How to Hobble a Horse

Knowing how to hobble a horse would have been an essential frontier skill.

 One thing that stands out when you study the lives of frontiersmen was their dependence on animals. Whether it was dependence as a hunter or trapper for food and furs, or as a laborer to do the heavy lifting around the homestead, pioneers needed animals. They were just simply fundamental to everyday life. In our modern world, most of us live completely opposite of this. We hop in car, rather than saddle our horse. We go to the refrigerator, rather than milk the cow. We go to the grocery store, rather than harvest our food ourselves. While our way of life is certainly easier, it has changed our relationship with animals tremendously.

 In the past, people would have been very comfortable around animals. One animal in particular that was a necessity on the American frontier was the horse. Horses were widely used for a variety of reasons. Not only were they strong, and could pull a wagon or a plow, but they were fast as well, which had numerous advantages. As a result, most people on the frontier owned a horse or mule, and everyone was familiar with them. Nearly everyone could saddle them, harness then, ride them, and drive them. One thing almost everyone would have also been familiar with, was how to hobble a horse.

 Hobbling a horse is simply binding two feet together in order to restrict its movement. As long as this is done correctly, it doesn’t hurt the horse at all, and can slow their travel down. Most people would generally hobble their horses at night when they were done traveling. This allowed the horse to graze, but limited the distance they could travel. In reality, once a horse is accustomed to hobbles, they can still travel with little trouble. However, they do help the prevent wandering through the night.

 If you are reading History of the West with Jemmey Fletcher; Ride to Rendezvous , and want to get a better idea of what is happening in the book, you can check out this video demonstrating how to hobble a horse.

 As you can tell, learning how to hobble a horse is very easy. There are also other ways to limit a horse’s movement including sidelining, picketing, and high lining. Mountain men would have used all of these methods, and all have their own advantages. Hobbling a horse is the fastest, and easiest way to limit your horse’s movement, and requires the least amount of gear. 

 Hopefully, now as you read books on the American frontier you’ll have a better sense of their daily routines. Unlike us, they couldn’t simply get home, shut the car off, and go warm up something in a microwave. After they traveled, they still had to deal with their horses, and most people took care of their animals first. After all, a man on the frontier without a horse didn’t stand much of a chance.

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