For Christmas I had received a gift of a set of hobbles. It was one of the things on my list, and I was very happy to get them.
Living on a 100++ year old farm like we do, you really never know for sure where there might be old fence wire half buried underground, or where a stray strand of barbed cattle wire may have long ago been knocked off the fence by a fallen tree, then left to be slowly buried by the tree as it decomposed. You never know. I mean, I know today we do the best we can to keep things neat and put up, but every now and then we find old buried junk, and what's to say there wouldn't be wire buried somewhere, as well?
So, I have been wanting to hobble-train Arabee, so that if she ever does find herself entangled in something, she will know not to fight it, just relax and wait for help. I would hate to have ignored this relatively easy task and have it haunt me later. It was also VERY WINDY today, and I am also pretty sore and tired from the ride we did yesterday, so I decided to take the day off from riding and work on the hobbles.
For several weeks now I have been working with her in her stall with a thick cotton lead rope around one leg at time, pulling on it, moving it, picking it up; basically teaching her it was okay to have that feeling on her legs. Eventually I wrapped the rope around one leg, then loosely around the other, "hobbling" her with the rope, but it would have easily come undone if she panicked. No big deal.
Today I took her out where I normally groom and tack up, in a familiar place, and tested her first with the cotton rope, then when she was ho-hum (right away, basically) with that, I strapped the hobbles on.
I put them on the cannon bone, just above her fetlock. I've seen them put there, and on the pastern, but this spot seems sturdier, plus less likely to get muddy, so I strapped them there. I left her halter and lead rope on, and since she basically stands like a statue when I'm grooming her anyway (she ground ties VERY well) she didn't test the hobbles.
So I decided to test her. I gave her a dose of wormer (and Jack too, March 1st), which she typically doesn't enjoy, but tolerates after practicing her best giraffe impression, and dancing a bit. This time, she DIDN'T move a bit. Yeah!
Then I unbuckled one of the hobbles, and led her to the grass, and rebuckled them. You can see a picture here:
She didn't bother the hobbles much, just stretched her neck to get as much as possible. So I hopped the fence and wormed Jack (he hates it too, but being so old he doesn't put up a big fuss, especially if I keep him from seeing it!) which he backed up after I gave it to him and moved out of Arabee's sight. This she didn't like, and came bounding about. I said, Whoa! and she stopped, and didn't move her feet a bit after that, but kept grazing.
So I tested her some more. I found a piece of plastic, about 6"x12" - noisy enough to be startling, small enough to not be overwhelming. I sacked her out with this, which she picked up her feet, but didn't move beyond the constraint of the hobbles.
I will consider this a success. She needs more practice, but I think a great start. I also want to do this same training with the hobbles on her rear legs, but we'll keep the hobble sessions short and sweet.
I pray she never, ever has a run in with wire here or anywhere else, but if she does, I hope the hobble training will prevent a big wreck.