Before you read this, I’m not an equine physiotherapist, I’m just sharing what I’ve been shown over the years by various physios. I try to do Pea’s stretches most times I ride and she’s pretty flexible (though she wasn’t when I first started doing them!) Read on for my reasons for stretching Pea, my top tips and our routine accompanied by pictures from our soggy, sweaty stretching session after hacking and schooling on Saturday (please forgive the state of us!)
Reasons to stretch your horse:
- Improve flexibility and range of movement
- Reduce stiffness
- Strengthen tissue/protect from injury
- Warm up or cool down
- A nice bit of bonding time!
- Don’t tie your horse up – either get someone to hold them or do your stretches in an safe space like a stable or arena!
- Start each stretch with your horse stood squarely (where possible!)
- Repeat everything on both sides
- Be gentle!
- For the treat/carrot stretches, encourage your horse to mouth the treat/carrot before you give it to them, otherwise they won’t be holding the stretch long enough!
- Don’t force your horse to do more than they are comfortable with
- Don’t do anything that might aggravate an injury and if you’re unsure, ask your vet or physio before doing any stretches
1. I start with neck/back stretches. For the first one, I use a carrot or treat to encourage Pea to bend her neck around as far back as she can.
2. I then get her to stretch down to the outside of her front hoof.
3. By far my favourite stretch is holding the treat between Pea’s legs, she really stretches down and backwards.
4. The next stretch involves standing in front of Pea and holding a treat up high so that she stretches her neck up and out. In theory she should stick her head out straight but we tend to often have a sideways tilt.. something to work on!
5. I also get her to tuck her head right in to her chest.
6. Recently I have introduced some leg/shoulder stretches into our routine. Firstly I stretch her front legs forward. It is really important to be gentle with this and support the leg rather than force it.
7. I then hold her knee up in front of her. This one is good when you have just put your saddle on as it gets any skin folds away from the girth!
8. I also stretch her hind legs forward – this is where it is important to be in a safe space, have someone to help you or have full trust that your horse isn’t going to walk off!
The next stretches to add to our routine are a backwards hind leg stretch and the tummy tickle which makes the horse lift their back (I’ve been trying to find the spot on Pea but haven’t perfected it yet!)
Do you have any stretches you do with your horse?