Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hobbles and Show Ring Longevity

I have two interesting questions to cover today and a general plea from myself to you guys. I know I have had some good questions asked that I've missed. I really don't mean to skip you. I have a habit of waiting to answer questions until they fit into the "flow" of the blog. Add my tendency to be extremely spacey and easily side-tracked and it sometimes means I lose track of some real good ideas.
So please, have pity and ask me again. I'll try to store them so I can rely on a check list rather than my feeble short term memory. Thanks.

Whywudyabreedit asked about leg restraints. My personal experience is with hobbles on the front legs. I have worked with trainers who use various other leg restraints and typical me, I asked lots of non-judgemental questions about them and really studied the results. So I have a fairly educated background behind my feelings about them.
I first used hobbles on Mort. I liked the idea of taking him camping and being able to let him graze. I also thought it would be an easy way to let him out of our over-grazed field and to have some of the prairie grass around us without losing him. So I went to Donna's Brokn' Spoke Western Wear and Tack Shop and bought a set of hobbles. Donna showed me how they went on and I went home and got long suffering Mort out.
I stood him in a soft sandy spot, buckled the hobbles on and stood back. Mort tried to take a step, felt the restraint and glared at me. He shuffled forward a few steps before he figured out to hop with his front legs together. That was it. He was hobble broke.
I took him out to the prairie and turned him out in his hobbles. He munched away for half an hour and then took off, front legs together, at about 100 mph. I caught up with him several miles later at his favorite hang-out, the pasture behind the Vista-View Drive In.
So much for my great hobble experiment.
As the years went by and I began to fancy myself a horse trainer, I continued to hobble break my horses. I felt it was part of their basic education. Some were like Mort and calmly sorted it out. Some became frightened and threw themselves a time or two. I learned that the broker the horse, the less fuss I got when I put the hobbles on.
Then I met a trainer who specialized in rope horses. I watched him get his horses used to a rope. He would rope each foot, suspend it by pulling on it and release when the horse gave. Eventually he could rope a foot, pull forward and the horse would walk into the pull to get the release. Since then I have seen this done on the end of a lead rope like the roper used and with the horse moving around a round pen. I haven't tried the round pen method because I can't rope my way out of a paper bag.
I thought that was pretty smart and started doing the same, but with my soft cotton 50 foot rope. I would just loop it around their hooves and legs and get them to give and stretch to the pull of the rope.
I found it was a much easier and safer way to get my horses to learn to pick up their feet.
In the same time period I was watching and learning from Ray Hunt, through reading and clinics. He would restrain a tough horse by having one rider rope a horse's head and then one hind foot. By stretching out the hind foot and only releasing when the horse relaxed into the hold he safely got the horse introduced to his concept of seeking release.
This was the method used by my shoer and I (except we were on the ground) to teach Sonita to quit trying to take his head off every time he shoed her. It worked and no blood was drawn.
Then I had a horse come in for training. This filly had no intention of being ridden, ever. She would react violently every time she thought I might even be contemplating throwing a leg over her back.
I was reading an "old-timers guide to horse training" or some such thing. In it there was a training tip for horses who wouldn't let a rider on. It involved a one leg restraint that buckled around the pastern and tied the foot up to the forearm. The idea was to put the restraint on the horse and lead her around on three legs until she gave. It guaranteed the horse would let you on.
So I tried it.

It worked. Like a charm to tell the truth. I took away the filly's ability to flee. She thought I was going to kill her. She accepted her upcoming death and gave in. I released her leg, got on the horse and successfully rode her. This method was often used by the old "mustangers." They could get a lot of horses started quick this way.

A few years later I saw a young horse in a similar restraint.This time it was attached to a hind leg. A pretty, decently bred black stud colt. The colt who was wearing it also had his head tied around to the leg. So every time he tried to release his head he would pull the leg forward.
I was told the colt was not particularly flexible and was especially stiff in the direction he was being forced to hold.
I saw him tied this way for several hours a day over a two week period.
The young colt went home as a program drop-out a month later. He was extremely well trained, but slightly lame in the back. The owner planned on resting him and hopefully riding him in some local versatility shows.

I also have watched horses hobbled to learn not to paw. I have seen this work to varying degrees.

