Hobbling a horse is a very useful training technique. When used properly it can help produce a quieter horse that stands easily and calmly when you want him to do so. However, you do want to be sure your horse can do two things before you try to use this method. First, you want to be sure your horse knows how to yield to pressure. Hobbling limits the movement of the front legs and you want your horse to recognize this limitation and accept it rather than fight against it. Second, you want to be sure your horse is comfortable with the motion of disengaging his hind end from his front. Again, you do not want your horse to strongly or violently resist the limitation of the hobble. If that happens, you need to apply further training without the hobble. I also highly recommend only using this technique with the help of someone who has done it before and who knows what she is doing. This will minimize the possibility of injury to you or your horse. Here are several more tips for successful hobble training.
1. Once the hobble is applied, ask your horse to move his hind end while basically pivoting on his front legs. Make the motion as small as possible at first. Your horse will want to reposition his front legs as he swings around, but he will sense the limit of the hobble and he will have to move his front legs in smaller steps than he would without the hobble. You want your horse to become comfortable with these small steps. Your horse will begin to understand that even with the limit of the hobble, he can still move his hind end in a normal way and he will feel less trapped. It will also show your horse that he can indeed move around fairly well with hobbles, although not in his normal way of walking.
2. I personally prefer the motion I just described as the only motion for my horse when hobbled. Just have your horse shift his hind end slightly to the right. You can continue in the same direction perhaps for a quarter turn or so. Then be sure to stop that motion and then have your horse shift to the left. Introduce slight variations as your horse becomes more comfortable with the limit of the hobble.
2. Be sure to position yourself to the side of your horse. You don’t want to be in front of your horse where he could try to strike you with both front feet. Not only could you be injured, but, after several attempts to hit you, your horse will quickly learn the behavior mentioned in the next tip!
3. Do not let your horse learn that he can hop on his front legs even though in hobbles. Anytime my horse attempts forward motion, I bump with my lead rope to discourage the behavior. Near the 00:00:32 mark of this video, you can see where I had to discourage his attempt at moving his front feet.
4. Do not spend more than 5/10 minutes with your first attempt at hobble training. Quit when your horse finds the correct answer.
In this video you see a horse that did extremely well for his first time in hobbles. Remember, the whole point of this technique is to teach your horse to stand quietly. Applying this behavior will reduce or eliminate the possibility of injury to your horse or your property in many common situations such as trailering. (Don’t hobble in the trailer) It’s also a great tool for discouraging certain specific behaviors such as pawing.