How to Picket Hobble (Stake Out) a Horse or Mule

Picket lines can provide you with a safe, easy way to graze your stock in the backcountry. Our Picket Line Kit is comprised of a steel picket stake with a swivel top, a single neoprene picket hobble and a 30' cotton rope to attach the two. The stake, or picket pin, has a swivel so that as your animal walks around, it doesn't create a mess of coils or unravel the rope. We have found that the TrailMax neoprene hobble is ideal for this usage, as it is lightweight but still strong, and is gentle enough that it will not sore or chafe the leg. Finally, our cotton picket rope is soft and forgiving to avoid rope burns, with just a bit of stretch so that it does not spring back on the horse.The 30' length has proven to be long enough for the horse to avoid tangling itself in loops and coils.

Using a Picket Hobble

  • Attach a single picket hobble on the front leg. Horses and mules learn quickly how to avoid stepping on the rope with their back feet, and are much less likely to injure themselves with a front foot tethered.
  • The picket hobble can be buckled either on the pastern or just above the fetlock on the cannon bone. This really is a personal preference, depending on the length of the pastern and the reaction of the animal. Just make sure that the hobble fits well and does not chafe.
  • Always make sure that the leg is clean before attaching a hobble to avoid sores and chafing.
  • Hobbles should only be tight enough on the leg to keep the hobble from moving. Never tighten the hobble enough that blood flow may be restricted.

Using a Picket Stake and Rope

  • Drive the picket pin straight into the ground at least 2/3 the length of the pin. If driven in at an angle or not deep enough, your animal could pull the pin out. Do not use in ground that does not hold it firm.
  • Do not use less than the provided 30’ length of rope if at all possible.  This longer length will allow the horse to walk out of loops and coils rather than tightening them around the leg.

Train animals at home before heading into the backcountry

  • Ideally, you will begin training to a picket hobble in a small corral or enclosure that is free from debris. Attach the single picket hobble to a front leg and the picket rope to the hobble. Allow him to drag the picket rope without the picket pin attached until he is used to seeing that rope lying on the ground near him.
  • When you attach the picket rope to the stake for the first time, wait a couple of hours past feeding time to ensure your animal is hungry so that he will mainly be interested in eating. Take your horse out to the end of the rope and let him know he is restrained. If your horse is hungry, he should be too focused on eating to have a negative first experience. Do not rush the training; repeat this process until you are sure your animal is comfortable with picketing before heading out.

Always consider safety first

  • When using a horse picket line in the backcountry, for the protection of your stock you should choose an area free from trees, rocks or anything else that could snag the rope or cause injury to the horse.
  • To protect the environment, you should move the picket line often to prevent your stock from overgrazing the area and creating unsightly circles.
  • Never leave animals unattended on a picket line.
  • If you are picketing more than one horse or mule, the ends of the picket ropes should be at least 8 to 10 feet away from one another to avoid problems between animals.
  • Never use more than one picket line and hobble per horse. Multiple restraints may cause severe injury if the animal becomes frightened and cannot break free.

The information given offers basic guidelines only; know your animals and only proceed in a safe manner. Outfitters Supply shall not be liable for an injury or death resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.

When they start taking more than two steps between bites, I know they are full and are ready to be put on the highline.