and nothing else.

Even when you hobble a gentle horse, I think it is a good idea to have a second horse savvy person around. You never know what kind of predicament a horse can get himself or you in.

There are many kinds of hobbles you can use. There are leather strap hobbles, flat nylon strap hobbles, home made hobbles using cotton or nylon rope (often un-twisted and re-braided so they are softer) and individual ‘picket’ hobbles that you can attach to each other with a piece of rope. The rope is usually tied to one hobble and attached with a bull snap to the other hobble. When feed used to come in 100# burlap sacks, they were the customary material that everybody made their hobbles from. (Does anyone else remember these old burlap hobbles or am I the only one here that is that ancient?)

I prefer the picket hobbles. I have leather ones that are sheepskin lined, but they still will chaff a horse that fights them unless you put a wrap on the horse’s leg. The main reason I like the picket hobbles is because I can start a horse out with the hobbles far enough apart that the horse can take small steps and walk a little. I have found that if I use regular hobbles that tie the front feet very closely together, many horses learn to hop. Once they learn to hop, they will always hop. You can’t run fast enough to catch a horse that has learned to hop with their front feet hobbled together. They can run nearly as fast as a loose horse.

Once the horse has accepted the hobbles and stands quietly in them, you can shorten the space between them until the front legs are only 8 or 10 inches apart. The hobble that I have with a rope and snap attached is just the perfect length to run through the other hobble and snap it back to the first hobble when the horse is ready for close hobbles. These horses are ready to hobble any time you want them hobbled and you can use any type of hobble and not have to worry about protecting their legs.

3-way hobbles:

When the horse has accepted the hobbles, you can add a third picket hobble to a hind pastern. This is also referred to as ‘side-lining’. It should be attached with a rope and a snap to the front hobble on the same side. I prefer having the hind leg stand just forward of where it would be if the horse were standing ‘square’. This lets the last hind foot stand out behind for better balance.

This prevents the horse from hopping, pawing or striking and stops most horses from kicking. A really aggressive horse may still try to kick forward or kick with the free hind leg, but that is really rare. Most gentle horses quickly accept the 3-ways and are immobile while they are on.

Scotch hobble:

This is a method of restraining a horse that brings one hind leg forward and up while the horse stands on the remaining three feet. Now that I don’t train broncs and don’t accept spoiled horses from the public any more, I seldom use a scotch hobble. It is pretty crude, but it is the only way I know of to work safely around really rank and aggressive horses. I have never had a horse get itself crippled using front hobbles or 3-way hobbles. I have had a couple of really rank horses that injured themselves when they had a hind leg tied up. These were horses that had already seriously injured other trainers and I was their last stop on their way to the slaughter plant.

I still have my old scotch rope. It is made from 25 feet of 1 inch cotton rope. I have a big loop braided back that goes over the horse’s head. The rest of the rope has been un-twisted and re-braided in a flat, 3 strand braid. This makes it as soft as I can get it. I still use it to pick up a green horse’s hind feet the first time or two I handle them. Since I am old, arthritic and slow, I use the long rope for my safety, not because it is necessary. I use it to lift the foot but I don’t tie it off. I just use it until the horse stands quietly and willingly and then, I pick up his foot with my hand and drop the rope. After that, I just handle his feet like any other broke horse.

I also use my scotch rope to ‘sack’ out a horse and get it used to having the rope around his hind legs and feet. I pull a horse’s butt around with the rope and I make sure the horse accepts the rope being pulled up between his hind legs. This gets him ready for driving lines and being ground driven.

To actually ‘scotch hobble’ a horse, you put the loop over his head and let it rest near the point of his shoulder. You stand out behind the horse and flop the long rope around his hind feet. You move his hip from side to side until he steps one foot across the rope. Then, you bring the end you are holding around behind his back pastern and pull that hind foot forward and up off of the ground. You put the loose end of the rope through the neck rope and tie it off with the horse’s foot up off of the ground.

A horse can easily step out of a simple scotch rope. I start out with it this way until I see what kind of fit the horse will throw. Then, if I want to keep the hind leg up for a while to get something else done with the horse, I will untie the end of the rope, wind it around the rope going from the neck to the leg several times and then finally tie it again to the neck loop. This makes it more difficult for the horse to kick or step out of the rope.

This keeps an aggressive horse from charging, pawing or striking a handler. There are a few horses that are so spoiled and have become so anti-social that they give you few other ways to handle them.

