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Hobbling and Ground Tying
 By Winniefield Park   •   9th Jan 2019   •   208 views   •   0 comments


Preventing a horse from wandering when there are no fences usually means tying it up somehow. When you think of tying a horse up, you usually picture a horse wearing a halter with a rope snapped to it that is then attached to... something. Ideally, this something is solid that the horse can’t move or hurt itself on. And the rope is attached in a way that if the horse should suddenly pull back, it won’t hurt itself. Usually we use quick release knots or quick release snaps. And of course, what we tie to shouldn’t be too flimsy, such as a lawn chair, trailer with no truck attached or blocked wheels, or anything else that could be turned into a projectile, large or small, if the horse decides it’s time to leave.

But there are other ways to secure horses. Tethering, picketing and ground tying are methods to keep a horse from wandering. But they are likely to cause raised eyebrows depending on where you are when you use them. For some people, this is just everyday stuff. Others will be horrified at the methods used to teach a horse to be tethered, picketed, hobbled or ground tied.

Picketing a horse involves tying a rope between two solid objects like two trees, or a tree and a well anchored horse trailer or a building, and tying the horse to that rope. This allows the horse a little more freedom to move around than tying them as we normally would. More than one horse can be tied to a picket line.

Tethering is tying a horse on a long line. The line lies on the ground and is tied off to something; often a stake made for the purpose. The horse is free to move around as far as the rope will allow. The rope may be tied to a neck collar, halter or around a fetlock.

Ground tying is leaving the horse with the reins dangling on the ground. The horse is taught that when the reins are down, it must not move. Of course, the horse is free to run if it does get frightened, but could certainly hurt itself by stepping on or tangling in the dangling reins.

Hobbling uses a rope, strap or chain that goes around each front fetlock, canon or foreleg in the front or back. The horse may be able to walk in very short steps. This allows the horse to wander to graze a bit, but not go any great distance. The hobbles may or not be attached to a tether line.

Most of us would think that these methods are archaic and rarely used anymore. However, all methods are still used in certain circumstances or parts of the world. All of these methods are most often used by people who use their horses outside the show ring such as those who work cattle, do any sort of trail riding or travel by horseback or horse-drawn vehicle. For example, hobbles are used by those working cattle when the rider must dismount to work and no trees or posts are handy to tie to.

Tethering, picketing, hobbling and ground tying have critics. Recently, police in Spain cracked down on the practice of hobbling, citing it as dangerous and inhumane to horses and donkeys. As we know, any horse, no matter how well trained or how it is secured can panic and injure itself or those around it.

Just like teaching a horse to stand tied, all of these methods require training so they are as effective and safe as possible. And, of course, some people will not want to use any of these methods because they feel it’s unsafe for both horse and handler.

What do you think of securing horses using one of these methods? Have you tried hobbling, picketing, tethering or ground tying?
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