Stretching and how to do it safely for you and your horse…

It doesnt matter whether you ride competitively or just a happy hacker, it is a good idea to stretch your horses muscles.  The benefits of stretching, amongst others, include improving the horses range of motion, reducing stifness and helping the muscles to move freeer.

Stretching is not necessarily always good for your horse as there are disadvantages if they are not done properly.  It therefore depends on how it’s done, when, and how often.

Here is some suggestions on how to keep your horse safe and how they can be effective:

  1. Do not stretch one side of the body.  By doing this it may create an imbalance over time.
  2. Apply stretches slowly.  Do not overstretch the area.  It is better to apply a smaller stretch on a regular basis rather then rushing it and causing an injury.
  3. When stretching the horses leg, gently move the limb around before applying.  This will help the muscles relax and reduce tension.
  4. Do not hold stretches for more than 10 seconds.  Rather than prolonging the stretch do it little and often so try stretching the area 3 times for 10 seconds each with a rest each time.
  5. Do not stretch the legs when they are cold as this causes the cell receptosrs to desensitise.  Use either massage or exercise to warm the muscles and tendons before doing stretches. This will reduce the chances of causing a strained muscle.

Stretches for box rest horses

The body consists of cells and within these cells live receptors that recognise training and as a result get stronger with exercise.  When a horse is on box rest there is no movement or stimulation in the muscles or the cells and therefore the structure gets weak.

It is therefore a good idea to perform stretches on horses who are on box rest however they need to be stretches that mobilise the joint such as lateral flexion of the mid neck either side of the body and encouraging the horse to take his head down and then back between their legs.  Backing up (in hand) can also lift and flex the back and stimulate the sacroiliac area.

When to stretch?

Recent studies showed that horses that were warmed up for 10 minutes on a horsewalker and then stretched 6 days a week for an 8 week period showed no improvement in their performance and if anything it was in fact detrimental to their way of going.   Stretching is therefore not needed on a regular basis to have a positive effect.  It can be done after exercise 1-2 times a week.

Please provide me with your thoughts on stretching, whether anyone uses it regularly and whether you feel it has had positive or detrimental effect on your horses way of going.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on April 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Great post on horse stretches. I’d love to see some photos next time or if you do a follow-up post on this topic soon.


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