How can I use stretching better, to improve the performance and wellbeing of my horse?

Why do athletes and dancers stretch BEFORE AND AFTER their workouts?

  1. It calms the mind, and brings it into a state of readiness to concentrate on the physical tasks it is about the perform by becoming aware of itself.
  2. It increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles, ligaments, tendons and the brain.
  3. It releases feel good hormones that helps to decrease inflammation and increase healing time post training.

We can use all of the above to help bring our equine partners into a state of readiness before training, and most importantly associate the work with a good/pleasant experience after training.  It is also important to help teach the horse how to engage his own core to be able to carry his rider and his own body correctly. All of this minimizes the cumulative micro trauma of long term training and improve the working relationship between horse and rider.  It improves the symmetry of your horse as well, and can serve as a tool to gauge where your horse is compromising and pick up compensatory practices before they become lameness’s.

The basic stretches are: 

  1. Carrot stretches with the head to the left and right of your horse’s flanks or hindquarter
  2. Carrot stretches with his head between his front legs
  3. Front leg stretches (forward and backwards with the shoulder in extension)
  4. Hind leg stretches (forward and backwards with the knee in extension). 

Things to note when you are stretching your horse: 

  1. Does he stretch his head, neck and limbs symmetrically on both sides, or is one side more difficult than the other?
  2. Does he keep his limbs still in a square stance when stretching, or does he move his front or back legs?
  3. Does he prefer to hollow or flex his back when stretching his head and neck to a particular side?
  4. Does he keep the stretch for the same time in comparing one side to the other?

All of those can be used as signs and symptoms that your horse may have a particular leg that he avoids to put weight on, or a specific place along his spine which may be compromised/stiff to the left or right.  This in turn may explain why your horse has problems to do a shoulder in properly to one side or has difficulty doing flying changes or canter to a specific side. The weight bearing leg also gives you an indication of specific problems or weaknesses pertaining to that leg.   

Give us a call to make an appointment so that we can teach you how to stretch your horse correctly for maximum benefit