Here's my take on all of this. Hobbles are about restraint. They are about stopping forward motion.
My entire training program is based on forward motion being a reward. It's why I don't use a one-rein stop. It's why I don't use hobbles as a training device.
I have learned to teach my horses to accept me by giving them the freedom to move. If they are uncomfortable and need to move they can. If they want to rest or be quiet they can do it by standing quiet next to me while I do whatever I feel like. Be it stand in the stirrup, sit on their back, whatever.
They accept me because they have the knowledge, instilled from day one, that if they are uncomfortable they can move off.
Leg restraints force the same issue. It's no longer acceptance of me by choice, it's acceptance of me only because they have lost the ability to flee. There is no building of trust that way. There is only submission. Which to my mind is a scary way to train. I can't trust a horse who doesn't trust me.
I'm fine with the rope around one foot at a time approach. Once again it teaches restraint with a release at the end. A release that encourages forward movement.
I'm OK with hobble breaking a horse. Except I no longer hope it will keep them in the neighborhood.
I still haven't used hobbles to stop my horse from pawing. Ignoring them works pretty well, and is easier.
The filly I started with the leg restraint never became trustworthy under saddle. Rideable, yes, trustworthy, no.
The little black colt? He went home well-trained, but terrified. Once he was home it turned into aggression. He became unpredictable and didn't make it in versatility. Of course it didn't matter because he was permanently lame in the hind by the time he was four.
My overall outlook on leg restraints is it depends on the type and how they're used. I have found that spending more time on strengthening my own training methods was a much better solution for everybody.
I'll have to make this a two parter because for some reason my daughter thinks she should be allowed to do homework today. So, mas manana hombrettes.


  1. mugwump, I was hoping that you'd talk about hobbles. That story about Mort was perfect. I used to work at a pack station, and I learned that truth long ago. Don't count on hobbles to keep a horse around. When I was horse packing for myself in the mountains, I always used a run line, or zip line, to both tie a horse and let him graze. During the daylight, when we were in camp, half the horses were on these lines while their buddy horse was free. At night all horses were on the lines. One trip one of my fellow travelers decided that since he had hobble broke his two horses he would just turn them loose at night hobbled. Now, these horses were bonded to each other, and not to my horses, who were safely on the run lines. I warned him this was a bad idea, but he was determined. You guessed it. In the morning the two hobbled horses were ten miles away. It took the guy all day to find them and catch them. The rest of us were not pleased by the delay. From then on, we didn't allow hobbles as a form of "confinement" on our pack trips.

    And I've done the lead them around by the front leg thing. It helps get them gentle. The one thing I would caution is not to go overboard thinking that once a horse accepts this that he'll never fight it. Some friends of mine went through a period where they wanted to stake their horses out. They accustomed the horses to being led like this, and wrapped them up every which way with long ropes, and then started tying them out on long lines attached to heavy tractor tires so they could eat grass. Well, it worked...until it didn't. Eventually something would happen to set the horse off, and he'd fight the rope that in general he was used to, and skin himself up. I don't recommend this approach.

  2. Well written and well thought out.
    Your comments on forward motion being a reward and why you do not use the one-rein stop has me thinking about my new horse. We are new to each other and working out our relationship, which is coming along well despite the occasional human error. After our last ride, I've been pondering some things I did and coming in the direction you so concisely and clearly explained. Thanks.

  3. Loved this topic! I actually had never used any sort of leg restraint until this last week. I trim hooves on this little Arab mare, and recently she has decided that she's had enough of it, and tried to kick me several times. It got to the point where I would pick up the foot and she would immediately try to kick me, no matter what I did to discourage her. I finally went and lunged her until she was tired, and then we worked with a soft cotton rope around her hind legs. I had a saddle on her, so I would pull her foot up, loop the rope around the saddle horn, and let her kick against it until she gave up and relaxed. Twenty minutes of this finally convinced her that maybe it would be easier to just let me trim her foot. I'm sure I'll be repeating this (she's a stubborn mare), but I was pretty pleased with the process, as it was non violent and didn't scare her into an even more nervous state.

  4. I can add one more "trick" to the leg restraint discussion. When I was in college I worked for a horse trainer who broke a lot of ranch colts, animals who hadn't been handled much when they came in at three years old to be broke. These were foundation bred QHs and some of them were pretty wild. This trainer had us tie up a hind foot on the colts. It was the first thing we did. Bring them in, tie them to a solid wall, and tie up a hind leg. This was done by tieing a long soft cotton rope around the neck with a bowline and then running the rope around the pastern of a hind leg and then up through the loop around the neck. One lifted the hind leg forward and up and then tied the rope off. Needless to say the colts fought pretty hard and it was routine for them to throw themselves down--a lot. I can't recall any that got seriously hurt, but they sure skinned themselves up. All the initial sacking and saddling was done with the hind leg tied up. After the horse was rock solid this way, we took him to the bull pen, sacked him and saddled him there without the leg tied up and got on him. I used this method on a few colts I broke myself in my youth, but rapidly gave it up as just too hard on the horse and really not necessary with the well bred cowhorses I was riding, who were mostly pretty cooperative and not much inclined to be broncos. So, again, I'm not recommending it, just adding it into the discussion as a method I've seen work on some fairly tough horses.

