Hobbles. Most of the traveling clinicians will not discuss hobbling because it brings about strong emotions from those that do not understand the value or concept of hobbling. Hobbling in inexperienced hands can be a disaster for horse and handler, but in the proper hands it is invaluable training. If you have done your homework with ground work for respect and desensitizing your horse’s legs, hobbling will not concern your horse one bit. Hobbling teaches patience and builds the ultimate trust between horse and handler. Think about it for a minute. If you take away your horse’s ability to flee your horse must have 100% respect and trust in you. Hobbling comes in handy if you need to leave your horse. The following is a true story which happened at the barn where I used to board: Two ladies were enjoying the trails during hunting season one winter afternoon. A gunshot spooked one horse and threw his rider. The rider broke her hip and her friend had to go back to the barn immediately to call for help. The spooked horse had to be tied up by his reins. The horse tied by his reins wrapped himself around the tree and pulled back. The reins snapped and he took off. This caused the hurt owner to absolutely panic. She now was in complete emotional and physical distress because she was so worried about her loose horse. The horse was caught hours later running down the highway. If the spooked horse would have been trained to hobble, the second rider could have easily unbuckled one rein and hobbled the horse. The rider who broke her hip was told by the surgeon that she would not ride again. Three months later she was riding and is still riding to this day.
I hobbled Phil in the grass arena. It took him a few minutes to get the hang of the hobbles. He was content to inch along eating grass. I put some pressure on him so he could really give the hobbles a try. This is where the experience comes in. I only put enough pressure on him to make him hop. Too much pressure and you can have a horse with hobble burns or worse a broken leg. Hobbling is taught over many sessions. A good time is when your horse is cooling off.
As you can see I spent 27 days on the ground with Phil before I attempted to ride. I did not have a prescribed amount of days of ground work. I schooled on the ground until I felt I had Phil’s respect and that his balking was under control. I will continue my journal entries on a weekly basis. The ground work will continue along with schooling under saddle. Phil will be educated in the Western, English, and Halter disciplines. He obviously will have talents suited for one discipline over another, however the education of the all around horse is valuable. The one piece of advice I want to give about training is don’t develop tunnel vision.
There is a lot to learn from the other disciplines. Go out and run barrels with your OTTB, chase some cows, try saddle seat, or a side saddle, or a trail obstacle course. You’ll be amazed at how much better he’ll clock around the course or improve his dressage scores. You’ll also become a better rider.
Just have fun!