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Clicker Training

Training Horses To Hobble

I am writing this because I have seen many wrecks with people just putting hobbles on their horse and letting them fight it out. I teach all of my horses to hobble so if they get hung in a fence or in something on the trail they will stop and wait for me to get them untangled. I have avoided lots of wrecks and injured horses by training horses to hobble.

This is my method. It is very easy to do with no trauma to the horse. It is not the only method but it has worked well for me over the years. Adding in the clicker has made it go faster and easier. I do not start this until the horse is pretty confident in me and not afraid I am going to hurt him.

The only equipment needed is a soft cotton rope 8 to 10 feet long. I usually do this with the horse loose in a corral so I have less rope to get tangled up in. Start by getting the horse used to the rope by having him target on it. Then start touching and rubbing his body and legs with the rope. Start at a spot he is okay with and click and reward generously when he keeps his feet still. If he is frightened at any point back up a few steps to where he is comfortable. Rub his entire body with the rope coiled so it is small and very gradually make it bigger until you are flopping the loose ends of the rope around his entire body and legs and he is standing still and happy. Remember to reward often when his feet are still and he is relaxed.

When the horse is comfortable with the rope everywhere loop it around a pastern and flop it around a bit. Do not tie it. When he is comfortable with that put a small amount of pressure on the rope. When he even thinks about picking up a foot, click and reward. Work gently in small steps until you can pick up his leg and control it with the rope. Move it up, forward, backward and sideways. Remember to reward generously for standing still and letting you move his leg around. Your farrier will thank you for this also as it will make the horse much more relaxed at shoeing time.

Repeat with the other three legs. When you can control all four legs completely with the rope and the horse is happy and relaxed he will stand quietly when you hobble him. Spend some time with him hobbled clicking and rewarding him for standing still so he understands that is what he should do with hobbles on. If you don't have hobbles you can use your cotton rope. Loop it around the leg, twist it three times, loop around the other leg and tie a knot you can jerk loose. Hobbles that are sheepskin lined are nice for preventing burns. In memory of my friend Lee Shanle who just passed on to a better world. We will miss him greatly.

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© 2001 Karen Parker