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Panic-Free Hobbling Lessons for Your Horse

Clint Surplus prepared Buckshot  for hobbling with lots of ground  work. Buckshot is used to having  his legs and feet handled. Now he's going to learn to accept additional restraints. So far, it's no big deal.

How Will Hobbling Help You?
Hobbling is the act of fastening two of the horse's legs together with a short length of rope, leather, or chain in order to impede forward motion. Hobbles are used by trail riders who want their horses to stay put close to camp and trainers who want their horses to stand still or not struggle against pressure on their legs.

Set Up for Safety and Success!

  • Work on hobble training in a safe space with good footing and no obstacles.
  • Start hobbling lessons when your horse is tired rather than fresh.
  • Take things slowly and include every step for safety and acceptance.
  • Make sure your horse is physically fit, so he's less likely to incur injury.
  • Stay alert and out of harm's way as your horse adapts to the hobbles.
  • Keep a pocket knife handy in case of emergency; use it only if you can do so without endangering yourself.

To the uninitiated, hobble training can seem a little scary. And the truth is, there's a possibility that a horse could get injured if the training process goes wrong. However, in most cases, the benefits of teaching a horse to hobble outweigh the potential hazards-if you approach it correctly.

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"You must decide if you're willing to risk a small chance of injury to your horse in order to greatly reduce possible serious injuries, such as those acquired from getting legs caught in wire," Clint says.

Keeping Your Horse Safe
Clint has some pretty cut-and-dried rules for keeping a horse safe during hobble training. The first is giving the horse enough time to adapt to the process. "I generally like to spend a week or two preparing the horse before introducing hobbles," he says. "I'm looking to help the horse get relaxed with the learning process.

He also wants the horse physically fit, meaning the animal has good muscle tone and strength to minimize the risk of soft-tissue injury. He spends time every day sacking out the horse with ropes, saddle blankets, flags, and feed sacks-anything he can think of to make the horse confident when encountering new objects.

This time spent conditioning and desensitizing the horse also gives Clint insight into how the horse might react-either negatively or positively-when put under pressure.

Once Clint is convinced the horse is ready for hobbling, he selects a safe place with good, soft footing and no obstacles. The horse needs plenty of space to move around without bumping into fences, barrels, or jump standards, or stepping on rocks or sticks.

"When I begin the hobbling process, I want to choose a time when the horse is in a relaxed frame of mind, perhaps at the end of a normal workout," he says.

Due to the possibility of injury, swelling, or soreness, however minor, Clint also recommends not hobbling a horse for the first time right before a horse show, trail ride, or event.

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