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Equine stretches for better performance

A tasty treat comes in handy when stretching your horse's neck.

A tasty treat comes in handy when stretching your horse's neck.

 

As an equestrian, you probably understand the benefits of a good stretch before mounting your horse. Stretching periodically, especially before exercise, increases your range of motion and reduces your risk of injury. The same is true for horses. As Equisearch details, stretching improves a horse’s proprioceptors,he sensory nerve endings in its muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. This helps your equine’s brain comprehend its position and movement, making it more receptive to your commands. In addition, stretching keeps horses healthy during inclement weather when training is impossible, Equine Wellness Magazine notes. You can pair these routines with natural horse products like Finish Line’s Muscle Tone for healthy muscle development.

Stretching also helps you understand your horse’s full range of motion. This makes it easier for you to notice small changes that indicate lameness, such as stiff muscles or a slightly shorter stride. You can then address these issues before they become bigger problems.

Equisearch recommends walking, longeing or massaging your horse before stretching to warm its muscles and minimize injury. You can also apply a warm towel to transfer heat to the body quickly. Alternatively, you can stretch after an exercise routine. This ensures your horse’s muscles are warmed-up and prevents them from cramping due to fatigue.

“Never force a horse past its point of resistance.”

When stretching your horse, never force the animal past its point of resistance. In fact, once you find this position, it’s best to back off slightly and rest here for a few moments; then return to the starting position.

Stretching the neck
Neck stretches are simple. All you need to do is hold a carrot just out of your horse’s reach, and it will naturally extend to eat it. Keep in mind that it’s easy for equines to figure out this trick, and they might try to nip the carrot before you’re ready after a while.

You want to stretch the neck so it aligns with the spine and neither side is contracted, Equine Wellness Magazine advised. Hold the carrot in the middle of your horse’s chest, between the knees and on the ground, pausing at each step. Then, lift the carrot up and out so the horse fully extends it neck.

Stretching the front legs
Face your horse head on and grasp it gently behind or just above the knee of its left front leg. Make sure to use both hands, then slowly lift the leg while straightening your back. Stop when you feel resistance or when horse’s foreleg is parallel to the ground, then gently lower it back down. Repeat with the other front leg.

Stretching the shoulders
There are two primary shoulder stretches. For the first, face the horse and pick up one front leg. Place your inside hand around the toe and outside hand at the knee. Extend and lift the leg slowly, keeping your head clear in case the horse snaps its leg back. Stop and lower the leg slightly once you feel some resistance, then hold for a few seconds and place the leg back on the ground. Repeat on the other side.

To perform the second shoulder stretch, stand to the front side of your horse as though you need to clean its hoof, Equine Wellness Magazine suggested. Place one hand behind the knee and use the other to support the fetlock. Then push the leg so the knee bends at a 90-degree angle beneath the horse’s body. Pause when you feel resistance. Return the leg to its normal position and repeat with the other one.

Now that you’ve finished with the horse’s front, you can move to stretching its rear end.

Stretching the buttocks and tail
Start stretching the buttocks by gently taking hold of one hind leg. According to The Naturally Healthy Horse, your inside hand should sit at or below the hock, and your outside hand should hold the lower leg or fetlock. Slowly lift upward, hold the stretch, then return the leg to its starting position. Switch to the other side and repeat.

Stretching the tail is important for a healthy back, Equisearch noted. Stand close to its end, place both hands at the dock, then gently lift upward and maneuver the tail in small circles. Move slowly and repeat the stretch in both directions three to five times each.

You can also gently pull your horse’s tail to stretch it, but this is a very dangerous position. You should have a thorough understanding of your horse’s attitude toward being stretched, and never take your eyes off it in case the animal is startled. Stand an arm’s length behind your horse, take hold of its tail towards the bottom of the tail head and pull gently. Make sure the tail stays aligned with the spine and, after a few seconds, slowly let go.

Stretching is just one part of a comprehensive wellness routine that keeps your horse healthy. When combined with a thorough training program and high-quality horse products, your companion is ready to perform its best.