In order to put 3-way hobbles on a really rank horse, I think you need to ‘scotch’ him first. Then, you can hobble the other three feet in ‘relative’ safety after which you let the scotched foot down.

My feelings now are that they are not worth risking one single person’s safety to re-school. I would no longer try to ‘save’ them all. Nice horses are too cheap to make the outlaws worth the risk and the trouble.

I am sure I skipped over a lot of things too fast. If you have any other questions, I will try to answer them. There are probably many other ways to do it that are just as effective. These are just the ways I have gotten along with very well.

#2 AKPonyGirl

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 05:53 PM

Thanks, Cheri.

#3 MizParker

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:53 AM

I remember burlap hobbles...and I am not ancient, just for the record.

I agree with Cheri, there are some horses just not worth the effort, when there are good horses available.

Where I work as an assistant trainer, we teach most of the horses to hobble. That training has saved several horses that I know of.

We were out trail riding with friends on their property. Some old barbed wire fence got kicked up by the horses in front of me. My horse got the fencing wrapped around his leg, we never even saw it. However, since he had been hobbled before, he never panicked. As soon as he felt the restraint, he stopped, and waited for me to free his legs. Priceless. That incident could have led to a major trainwreck, instead, we had a happy ending.

When we do hobble training, there are always two people around. Basically, I have the same message as Cheri...if you don't already know, you probably shouldn't be doing it. Find someone who is experienced to help you.

Stay safe.

#4 Bayfilly13

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:20 PM

LOL I *have* burlap hobbles in the barn. I'm no older than Miz. For the record, the University of Wisconsin at River Falls teaches the colt training students how to hobble a horse with burlap hobbles.

#5 Smilie

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 12:49 AM

We don't routinely teach all our horses to accept hobbles, although it is probably a good thing, as mentioned in the fence senerio. We also had a horse that was taught to picket with a leg hobble get caught in a fense once, and he also waited to be freed
We used to train all our trail horses to accept hobbles, but soon found them to be quite useless. A horse soon learns to travel with hobbles, using a bounding method, almost as fast as unhobbled.(this is of course with the horse wearing trail hobbles, fastened at the pasterns. I have no experience using hobbles higher up) We have had horse quit camp at night hobbled, crossing rivers, and returning to base camp
Have used breeding hobbles on some rank mares that we got in to hand breed.
We use a single one leg hobble to teach our horses to picket.
Other than that , I prefer to teach my show horses to ground tie and really accept the word 'whoa', for grooming and tacking up
If you are not an expereinced horse person, more harm can be done hobbling a horse than good-as mentioned

#6 JG

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 02:45 PM

The power comes from the hind end , so I hobble the back legs also . I use a cotton rope to hobble them also , and use a three way hobble . They don't travel well that way ,and never learn to travel with hobbles

#7 BlueBayTank

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 12:25 PM

Ditto to the hobbling preventing a major wreck-my mare is hobble broke, and she was used on a trail string this summer. One of the girls left her rope halter dangling from the tie in her stall, and after the trail ride just put her back in the stall, not noticing the dangling halter. She got her leg stuck in it, and just stood there, waiting for someone to "unhobble" her. If a horse is hobble-broke correctly, it can be very useful. I agree though, if you do not know how to hobble break a horse, get an experienced person to do it for you.

#8 Cheri Wolfe

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 05:49 PM

I have been asked before how I hobble train a horse. I was asked again in a current post so I thought I would try to explain what I do. There are several different ways to hobble a horse and many different types of hobbles. They all have their good and bad points.

Please remember, young horse handlers and inexperienced handlers should not try any of these ways or any other way of restraining an un-cooperative horse or try them on a gentle horse without good, responsible help around.

This is kind of like riding a bronc. It is pretty hard to do with the reins in one hand and a book or a print-out of directions from HC in the other hand. Please leave these things to the very experienced horsemen.

Teaching a horse to accept hobbles

I will try to explain how to hobble break a horse and use hobbling as a restraint. This will be brief and will probably miss a lot as an entire book could be written on all of the hows and whys.

There are two kinds of horses that may need to be trained to accept hobbles:

First: The Gentle horse that you can safely handle, can safely kneel around his front and hind feet and that won’t throw a fit as you place hobbles on him.

Second: Broncs, rank and mean horses and those that need to be restrained as a part of re-training. These are horses that are NOT safe to kneel down around their front or hind feet. These are horses where you have to be very concerned about your safety. These horses should not be ‘restrained’ by novice horse handlers and should never be handled unless there are at least two knowledgeable people around. No one should do this when they are alone.

