I have managed live cover breedings for my own stallions and mares as well as stallions and mares owned by others, and I prefer not to use breeding hobbles if possible. I know that there are some situations where they are necessary.
I have bred 2-6 of my own mares per year (my own with an occasional outside mare) for the past 10 years, and not used hobbles or twitches, and have not had any problems during that time, nor an injured stallion.
There are a few key reasons, IMO--
1. The stallions are well trained, gentle stallions who respect the handler and do not rush or savage the mare, do not bite beyond courting-type nibbles, and are never allowed to be out of control. (What has worked for me is that during training for live cover, or any time during any live covers ever, if the stallion becomes unruly he is put away and the breeding session ends. The stallion quickly get the idea that we both want to get the mare bred, but that if he wants to breed the mare, he will act a certain way or its not going to happen.)
2. The mares are teased often and when possible kept in proximity to the stallion and the breeding activities, so that they see and hear everything, and are familiar with the stallion and the proccess long before they are actually bred.
I have also seen some bad wrecks with mares panicking while in breeding hobbles. It is a mistake IMO for a farm to assume that every mare is "hobble broke"-- when a mare first experiences that type of restraint she can react badly, and sometimes it is delayed reaction. She can easily scramble and fall and become tangled. A stallion can also get a foot or leg through the hobbles and the only thing worse than having one scrambling horse tangled in hobbles is have two horses tangled in them.
That said, I will again say that sometimes the situation warrants restraints. Having experienced breeding personnel (including knowing how to and not being afraid to jump in and immediately release-- or even cut apart, if necessary--the hobbles), and having a well trained stallion and an acclimated and well prepared mare (If it is decided that she will wear hobbles, she has had them on and has been worked with on how they feel BEFORE a stallion ever approaches her) go a long way toward keeping things safe and productive during a live cover breeding using restraints.
Last edited by Eastowest; 07-21-2009 at 09:31 PM.