02-11-2013, 01:12 PM
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I always condition my horse for hobbles before I actually use them, by teaching them to give to pressure. This is rather easy if they already handle their feet well for trimming and such, and its vital if you don't want an explosion. I usually use a soft cotton rope, loop it, and slide it around my horse's cannon bone or fetlock (or both. Depends on what kind of hobbles you're planning to use). I then use the rope to slowly apply pressure to that spot. Start very very light, and slowly increase pressure until the horse gives, even if its just enough to bend the knee and not pick the leg all the way up. Release slowly, don't drop the hoof. That can be startling and uncomforable. Repeat multiple time. Your horse will soon pick his leg up from the fetlock or cannon as soon as you apply a bit of 'tickle' to the line. Repeat with all four legs. Make sure that the back leg will allow you to pick up and forwards or up and backwards.
Second lesson, leading by the hoof. Loop the rope around fetlock or cannon, and gently pull. The horse should, by now, quickly lift his leg and allow you to place it forwards and down, so that he takes a step. Praise him. Pull forwards again, ask for a step, praise. He should be 'following' his foot with the rest of his legs, effectively allowing you to lead him around the pen by one foot. Do with with both front legs. I don't ever try this with back legs, as it can cause great damage if the horse spooks or trips on the rope if you aren't handling it right.
Step three, attach hobbles. Make sure you do this CORRECTLY, as you could injure him otherwise. I prefer cotton twist hobbles when starting out, but you can't always find them at the tack store. I'd never use vaquero or figure 8 hobbles for the first time, as they have no give and are harder to release. Please don't use a chain unless your horse is well versed in hobbles, and even then know that you're assuming a pretty hefty risk. Cotton twists can vary in how much you allow the horse to move. Start where the horse is able to take a small step with the hobble. Make sure he is in an enclosed area the first few times, with soft ground such as soft packed dirt, sand, or something similar just in case. Put them on for five minutes, take them off. Gradually increase time he wears them. I expect all of our 5+ year olds to wear hobbles as long as I feel the need without doing anything, but would never ask a very young horse for more than an hour or so, just like with tying. You don't want them to get frustrated.
I would watch him most of the time (at least be in the same vicinity so if you hear thrashing you can go check on him) because although I've never had a horse take a fall, most of the members have, and you don't want him to get hurt. If he panics and forgets his lessons in giving to pressure, he may hurt himself. Usually after a fall or two though, they realize whats happening and settle down. Repeat lessons if necessary.
Be warned, some horses are crafty and learn how to walk and even run WITH THE HOBBLES! When I had a little three year old gelding a year or so ago, he somehow learned how to do this skip/jump/hop thing with his front legs and the little bugger was FAST. One second he was placidly grazing by me, the next he's half way down the pasture to find a 'better' grazing spot xD it was halarious, but defeated the purpose. It got to where I really couldnt hobble him anymore because he was so darned fast >.>