  5. It is too bad that hobbling is becoming a lost art. When done right a horse will not struggle, it isn't about making a horse submissive. They should not be encouraged to move with the hobbles, that can be quite dangerous. Horses can step a back leg over a front leg hobble at the gallop and break their necks, or get themselves into a sticky spot.
    There are still some good trainers out there teaching folks about how to move from a one-leg to a three leg to a two leg hobble.

  6. One thing that I found was very usefull with a hobble broke horse of mine, was the time he slipped while I was eventing him and both front legs got caught in the very solid jump we were about to jump. we were able to move his feet out without dismantiling the jump, however the fact that he was hobble broke resulted in him not panicing when he was unable to simply pull his feet free. the other hosrse that was broken in by the same guy and also was hobble broke managed to take herself for a walk into a junky section when the power was cut to our electric fence - she got caught in wire and didn't fight it - she knew exactly how much give there was, but didn't go past that. She was the absolute stress bunny so it was great that she hadn't cut herself to shreds.

    If/when i get back to riding, I will either hobble break my hrses myself, or make sure it has been done, ithe standard fencing here in NZ is wire, and it can save a lot of stress and vet costs if your horse knows not to fight like a mad thing if it's leg is caught/restricted. I know this will not always work - but I have seen a nuber or horses make the situation worse at one day events by fighting when they have got stuck by the leg in a jump, and it's amazing how horses can get their legs in places the course builder never thought would be possible.

  7. Thanks for the thorough response muggs.

    The anonymous comment is what I am most wondering about. Although I am interested in all thoughts on the subject.

    I have heard that horses who learn how to deal with leg restraint tend to do better than those who don't when it comes to certain sticky situations involving their legs getting caught or stuck.

    So I guess I am interested in those specific benefits, without causing undue harm in other areas. Also which methods might be best for achieving that goal.

    I have done the giving to a rope around each leg thing. I have even done a little of having my youngster trot around the round pen with a cotton rope around the inside hind foot.

    I bought some hobbles (like a year ago), but have yet to put them on. I have seen it done with one end of the hobble to the pastern and the other around the top of the leg near the elbow to keep a front leg held up. Sort of similar to what Liri wrote about.

    I was thinking this may also be useful for working on standing politely for having feet worked on.

    Any comments on these ideas are welcome and appreciated.


  8. A friend of mine went on a trip and talked about the horses that were hobbled could still run from you.

    I used hobbles on a colt once. He never would stand still in the trailer and bounced around and was anxious. He didn't have any trailering problems other than that. No matter how long he was left in the trailer he never stopped pawing and his anxious behaviour.
    Hobbled him. He bounced around in the trailer for 20 minutes and settled. That was that. Never had a problem since.

    I'm in favor of high line tieing. I tie my horses in the barn to an old metal beam type thing in the ceiling that used to be something to do with milking the cows in the 60's. Never had a horse pull back or panic when tied from it and it's very strong. If only more barns had them people would see what I meant about it being the best way to tie a horse.

    Getting my horses used to their legs being lifted by ropes has saved me in a scary tangle up situation more than once. For instance when I was training the same colt that was screwy in the trailer to drive when he was young. A cow got loose from the pasture and randomly darted out of these bushes about five feet in front. Before I even had the thought of what happened he was two front feet into the cow pastures barbed wire. He stood perfectly still wile I cut the wire and un tangled it from his legs. Could have been a useless life for him if he had struggled he had himself wound in it.

  9. Ok, I've got a topic for you mugs: confidence. Its a theme that seems to run through all of your posts. Self confidence and confidence in humans. What builds it and what destroys it. As I said, its appeared in practically all your posts in one way or another, but if you think it merits its own post, I'd love to read it.

  10. Sydney,

    Cool, so you achieved that with just the leg lifting and moving one at a time? Good to know. Had you also hobbled that horse?

  11. More questions...

    In response to todays blog, when you say you back a horse with your legs, what do you mean? My riding (dressage, trail, cow) horse will back of my legs if I put them forward and bump his shoulders. He will respond to this cue bareback with no halter and no rope around the neck. If he is moving and I put my legs forward he will stop. I am assuming that you may have a very different 'leg cue' for backing, and I am wondering what it is.