First – hobbling the gentle horse:

I prefer to have a horse tied in a safe place for this first part. I like to start by ‘messing’ with a horse’s legs using a soft cotton rope. I will loop a rope around a horse’s front pastern and pull the leg forward, to the side and out behind the normal standing place for that foot. When the horse allows me to pull his foot any direction without resistance, I move on the other front foot.

I does not usually take very long for most horses to accept you pulling his front feet around with a piece of rope.

To actually hobble the horse, I like them untied and in a soft place in case they go down on their knees. I prefer to have a second person hold the horse. A big sandy round pen or a place with deep grass or any other place free of rocks and really hard rough ground is ideal. If you do not want a horse’s skin chaffed, you can put a light wrap in their front legs or cut the toe out of an old sock and pull it over the horses hoof and put the foot part of the sock on the pastern and top of the sock on the cannon. You can tape the top and bottom of it to the horse’s legs with a couple rounds of Duct Tape. Sometime, I just put Duct Tape on the horse’s pastern and nothing else.

Even when you hobble a gentle horse, I think it is a good idea to have a second horse savvy person around. You never know what kind of predicament a horse can get himself or you in.

There are many kinds of hobbles you can use. There are leather strap hobbles, flat nylon strap hobbles, home made hobbles using cotton or nylon rope (often un-twisted and re-braided so they are softer) and individual ‘picket’ hobbles that you can attach to each other with a piece of rope. The rope is usually tied to one hobble and attached with a bull snap to the other hobble. When feed used to come in 100# burlap sacks, they were the customary material that everybody made their hobbles from. (Does anyone else remember these old burlap hobbles or am I the only one here that is that ancient?)

I prefer the picket hobbles. I have leather ones that are sheepskin lined, but they still will chaff a horse that fights them unless you put a wrap on the horse’s leg. The main reason I like the picket hobbles is because I can start a horse out with the hobbles far enough apart that the horse can take small steps and walk a little. I have found that if I use regular hobbles that tie the front feet very closely together, many horses learn to hop. Once they learn to hop, they will always hop. You can’t run fast enough to catch a horse that has learned to hop with their front feet hobbled together. They can run nearly as fast as a loose horse.

Once the horse has accepted the hobbles and stands quietly in them, you can shorten the space between them until the front legs are only 8 or 10 inches apart. The hobble that I have with a rope and snap attached is just the perfect length to run through the other hobble and snap it back to the first hobble when the horse is ready for close hobbles. These horses are ready to hobble any time you want them hobbled and you can use any type of hobble and not have to worry about protecting their legs.

3-way hobbles:

When the horse has accepted the hobbles, you can add a third picket hobble to a hind pastern. This is also referred to as ‘side-lining’. It should be attached with a rope and a snap to the front hobble on the same side. I prefer having the hind leg stand just forward of where it would be if the horse were standing ‘square’. This lets the last hind foot stand out behind for better balance.

This prevents the horse from hopping, pawing or striking and stops most horses from kicking. A really aggressive horse may still try to kick forward or kick with the free hind leg, but that is really rare. Most gentle horses quickly accept the 3-ways and are immobile while they are on.

Scotch hobble:

This is a method of restraining a horse that brings one hind leg forward and up while the horse stands on the remaining three feet. Now that I don’t train broncs and don’t accept spoiled horses from the public any more, I seldom use a scotch hobble. It is pretty crude, but it is the only way I know of to work safely around really rank and aggressive horses. I have never had a horse get itself crippled using front hobbles or 3-way hobbles. I have had a couple of really rank horses that injured themselves when they had a hind leg tied up. These were horses that had already seriously injured other trainers and I was their last stop on their way to the slaughter plant.

I still have my old scotch rope. It is made from 25 feet of 1 inch cotton rope. I have a big loop braided back that goes over the horse’s head. The rest of the rope has been un-twisted and re-braided in a flat, 3 strand braid. This makes it as soft as I can get it. I still use it to pick up a green horse’s hind feet the first time or two I handle them. Since I am old, arthritic and slow, I use the long rope for my safety, not because it is necessary. I use it to lift the foot but I don’t tie it off. I just use it until the horse stands quietly and willingly and then, I pick up his foot with my hand and drop the rope. After that, I just handle his feet like any other broke horse.

