Hobbling: Should I? How? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Hobbling: Should I? How?

My mare has had several episodes in the past year involving her panicing when her feet were restrained. She got caught her back leg caught in some vines on the trail... She got hung in an unattended halter and lead rope... Both times scared me badly, especially the halter and lead rope incident. I thought she was going to seriously injure herself.

So I've been throwing about hobble training. I know nothing about this (but am researching as we speak), but maybe this would slowly allow her to get use to having her feet restrained and she would no longer freak out when caught in vines, etc. I find it somewhat nerve racking to ride a trail horse who is afraid of vines.

Is it dangerous to teach? My horse's freak outs when faced with foot restraint involve a lot of thrashing... I don't think she would flip out badly if I did this step-by-step and slowly, but you can never know what a horse will do... How did your horses react when you fully hobbled them for the first time?

Also, can you hobble back legs as well? I've never heard of anyone doing that. I would rather get all four legs vine-worthly...

What sort of hobbles should I use? I asked a friend, and he said you could just use thick cotton rope to introduce them.
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 09:24 PM
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No, I wouldn't personally address this prob with hobbles & I think yes, it can indeed be very dangerous if the horse isn't desensitised to wearing them.

I would first get her comfortable & confident with things(sticks, ropes, etc) just touching her legs. I think desensitisation is best done in a gradual, non-confrontational way. Try to do it gradually enough that you don't send her over the proverbial cliff. Once she's fine about that, looping ropes around her legs, so she's effectively 'caught' and there is pressure if she tries to move away, but it's loose when she is relaxed. I would use a long rope & have her in a small pen, to cut down the likelihood of unintended pressure & out of control panicking horse damage. Then you can progress to actively teaching her to yield to pressure & lead her by a leg... or more if you're really co-ordinated!
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 10:16 PM
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Hobble training is an invaluable lesson for any horse to learn - provided you send the horse to someone that knows what they are doing - please don't do it yourself.
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 11:07 PM
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I tried teaching Lacey how to hobble....didn't go too well. haha

I did teach her to lead by her feet though, in preparation for hobbling but now it's just a cool thing she does.

Basically, I'd first work on desensitizing your girl to her legs being touched by things, etc.
Then, what I did with Lacey (she's GREAT with her legs/feet though), I would run a soft lead rope around her front leg and kinda run the lead rope up and down her leg. Once she was good with that, I started leaving the rope down behind her pastern or knee (knee was easier for her to figure out at first, I progressed to doing this with every section of her leg once she was good with the "easy" joints) and I would put a little pressure on it. As soon as she made any move forward, I let up on the pressure. She never freaked out but if she had, I could just drop one end of the lead rope to "free" her.

Once she was totally cool with that, I used a mini horse lead rope with a tiny clip on it and I clipped the lead rope into a loop that I looped around her pastern and tightened up. I guess this way was sort of practice for if she every got her leg fully wrapped in something bad... We repeated the same "a little pressure=forward" thing and she figured it out quickly.
She's so good at it that now I really could just loop that lead rope around her leg and take her somewhere, no halter necessary. Of course, that could be dangerous so i don't, but I could.

I tried to hobble her once she was pro at the leg thing but she would fight the hobbles scary hard. She would be find just standing in them but FREAK OUT if she tried to move. After having her freak out (rearing repeatedly, nearly falling, getting really really scared, etc) twice, I just gave up on the whole idea. Her physical and mental health is more important to me than her ability to be hobbled.

She's shown me (through the lunge line, inadvertently and unexpectedly, getting tangled around her feet, etc) that she knows to stop, stand, and move into pressure around her feet so I figure that all the work I out into teaching her lead by her feet worked enough to be important. Maybe she just has a mental hang up about being hobbled, I don't know.

Anyway, try teaching your girl to lead by her feet and then try hobbling, but really don't try hobbling. It's pretty scary and I dunno, I'm put off it now! haha
If you really want to get her hobbled happily, have a trainer do it. It's not worth you getting hurt/her getting hurt/etc.
Of course, she's not Miss "I'm gonna throw a fit about the strangest things!" Lacey, so she might be totally fine with it once her feet are all desensitized.

I think desensitizing her to things around her feet and teaching her to give to pressure on her legs/feet will be the first step in any case.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 02-23-2012 at 11:11 PM.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 11:32 PM
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I have a cool story that doesnt have much to do with this but my Mustang Grady is very desinsitized around his feet. This one time our cows trampled a part of the fence and got out I ran for the barn and grab a grain bucket. Well I forgot that Grady was in that part of the propert and he must have follow the noise of the grain bucket to the smashed fence where I jumped over to track down the cows Because an hour and a half later (caugth the cows and took them through the front gate) when I went back to fix the fence Grady was standing there his front feet caught in the wire squares I was shocked and Scared. But he just looked back at me and nicker at me as to say hey! where did that grain go? I felt awful but he was perfectly fine, it took me some time to get him out, his feet where through about three squars each. But thank God no stratches or anything and who knows how long he had been standing there for.

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post #6 of 11 Old 02-23-2012, 11:39 PM
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I agree with Kayty. Your horse would benefit from this training. It teaches the horse that things around their legs are not things to freak out about, and look to you for help on the trail instead of freaking out and trying to break out and injure themselves. It teaches them patience, too! However, having an experienced trainer help you with this would be best. If you're not sure how to go about this training, undertaking it yourself could be dangerous. I'm not saying you're not capable, but for the first few times, definitelys have someone else teach you and your horse.

Loosie also has an excellent point. Lay the groundwork for hobble training by desensitizing work on the ground. As you go through those exercises, your horses trust in you will grow and your confidence will too - which will help you both out on the trail.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-24-2012, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the replies!

I can certainly desensitize her feet and legs! Sounds safe and stress free.

If it's unsafe to do so myself, I have a friend who has hobble trained her horses and can probably help me out. I'll give her a call and see when she'll be in town.

I'll start running the rope over her legs next line I'm out at the farm. Hopefully all will go well with miss mare's footsie issues.
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-24-2012, 12:52 AM
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I didn't mean that hobbling was a good idea for this situation if you followed my suggestions first, but if you're going to hobble train for other reasons, I would do those steps first & agree that if you aren't sure of how to go about it all safely, get someone that does to do it. Same goes with just the desensitising too though, as getting timing wrong & inadvertently causing panic &/or reinforcing the wrong behaviour can make matters much worse.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-24-2012, 01:04 AM
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I'll tell you how I hobble train most of the horses I get. First I ride them good and hard then I unsaddle them and put the hobbles on and then I leave them alone. I try to make sure they have plenty of room and on good ground so they won't hurt themselves if they fall but they rarely do. If they aren't rushed to do anything then they figure it out a little at a time on their own and there's not any huge blow up. Sometimes they get a little scared but they work it out just fine.
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-24-2012, 02:57 AM
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I hobble break all my horses and it has saved a few of them. Had one get caught up in a downed wire and she just stood there until somebody could come get her out. She was used to having her feet restrained so she didnt flip out and get all cut up. Also had similar situations with some of my other horses. I wouldn't however recommend training this yourself unless you know how to do it. I would have somebody who knows what they are doing come out to help you.
As for hobbling the back feet.. you can get 3 legged hobbles that go on the fronts and 1 back but I have never heard of hobbling the hinds together. Not saying it can't be done but I have never seen it.
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