Buck Brannaman has a fantastic method for teaching a horse to hobble... here is a link to a book describing it http://tinyurl.com/c9abjxq but unfortunately he glosses over the fantastic part - the "prepared for this by extensive work with ropes around its legs...".
It can be found in his book and video, Groundwork.
This is not just rubbing a horse with a rope on the leg. He actually ropes the horse's feet, restricts the leg until the horse decides to soften to the idea and not fight, and then gets the horse moving stoping and changing direction by using the rope around the foot like a lead line. All four feet. And bear in mind too, the horse has been prepared up to this point with the concept of "seek the correct answer and soften and all is well" and the horse is fluent in round pen and is calm and confident and obedient to direction. So there is a lot of pre-setting up for success that goes into this.
He considers this basic colt starting, which I think is great.
My morgan is an idiot with his legs and loves sticking them places they don't belong. When I first got him he was a panicky idiot so I did the extensive work with ropes around his legs, ultimately leading up to being able to lead him and stop him and turn him from a rope around each leg. Now he's still an idiot, but at least a calm one.
While I have no need to hobble, I will never not do Buck's extensive rope work on the legs thing again, what a handy safe thing to have installed.
If you were to pursue it, my advice would be to read and use Buck's method, and have a very safe place to work because the manure can hit the fan big time with ropes around the feet of loose horses. And bear in mind how much went into building trust and a good rapport before starting with ropes on the feet.
Just because you’re afraid, doesn’t mean you’re in danger. Just because you feel alone, doesn’t mean nobody loves you. Just because you think you might fail, doesn’t mean you will.
Pretty much how Buck does it is how we do... our horses are all good with ropes around their legs and feet anyway but to hobble break we teach them to lead by a foot and give to the pressure. Hobble one leg and lead by that leg, then hobble and with the halter tell the horse to stay. Some folks leave it at that so the horse doesn't travel at all-it can be like ground tying so that while you're fencing or working the horse stays where he's hobbled, or some folks will teach them to take a jump in order to graze and move around.
If you just slap the hobbles on and step back the horse can sure get hurt but then he can also learn that he can run in hobbles. I saw someone once hobble a never-been-hobbled horse when we got to camp way up in the wilderness-just put them on there and stepped back and that horse pulled and pulled a leg and finally took a jump and one jump turned into a high lope and we all watched that horse lope off out of sight down the trail we had arrived on! He got quite a long distance before he stopped and was retrieved-he was in a total lather (they don't always know how to STOP once they start that) and he could never be hobbled again b/c he had learned instantly how to run through them.
Well, I didn't find the reason you want to hobble a horse, beyond owning the hobbles already. So WHERE do you plan to use this hobbled horse and turn it loose?
My reason for hobble training, is to have a horse who STANDS IN PLACE when leg/s is restrained, DOES NOT leave with those hobbles on! This is both tied or not tied.
Not sure if you know this, but a horse wearing a pair of front hobbles CAN TRAVEL as fast as he can canter, should you turn that horse loose!! Other methods of hobbling, sideline, 3-way or 4-way hobbles, will prevent horse leaving as fast but do take a bit more training work with the equine.
I wouldn't use a set of manufactured hobbles on my horses. I don't actually know ANY equines that those kind of hobbles fit well or comfortably. On my broad-chested, square built horses (not blocky muscled types), the hobbles are too short between the legs, forcing equine to stand base narrow in front, uncomfortable to start and getting more so the longer they wear hobbles. Equipment that makes a horse unhappy is not a good tool to use on him, he is more likely to get crabby about it and fight later when he reaches the painful stage.
Having a horse that knows to wait, how to give to pressure on his feet, can save his life if he gets his legs caught in a fence, cattle guard, downed tree, hidden wire, etc.
My TB gelding learned some hobbling skills in his past, and came to me with the bonus of not panicking about getting his foot caught. Great. Not so great, was that he had learned to run with front hobbles. So if I hobble him, I have to use front hobbles and one rear foot hobble, with a rope between them.
I do hobble him at lunchtime if I'm up in the forest, and we're not near the trailer, so he can graze while I have lunch. If we're back at the trailer, he gets a haynet for lunch, tied to the trailer.
He's pretty happy to be hobbled for an hour or two and graze. I wouldn't leave a horse unsupervised, hobbled, for more than two or three hours like some people do. There are packers, trail riders, etc who will hobble a horse overnight but I probably would highline (tie up) one instead for that amount of time. Hobbles can take skin off, and sore a horse, if he gets in a pickle.
And I also recommend Buck's Groundwork video and book, though you may need someone to help you through the hobbling/ropes on feet work if you haven't done it before.
Hobbles are traditional when using reins & romal. With split reins, the horse is taught to groundtie (which I think is a whole lot harder than teaching one to hobble). Some people (who don't understand hobbles or who don't know how/have patience to teach) simply unclip a rein and drop the reins/romal on the ground. That seems to be accepted, but I suspect that most judges these days don't know the vaquero way.
With reins/romal, you leave the reins over the horse's head with the romal over the horn.
So - I taught my (calm, broke) horses to hobble by putting them on in the stall to start with. They had halter & leadrope on; I put the hobbles on, gave a bit of a down-pull on the lead and said "Whoa!" I was in the stall for the first time, then outside the door. Once they were OK with the concept, I moved them out to ring/arena/pen (choose your vocabulary). They can move slowly - sort of hop along - with hobbles on, but I wanted a confined area until I knew they wouldn't panic.
I never trusted them enough to use hobbles out in the wide-open - my purpose was for trail classes.
The BB method discussed above sounds a lot more involved - and important - if you're planning to hobble out on the range.
And one last point - DON'T FORGET TO TAKE THEM OFF!!!! I was doing a trail exhibition at Belmont Horse Fair - it was scripted (by me) and the announcer was excellent. I demonstrated hobbling, then remounted from the off side and was about to lope on out of the ring when Tom (Mannos?) (God bless you, man!!!) asked if I was going to remove the hobbles. Well, it got a bit of a giggle from the crowd of spectators. I about had a heart attack, envisioning what could have resulted.