Focus on Fitness February: Equine Stretching

After exercise is the best time to do some good stretches for both horse and rider.  The muscles are still warm and elastic so stretching is a lot more effective during this time.

These are a few of my favorite stretches to do with the equine kids.  There are a lot of videos embedded because seeing them performed is MUCH easier than reading about them.  Hope you enjoy!


The first stretch I find incredibly useful is the belly lift.  The belly lift encourages the horse to use it’s abdominal muscles and engage its topline.



While I’m focusing on the topline I often alternate between the belly lift and the pelvic tuck.  I will ask for a lift then a tuck, and back to lift.  I often struggled to keep a nice topline on Blade and he also had a lot of soreness through his back so we became very familiar with these two stretches the most.


I also like to help my horses stretch their limbs.  Tiger is still getting used to the concept and hasn’t yet decided to trust me guiding his legs.  With consistency he will reap the benefits.



I follow the hind leg stretching with some forelimb extensions.  The extensions really help to stretch out the shoulder and lengthen the muscles allowing for enhanced range of motion.  When I did these with Blade he often stretched into it and sometimes let a relaxing groan escape!



The next two stretches demonstrated in the following video are the side stretch and a bow-type stretch.


The final stretches that I love doing with the horses has to be done very carefully.  I don’t have a video of them but they involve the tail.  The spine runs the length of the horse.  From the poll to the tip of the tail this stretch will help lengthen and decompress.

The tail pull: I grab a good chunk of the tail; slowly and gently I lean back.  The important thing to note is that I keep the angle of the tension in line with the angle of the hips.  I aim to create a straight line from the croup to the tip of the tail.

I have found that most horses love this stretch.  As I lean back the horse leans forward to get a deeper stretch.  When I release they lick and chew and appreciate the movement.

Finally I finish up with tail circles.  Igrab the tail about 6″ from the dock.  Slowly and gently I rotate the tail clockwise, 5-10 circles.  I change directions and rotate counter clockwise another 5-10 times.

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Stretching benefits our horses in the same ways that it helps us.  It works to maintain soft muscles and relieve tension.  It helps to increase flexibility and range of motion.   Horses are athletes and we owe it to them to help them maintain their health and comfort.

 

Happy stretching!

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