THEORY & METHOD
Hobbles are a great tool for teaching your horse patience, restraint, and can be a lifesaver. A properly hobble trained horse is far less likely to panic if he ever gets a leg hung up in a fence, over a lead rope, or in his hay net.
Before you just put a pair of hobbles on, it is good practice to prepare your horse. This goes for just about anything you can think of to teach your horse; if you are able to break each lesson down into more fundamental pieces, then there will be less resistance and confusion from your horse.
The preparatory work is easy enough; simple leg tugs. Loop a soft cotton rope around your horse's pastern, move his leg in all different directions. Lead him forward with the leg rope. Move his leg inwards and outwards. Lift the leg and hold it up. See if you can bring the leg backwards. Work with both front legs until the horse readily lifts and moves his foot. Once you've accomplished this, it's pretty safe to move on.
The first time you hobble a horse, make sure you do it in a soft, sandy area. Odds are your horse is going to trip a time or two while figuring out the hobbles. We don't want this to turn into a bad experience by having him whack his knee on hard packed dry lot! Depending on your horse, you may wish to put on some form of leg protection as well.
For hobbles, I use a simple leather hobble lined with felt. With my horse haltered, and a long lead rope attached, I put the hobbles on. Make sure you know how to put them on and are smooth, comfortable, and quick at it. If need be, practice on an older, more experience horse before hand. You want to get the hobbles on, stand up, and get yourself out of harms way. Some horses will try just about anything to be able to move around with their hobbles on. My older gelding developed a unique gait while wearing hobbles, and could cover a lot of ground very quickly. He'd rock back on his haunches, lift both front legs off the ground and bunny hop forward. Getting clipped by one of those hooves would certainly have ruined my day!
Let your horse wear the hobbles for a while; I don't like to encourage the horse to move around, as I feel it defeats the purpose of the hobbles. Keep a hold of the lead rope in case you need to get your horse out of a jam. I keep the hobbles on until the horse stops trying to move around. Once my horse relaxes and stands for a few minutes, I'll take off the hobbles, and call it a day.
Please use caution and common sense. Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength. They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm. Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty. I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time. This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only. No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home. Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life!