    You mentioned you do not do a one rein stop. What process do you use to teach your youngsters to stop? I just re-read your warp drive blog from Aug 27. But that horse was not just starting out so I am not sure that you would use the same method for a baby.

    When you talk about turning a horse into the fence without any pull back, are you using a sideways pull with an opening reign? Do you have to get off of the rail a bit to be able to do this? I am just trying to figure out how it works mechanically without risking whacking your hand on the fence. This question refers again to the Aug 27 blog.

    I am almost certain that laying horses down has not come up. I would love to hear your thoughts on that as well. And it may fit in nicely with gillians confidence question.

    Ok I am just procrastinating studying for finals... And since you are starting a list =)

  12. Laura-We had neighbors at my last training facility who regularly put their horses out to graze tied to a big heavy tire. One of the horses freaked one day and took off. The poor thing was torn to shreds by the tire when she was finally caught. I had never seen that particular practice before. I'm glad.
    Natrlhorse-We like details on this blog, if you have a good background with hobbles then share!
    Whywudyabreedit- Most horses I broke to ropes and hobbles would stop when caught in wire. I don't think you can count on the response, but it will help.
    Why and Gillian- I'm writing them all down

  13. Don't count on it. Check!

    I just see is as my job to keep my horses safe, so if I can do some training that will help them find a reasonable response to a tight situation, then it seems worth putting time into it. Not to mention that it could save me as well =)

  14. Maybe this time it will give me my name...
    I too had never thought too much about tying up legs until having seen the mess made form a very well constructed jump and a large pony that didn't like have it's legs handled.. the horse was saved by was never really compeditive again.

    Mugs I was reading some of the old posts, and found the one about lead changes. now the closest I've ever been to a western sadle was seeing one at the saddlers, (man it was pretty), but a trick we have used with horses and ponies that have been difficult to get to onto the correct lead is by riding them short and putting a small jump - about 1ft- on the circle then as the horse is in the air, give very strong aids for the leg you want - as all 4 legs are off the ground the horse seems to get the chance to sort things out on the go. we then get it down to a rail on the ground - then teach flying changes over the rail.
    I have no idea of what you can and can't do in a western saddle, so have no clue if this is possible.

    I do love the way you train - it's the way Mum taught us, and she learnt much of her training from a couple of old irish teamsters and a Bulgarian showjumping coach and her father. I have used the ask once with what you want, policy a few times when "re mouthing" horses. I never liked the starting bit's - sometimes a 3 ring gag sometimes a double reined pelham - what ever was not going to mess up the horses moth any more but would get the horse to listen to me - not lean and give me breaks! It gave me much staisfaction to be able to take a horse that "had no mouth and would never get better" out a few months later in a snaffle, unlike her other riders I never pulled on or hung onto her face.

    We also expected our horses and ponies to stand on a loose rein - my sister had an appendix QH who LOVED cross country - she went into the start box breathing fire and most people thought she'd try to run you down 9she wouldn't but others that behaved like her did), until the day that the rider before her had problems at the first fence and blocked the course... she had gone into the start box, was ready to jump, them my sister was told "you'll have to wait until the course is cleared" she said ok, losened the reins and Rata just sighed and relaxed. my sister went out of the box and walked on aloose rein until she was called back - as soon as the reins went tight and she was asked to collect - she was the fire breathing red head again. The judge and marshall couldn't believe it - they were not used to seeing horses being trained to do that - We thought it was normal as it makes the horses more pleasant to ride, and safer in a competition setting, and they take less out of themselves when waiting around when things go wrong for others.

  15. I have had a 4 year old in training for 6 months now. The most terrified I have been was watching him in hobbles. The plan had been to back him for the first time at the trainers. He wouldn't stand for mounting. The assistant trainer hopped like a bunny to keep up with him, repeating "Whoa" about 100 times, then the trainer said "This isn't working." I had never seen hobbles used, and my horse was not smart about it, rearing, bucking, being very physical in expressing his anger. Actually, he wasn't scared, but was really pissed, his predominant response to training requests. I was terrified he would hurt himself or someone else. The only thing that kept me from "taking my baby home" was the knowledge that this trainer turns out well behaved trustworthy horses. In the end (15 minutes? an eternity?) my horse stood to whoa while being sacked out with a dressage whip, dripping sweat and huffing. The trainer said "That's it for today." He later told me that in 30 years of training horses, 3 have killed themselves in tiedowns or hobbles by flipping and breaking their necks. His point is, its better to have that happen without a human on their back, or trying to get on their back, at that time. My best "gift" of this year was riding my horse in the indoor on Saturday, no lunge line, walk, trot, canter. And yes, he stood like a Breyer for this old one to get on.

