Hobbles allow you to graze your stock in the backcountry with a sense of security, either by picketing your horse with a single leg picket hobble and a ground stake, or letting him graze loose with two-leg hobbles. Many packers, trail riders and cowboys keep a set of horse hobbles buckled to their saddle for use in those areas where tying your horse is not an option.
Outfitters Supply™ offers horse hobbles in three materials: nylon with neoprene and leather. Our TrailMax picket hobble and TrailMax two-leg hobbles are made using heavy-duty, lightweight nylon with replaceable neoprene lining. We prefer using these most of the time for a few reasons outside of the mimimal weight and size, although this is helpful for packing. The neoprene lining does not chafe and can be much better for sensitive skinned horses and mules. Also, the neoprene hobble pads do not collect burrs or grass seeds, which could cause irritation and soring on your horse’s thin and sensitive leg skin.
Finally, we also offer a quick-release two-leg hobble made from Biothane™ Beta, a TPU-coated polyester webbing. While not quite as gentle as neoprene, these hobbles are simple to use and very lightweight. We have found Biothane to be a very durable leather replacement; it is tear-resistant and easy to keep clean.
If you have several animals to graze, it is recommended to picket or highline the most dominate animal and hobble the rest to graze. Two-leg horse hobbles are typically enough restraint for most horses and mules to keep them close by. However, if you own an animal that has learned how to “bunny hop” away in two-leg hobbles and doesn't care about sticking with the rest of the stock, you may want to use a picket hobble and stake or keep that animal on a highline.
Regardless of the material you choose for your horse hobbles, you should always check them often for dirt or any other irritants that could cause injury to your horse or mule before putting them on. Like all your tack, you should also check your hobbles for any damage that could weaken their effectiveness or make them dangerous.
Basic training of your horse to hobble is a must!. Before hobbling him in the backcountry, we recommend that you do some training at home with your horse. Hobbles are something that most horses take to quite easily, but there is always the exception. Russ, our company president, has some great tips for you to train your horse to hobbles.
A handy tip from Russ: "I prefer neoprene two-leg hobbles when I graze my stock. After they finish grazing in the evening, I take one hobble off of one leg and buckle it above its mate on the other leg. This saves me time when I turn them out in the morning and I don't misplace the hobbles." This trick works well with neoprene hobbles, but does not work well with heavier and bulkier leather hobbles.
Lastly, many packers and outfitters will often use horse bells with their stock while they are contained in camp. Whether picketed, hobbled or on a highline, a horse bell helps you keep track not only of your animal’s location, but also his contentment level.