This year I plan on doing a pack trip through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and will need to graze the horses when we get to the campsite. Usually I just drop the lead line and let him graze but this year I would like the added security of being able to hobble him. Never had a reason to hobble before but would like to start doing it now. Any input on how to train the horse for this would be greatly appreciated.
All the horses will be HiLined at night, hobbling is for grazing only.
Hobbling is not difficult and the horses pick it up very quickly.
The first time that I hobble a horse, I make I can keep him under my control. So I usually leave a lead on him and put the hobbles on. If the horse doesn't move on his own, I will ask him to move a few steps by pulling on the lead rope. Make sure you are clear, as they may stumble and lunge forward as they learn. If they get excited, I have the lead and stop any further movement.
I almost alway intro hobbles when the horse is hungry and standing in an area of lots of grass. So their motivation is to eat, not run off. Once I'm comfortable that the horse knows he is hobbled and is more interested in eating, I remove the lead and let them just graze, They will experment with moving in the hobbles as the search out grass. I am fine with them just hoping around, What I don't want it paniced race across the meadow.
Using just the standard two front legg'd hobbles, You horse can still out run you, But they tire quickly and won't go far. A 3 legged hobble will secure the more adventuresome horses.
The biggest problem with hobbles is rubbing the leg and causing sores. Never use nylon rope for hobbles. I do use the occassional nylon flat belt for hobbles. Get them in the wider widths, 1.5" to 2" wide. Prefer a wide leather strap.
A large soft cotton rope makes a good hobble. Watch fleece and other very soft materials as they collect burs and foxtails etc that can rub inside the hobbles. I prefer the leather because ot doesn't collect burs.
One of the tricks to using hobbles is to keep an eye on the horses. I know that my horses will graze for pretty much 60 minutes. When I hobble and turn out, I look at my watch and give the horses their hour. 40 minutes or so into that hour, I start glancing at my horses, As long as their heads are down and they are focused on eating, I leave them. But when their heads come up and they start looking around I know it's time to collect them and put them back on the high line.
When they are not absolutely focused on eating, One of them is going to get into trouble. They are going to start exploring for new grass, they might decide they want to head back to the truck, etc. I almost always carry a small amount of grain into the back country, When I want to collect them, I rattle the grain and give each horse a handfull. It has become a ritual with my horses and they even come looking for their grain when they are done grazing. There is no chasing them to collect them.
We usually hobble and let the horses graze for an hour in the morning while we cook breakfast and break camp. During our lunch stop and again an hour in the evening. Of course any stops along the trail to check a map or take photos is ok for the horses to grab any grass with in reach.
Well Painted, I took your advice and hobbled my horse today. She did real well. Took her out on the trail to get her a little tired and hungry. Hobbled her on the lawn so she could stay interested in the grass and not freak out. First time anyone around me has hobbled a horse so we all stuck around to watch. No freak outs, and I think she learned a new pilate move :)
She did move around a lot, but kind of kept the front feet in one spot.