  16. I have only ever used breeding hobbles on a mare that would constantly kick at her stall walls if she were bored. No amount of toys or distractions would keep her otherwise occupied - if she felt she had been in the stall long enough and heard humans somewhere, she would start kicking. She developed stress fractures in her back hooves due to the pounding she gave them, and who knows what kind of damage she did to her bones before the barn owner told me about it. She absolutely despised the breeding hobbles at first, but after a few days she was not only better about the hobbles, but also much better about picking up her back feet for the farrier. It seemed the whole hobble experience made her more submissive and accepting of things being done to her hind end and she no longer yanked her hind feet out my hands when I was cleaning or trimming.

    That was two years ago. She doesn't need the hobbles anymore. I have always thought front leg hobbling would be the way to go when we take the horses on overnight camping trips and was going to try it next year, but I'm rethinking that now! Thanks Mort!

  17. I have a little bit of a different approach to hobbles as I mainly work with draft horses in harness:

    I drive carriages downtown in an old southern city. Most horses that we get in break pretty well to the mess and noise of a city. Percherons are great like that. Occasionaly though, we'll get one that thinks bolting is a great idea. To stop this problem, we team the bolter with another seasoned, solid horse. Sometimes the rogue beastie still insists on bolting at the first sign of something scary, despite the other horse not giving it a moments thought. The bolter than takes the carriage, seasoned horse, and both drivers with him. Trust me, big disk brakes on a wagon don't mean much when a one ton horse really wants to go somewhere.

    This is where the hobbles come in. Actually, I should say hobble as we only use one. The bolter is hobbled on the pastern of his inside fore-leg , which in this case would be the leg next to his teammate. We attach a long cotton rope to the hobble, and run it through a pulley that's been attached to the girth (for more leverage). This rope goes up between the two horses into the hands of whoever isn't holding the reins. When the horse tries to bolt, the rope pulls the horse's fore-leg up, the other horse stops like a good boy, and we lock the brakes. When the bolter hits all that weight against him, and gets his foot yanked away, he stops. The horse learns to live in the hobble, and when he can go a full month without bolting, we take it off (sometimes we leave it on without a rope attached so he thinks it's still there). Then eventually we take the teammate away. We have only ever had one horse try to run on three legs and we sent him back to the Amish for it. Thankfully, in the 6 years I've worked there we've only had to do this twice.

    It also helps that our drafts are somewhat used to leg restraints. They are all shod while standing in stocks. They have to have their legs tied up to put their shoes on. Suprisingly they all go in the stocks willingly and don't fight it. Silly ponies.

    I absolutely love this blog. I have a paint stock horse that's living a lie as a dressage pony. He's not always happy about it. He's only 5 and hasn't quite gotten used to the fact that yes, he DOES have to work for a living. I have many questions for you, I'm just taking the time to form them coherently. :)

  18. This topic is fascinating for me. The intersting thing for me is I never broke my horses to hobbles to teach them to deal with being caught up in wire or fencing etc.I did it because that was "the way we did things". So every horse I have trained has been taught to accept the restraint of hobbles and ropes. And every horse I trained to hobbles was calm if they were caught in wire. Including Sonita.I just never put it together. Except for the five I own now.
    I stopped training them to hobbles while working for the Big K.It didn't apply to what we were doing. Working with multiple horses for the same discipline meant becoming stream-lined and economical in what we trained our horses to do.
    I have written more than once on my problems with horses being trained and not broke.
    This has come leaping at me again because of this discussion. Believe me, once the weather goes above -3 I'm getting out my old hobbles.
    So thanks guys. I love getting wake up calls and these discussions.
    The driving hobble fascinates me. What a spectacular idea. I have seen runaway teams before and it's terrifying.