I also use my scotch rope to ‘sack’ out a horse and get it used to having the rope around his hind legs and feet. I pull a horse’s butt around with the rope and I make sure the horse accepts the rope being pulled up between his hind legs. This gets him ready for driving lines and being ground driven.

To actually ‘scotch hobble’ a horse, you put the loop over his head and let it rest near the point of his shoulder. You stand out behind the horse and flop the long rope around his hind feet. You move his hip from side to side until he steps one foot across the rope. Then, you bring the end you are holding around behind his back pastern and pull that hind foot forward and up off of the ground. You put the loose end of the rope through the neck rope and tie it off with the horse’s foot up off of the ground.

A horse can easily step out of a simple scotch rope. I start out with it this way until I see what kind of fit the horse will throw. Then, if I want to keep the hind leg up for a while to get something else done with the horse, I will untie the end of the rope, wind it around the rope going from the neck to the leg several times and then finally tie it again to the neck loop. This makes it more difficult for the horse to kick or step out of the rope.

This keeps an aggressive horse from charging, pawing or striking a handler. There are a few horses that are so spoiled and have become so anti-social that they give you few other ways to handle them.

In order to put 3-way hobbles on a really rank horse, I think you need to ‘scotch’ him first. Then, you can hobble the other three feet in ‘relative’ safety after which you let the scotched foot down.

My feelings now are that they are not worth risking one single person’s safety to re-school. I would no longer try to ‘save’ them all. Nice horses are too cheap to make the outlaws worth the risk and the trouble.

I am sure I skipped over a lot of things too fast. If you have any other questions, I will try to answer them. There are probably many other ways to do it that are just as effective. These are just the ways I have gotten along with very well.

#9 AKPonyGirl

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 05:53 PM

Thanks, Cheri.

#10 MizParker

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:53 AM

I remember burlap hobbles...and I am not ancient, just for the record.

I agree with Cheri, there are some horses just not worth the effort, when there are good horses available.

Where I work as an assistant trainer, we teach most of the horses to hobble. That training has saved several horses that I know of.

We were out trail riding with friends on their property. Some old barbed wire fence got kicked up by the horses in front of me. My horse got the fencing wrapped around his leg, we never even saw it. However, since he had been hobbled before, he never panicked. As soon as he felt the restraint, he stopped, and waited for me to free his legs. Priceless. That incident could have led to a major trainwreck, instead, we had a happy ending.

When we do hobble training, there are always two people around. Basically, I have the same message as Cheri...if you don't already know, you probably shouldn't be doing it. Find someone who is experienced to help you.

Stay safe.

#11 Bayfilly13

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:20 PM

LOL I *have* burlap hobbles in the barn. I'm no older than Miz. For the record, the University of Wisconsin at River Falls teaches the colt training students how to hobble a horse with burlap hobbles.

#12 Smilie

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 12:49 AM

We don't routinely teach all our horses to accept hobbles, although it is probably a good thing, as mentioned in the fence senerio. We also had a horse that was taught to picket with a leg hobble get caught in a fense once, and he also waited to be freed
We used to train all our trail horses to accept hobbles, but soon found them to be quite useless. A horse soon learns to travel with hobbles, using a bounding method, almost as fast as unhobbled.(this is of course with the horse wearing trail hobbles, fastened at the pasterns. I have no experience using hobbles higher up) We have had horse quit camp at night hobbled, crossing rivers, and returning to base camp
Have used breeding hobbles on some rank mares that we got in to hand breed.
We use a single one leg hobble to teach our horses to picket.
Other than that , I prefer to teach my show horses to ground tie and really accept the word 'whoa', for grooming and tacking up
If you are not an expereinced horse person, more harm can be done hobbling a horse than good-as mentioned

#13 JG

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 02:45 PM

The power comes from the hind end , so I hobble the back legs also . I use a cotton rope to hobble them also , and use a three way hobble . They don't travel well that way ,and never learn to travel with hobbles

#14 BlueBayTank

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 12:25 PM

Ditto to the hobbling preventing a major wreck-my mare is hobble broke, and she was used on a trail string this summer. One of the girls left her rope halter dangling from the tie in her stall, and after the trail ride just put her back in the stall, not noticing the dangling halter. She got her leg stuck in it, and just stood there, waiting for someone to "unhobble" her. If a horse is hobble-broke correctly, it can be very useful. I agree though, if you do not know how to hobble break a horse, get an experienced person to do it for you.