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Stretching exercises for your horse - Saddles Direct

Stretching exercises for your horse

Have you ever trained at the gym, been out for a run or even had a day of intensive riding and felt that achey muscle feeling for a few days after? We are sure that you will all be familiar with the concept of stretching off after activity for yourself, so why would you not show your horse the same care and attention?

What are the benefits of stretching exercises with your horse?

Carrying out stretching exercises with your horse can help support the maintenance of a comfortable and supple equine. Research suggests that including stretching exercises on a regular basis can help increase flexibility, as well as reduce muscular pain and tension, which in turn can have positive effects in ridden work and reduce the chance of injury. In addition, it is the perfect excuse to spend some quality time with your horse!

What stretches can you do with your horse?

There are a number of stretches that can be beneficial to your horse. However the simplest and easiest to integrate is a Neck Stretch.

Using a treat or hand held lick, you can encourage your horse to stretch to the sides, between his front legs and out in front. The idea with this is for the horse to stay still in his body, yet flex his neck as far as he comfortably can. To stretch your horse to the elbow bring a treat or reward to his side behind his girth area and encourage a gentle flexion to the side. When performing a stretch between the legs try and encourage the stretch to come as low as possible to get a really good stretch along the top of the neck, and when stretching out in front, you may need to enroll the assistance of a helper, or use a stable door or barrier to prevent any tip toeing forwards as you entice your horse in a long and low stretch towards you.

For further information check out this video which shows you how to stretch the neck.

Top tips for doing stretching exercises with your horse

  • Only carry out stretches on warm muscles – so the ideal time is after exercise or when your horse comes in from the field.

  • If your horse has any ongoing physical issues then always consult your therapist or vet before performing any stretches.

  • Plan where you are going to do the stretches carefully – an area where your horse is relaxed and safe is important and good level ground makes things easier.

  • Don’t forget safety when carrying out stretching exercises. Stand close to the horse incase he lashes out and wear protective equipment such as proper equestrian footwear and a hard hat.

  • Gentle and slow is the name of the game here, never force or pull against a horse that is resisting. The idea is to encourage them to stretch carefully within their limits. Building up their flexibility can take time but is something you can monitor and expect to see improve as you include more regular stretching into your routine.

  • Allow 5 – 10 minutes for your horse’s stretch routine. Carry out a selection of exercises around three times each and hold for 5 – 10 seconds.

  • Using something like a hand held lick, or something that cannot be quickly snatched and broken, is ideal for encouraging stretching. Carrots and other small treats can be easy to grab and allow your horse to cheat!

  • Make sure you carry out equal stretches on both sides of the horse to balance.

  • Remember, stretching exercises should be carried out on injury-free equines and if you have any doubts as to how to perform them consult a professional.

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