  19. You know, mugwump, I often think how horses respond when they get hung up has more to do with who they are than what kind of training's been done with them. I never hobble broke Gunner, and he was a spooky, flighty horse, yet, as a young horse, he twice managed to get hung up on a fence, in both cases wedging the fence wire between the shoe of his front foot and his hoof. (And no, it wasn't barbed wire, in one case, hogwire, in the other a metal cable.) If he had fought he (and the fence) would probably have been a mess. But this spooky horse held perectly still and waited for me to get him out, and in the first case, with the hog wire, I was all alone, and actually had to leave him attached to the fence by his foot (after talking to him and settling him as well as I could) while I ran to the barn for the wire snippers. He waited patiently for five minutes for me to get back and cut him free. I believe this was because despite his spookiness, and the lack of hobble experience, he was just a trusting horse. But breaking a horse to hobbles does make sense.

  20. I'm becoming a firm believer that the more consistant the handling and the more sensible the relationship between horse and rider the more willing the horse will be to look to the trainer for assistance.
    I'm still getting out those hobbles. I can't wait to see the furious look on my yellow mare's legs.

  21. You know, you've got a point. Maybe I'll hobble break Smoky (our four year old colt)just on general principles. Though, since they are team roping horses, all my horses learn to get tangled up in ropes and are pretty good about it.

  22. I bought an older mare bred mare several years ago. She was pretty pregnant when I bought her and I didn't saddle her or ride her. They said she was broke to ride but a little cinchy. Well... WOW A LITTLE CINCHY WAS AN UNDERSTATEMENT... She would go over backwards when you tried to saddle her. I tried going slow and gentle, I tried being firm and almost mean, I tried everything my little pea brain could think of. When I told the trainer at the barn where I was boarding about this mare he said to bring her in and he would "fix it". Well.... He was absolutely floored by her behavior. He called an old cowboy friend he knew and had him come see this crazy horse. The old cowboy comes and takes my mare into the arena and works her for 30 minutes and has her saddled successfully 10 times with no problem. He did some ground work and then put a soft cotton rope around her front leg and took her leg away from her. She went nuts. But he calmly went on doing it over and over until she became submissive. When she would start to throw a fit about the saddle, he would go back and take her leg. I have never had a problem with her since. It was one of the most interesting things I have ever watched. He never sad a word to her the whole time, he never hurt her, didn't leave a mark on her, never got angry with her, just quiet persistance. She turned out to be a nice mare to ride, she was trained well at one time, I suspect that the saddling had become such and issue that they just started using her as a broodmare.

  23. I have anoter "old cowboys and hobbling" story.

    My first "quality" horse was a fire breathing, throw herself down if she didnot want to do what you told her, spoiled monster. One of her favorite tricks was to bolt toward the barn if given the least bit of leeway. The cowboy that was working with us taught her to ground tie (and ground tie she did for years until we sold her) by tieing her front foot to her bridle by the reins, with her head inches from that foot. As long as she stood there with her head down by her foot, all was good. But if she tried to move, or put her head up, she jerked on the bridle. By this time, I don't remember what kind of bit, or hackamore, we were using at the time. Yes, she threw herself down more times than I could count, but she became a deadlevel ground broke horse.

    No, I wouldn't do that today, just another "old days" story.

  24. "I'm becoming a firm believer that the more consistant the handling and the more sensible the relationship between horse and rider the more willing the horse will be to look to the trainer for assistance."

    I like this Mugwump... I hope it is true! I have a big red chicken at home. He is getting better. 10x better than when I first brought him home.

    I keep hoping with consistancy he will begin looking to me. Dunno if he will always be a big red chicken or if one day he'll figure out that his new "job" is A-OK and he'll mellow out.

    He's a good boy and pleasant to have around. MY confidence wavers sometimes when I begin imagining what "could" happen. grin. I'm probably not supposed to do that huh? :)

  25. Deered said:
    she said ok, losened the reins and Rata just sighed and relaxed. my sister went out of the box and walked on aloose rein until she was called back - as soon as the reins went tight and she was asked to collect - she was the fire breathing red head again.


    I teach all of my animals a relaxation cue. It helps to teach them when to be alert and when to relax so that you aren't using up precious energy before you need it. Often the dogs will curl up and go to sleep when waiting. Shepherds use it frequently when at trials, you will see the dogs that aren't currently entered on a relaxed down, watching the dog on the field. I taught it because I cannot STAND to have yelping-screaming-hysterical dogs.

    Acutally, lots of stallion owners do exactly the same thing. Their cue is usually either a special halter used only for breeding and/or a particular direction when leaving their stall. When the daily halter is used, the studs know it's time to be a horse and when the breeding halter is used they know what that is for too. Helps to make them good citizens as well as safer to handle.

  26. This is cool. The comments are as informative as the post. I like all the examples of how people use hobbles/hobble type situations. Very interesting.

    Thanks again for another great post Mugs.

  27. Yes, this has been very cool. Thank you very much =)

  28. I have been wanting to go camping with my horses and I thought hobbling woud be a great way to confine them. Hmmm, now I'm not so sure.

    How do you set up a zip line?

  29. Whywudyabreedit: When the colt got his legs caught in the wire he hadn't been trailered yet and so we hadn't hobbled him yet. We only worked with him with the ropes. The hobbles came about two or three years after the fence incident.

  30. In a book I have by Pat Smythe, who was a very successful British showjumper in the 1950s, she describes how she 'cured' one of her top show jumper (an ex-racehorse) of an unwillingness to bend by tying one end of a rope to his noseband of his headcollar and the other end to the tail so he had. He was called Prince Hal and did go on to be successful. I did always wonder at the instant fix aspect of it though. Presumably she tried other methods too, I can't remember the entire tale.

  31. Jill- That is a very standard method of getting a horse to flex and submit. Cowboys just call it "tying their head around." Sometimes you tie their head to the tail, others will tie them to a ring on the saddle.
    For the most part you will get better results if you teach them yourself with a pressure/release scenario.
    I have had horses come in who were locked in resistance to the point where I tied them around. It worked, but I still have a tough time reccomending it as a training method. Lots can go wrong.
    I noticed over the years that the harshest methods I ever used always were on horses that came in poorly started and angry. These were the horses my other, gentler methods didn't always work on. It made me try harder not to fall back on the quick fixes, although I knew a bunch and was willing to use them if all else failed.

  32. Hey there Mugs - just spent a little while catching up on all the posts I've missed since my college-induced hiatus. It's good to be back :)

    I've never worked with hobbles, truth be told, but I have always wanted to try it with McKinna. To be honest, the only reason I'm interested is because I feel like it will make her that much safer if she ever gets her legs tangled up in something. She's a smart horse, and I bet it wouldn't take her long to figure out. I just feel like it's one more step to keeping her safe, you know?

    She's already shown me that she's careful about being caught up. One time a year or so ago we had a miscommunication at a fence, an oxer, and she ended up putting down her front legs between the two elements of the fence. She held still perfectly calmly until I asked her to step back, and then she very carefully lifted her legs out. So, I guess I just feel that the hobble training is some extra insurance.

    I'll be waiting for the second part of this post!

  33. Fantatyk Voyager--I always called this set up a run line, but I believe others call it a zip line. What we did (and do) when camping is tie some light rope (clothesline type) snugly between two appropriate tree trunks at about five feet high. By appropriate I mean the trunks are stout and there are few obatacles between them, and hopefully, lots of grass. You then tie your horse's leadline around this rope, using a bowline or other knot that won't slip to make a loop that won't close and will slide up and down the rope. You tie the horse just long enough that he can graze, not so long that he'll get tangled. But yes, they will get their leg over the rope....they have to be at least used to being tangled up a little or it won't work out. You can do this by some of the methods described on this blog. Hobbles, leading them around by the leg...etc. When we used these lines, we would put half the horses on the lines and turn the other half loose, as long as we were in camp and could keep an eye on them. Any horse who had ever run off was not turned loose. Horses are either prone to leaving or they're not, I've found. Some horses can be trusted to stay in camp. But you sometimes find out who can be trusted and who can't the hard way. Anyway, periodically we would move the run lines, when the horses had eaten all the grass they could reach. We would then swap loose horses and tied up horses. At night, all horses were on run lines.

    Some points. When camping with horses it is best to camp in a meadow, or somewhere where there is feed. If you are not going to be able to do this, you have to pack feed, which is prohibitively heavy. If you mean to take enough gear to camp, you should allow one pack horse for every two or three people (depending on how much gear you take). A saddle horse should not be asked to pack his rider's sleeping bag, food...etc. I saw this all the time in the mountains, and I consider it abusive. At the pack station I worked at, the most you were allowed to put in the saddle bags was lunch and a rain slicker (packers also carried a pistol, for obvious reasons.) It is not considered PC to tie horses to trees and let them paw all night--bad for the trees. The run lines or zip lines are a lot more effective at keeping your horse around than hobbles.

    Hope this helps. I have done many many horse packing trips in the Sierra Nevada Mts of California, and am happy to answer any questions I can.

  34. The "...Show Ring Longevity" part of the title makes me think of the practice of using hock hobbles to "train" a horse to have a slow canter.

  35. Hey Laura Crum, were you in the northern part of the state? I ask because the one pack trip I took was with a pack company out of Bishop, so not up north. Just curious. It was a great experience. My friend & I thought it would've been great to get to do it for a living.

  36. Laura, and everyone, thanks for all the info.
    I have gone on 5-6 day backpacks on my own, but bringing a horse along makes it all very much more intimidating, I think.
    That is a good point about having so much extra weight on your saddle horse.

    What about one legged picketing? Would that work as well?

  37. I agree that tying when camping is best when no stalls or paddocks are availible.
    Here in Florida we prefer the high tie between to trees or set post for that purpose.
    Hobbling would be good if there was no one around for miles but the first place my horse would go is to the next camp and bother the other horses or snack on what was availible.

  38. Joy and Fantatyk Voyager, mugwump has suggested that we do another post on the horse packing, so I'll write more on this subject for her to post soon. But, to clarify, I've written briefly in these comments about staking a horse out by one I don't recommend this. Everyone I knw who tried it eventually had a wreck, no matter how broke the horse appeared to be to this form of restraint. The run line or zip line between two trees, with the horses free to move along the line is the best form of restraint. And, as I said, we often tied up some of the horses and left some loose to graze (more on this subject later).
    And I do truly believe that these riders who put their camping gear on the back of their saddle horse are asking to cripple the horse (and I've known horses--not owned by me or my friends--who were crippled that way). If you want to go horse camping, you need at least two horses, one to ride and one to pack the gear on. The easiest way to do this, if you don't have much experience, is to buy "saddle paniers" that are meant to hang on any western saddle. You can't put as much in these as you can in a real pack rig, but they're easy to use. You just hang them off a saddle and you're ready to go.

  39. On the trip my friend & I took, the packing company used a string of mules for the packing. They were amazing. I've never seen such orderly critters. And heaven help the trail horse who tried to pass them. YOU STAY IN LINE! It was awesome. We brought our own horses and it only took a couple of "hee-haws" before they were over the mules. There were corrals by where we stayed, so the equines were put in there, so no zip lines. I'd like to see that though.

    My trainer did take my horse to a 3-day 'event' and he was long-tied to my trainer's trailer. My trainer was very nervous though, because he was afraid something would happen to my horse, so he basically slept with one eye open, in the trailer tack room, and a knife in his hand in case he had to cut the lead rope.

    My horse figured out the rope really quickly and slept in his usual curled-up-like-a-dog style. No tangles. So all was well. I'm sure he could do a zip-line no problem. (However he would be the type of horse to take off, so he would not be able to free-graze I'm thinking)

  40. Hey Laura,

    When addressing the whole horse packing thing, would you speak to high lining?

    My understanding of this is that horses are tied along the same line, in static positions along that line.

    I think that this is more for horse camping (as in car camping with your horse) as opposed to packing. So in this case each horse could have their own pile of hay.

    I know several people who swear by this, but I have no personal experience with it. I would think you would need some really strong nylon webbing for the high line in lieu of the light clothes line that you used for setting up a "run."

    Anyway I would appreciate it if you would share your ideas/experiences with high-lining as a restraint.


  41. Whywouldya--here's what we did/do. We used stout but light rope--I guess you could call it nylon clothesline--it wasn't very thick in diameter, or very heavy, but it was plenty strong. We needed to bring a fair amount, so it had to pack little and light. We tied this rope between trees, as I've described before. Each horse would have his own "section", so he wouldn't get tangled with another horse. The "run line" was tied roughly five feet from the ground. The horses were tied as I described before, such that their leadropes would slide up and down their section of run line and they could graze. Yes, they would occasionally get a leg over the lead rope, though we tried to tie them just long enough to eat, and not long enough to get tangled. (By the way, we brought long leadropes when we packed into the mountains.) A horse needs to be able to deal with some degree of being tangled up in the rope without panicking in order to use this method. We checked them regularly and untangled them if they got tangled up. When all the grass on a "run" was eaten, we restrung the line somewhere else. On our trips we were many miles into the mountains; we did not pack feed (too heavy). We always camped in meadows where there was plenty for the horses to eat. And we routinely turned half our horses loose to eat while the other half were on the run lines. Does this answer your question?

  42. Laura,

    Oh geeze sorry if I was not clear. That description (one line per horse where the horse has freedom to walk end to end) was clear to me, and I like the idea better than high-lining several horses in static (unmoving) positions along the same line. But I have heard a few people talk about using this other method, and I was wondering if you had any experience or stories that would allow you to speak to having several horses tied along the same line. If not no worries, just curious as I have no personal experience with this.

    Thanks tho! =)