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5 Stretches YOU Can Do for your Equine friend

As a follow up to my previous article the dangers of Tight muscles and presentations at the Horse Expo, here are 5 easy stretches that you can do with your horses to keep their muscles toned, loose and stabilized.

For a better understanding on why having a consistent stretching regiment and loose muscles is important, please take the time to read my previous article The Dangers of Tight Muscles.

This article will provide a step-by-step guide with photos of Lucky for each stretch!

When doing any stretches our number one goal is YOUR safety. Positioning your body in a manner to avoid potential injury is very important as well as feeling comfortable with each stretch. If at any point you feel unsafe DO NOT continue with the stretch.


Exercise 1: Carpal Stretch

In this exercise we are focusing on range of motion within the carpal or knee region of a horses two front legs. What is done to one side should be done to the other. When stretching the legs we are attempting to keep the exercises bilateral (both sides) in order to maintain equilibrium.

Step 1- Keep your body parallel to the horse with you head facing their back end

Step 2- Reach down and tap your horses left or right front leg to get them to lift it keeping your body parallel with the horse. Hold the horses pastern on the outside


Step 3- When you have the horses leg, turn your body directly perpendicular to the horse with toes pointed towards their shoulder. At this time take your hand on the pastern and move it to the inside of the leg.

Step 4-Rotate your body once again to be parallel to the horse, toes pointed towards their head, with one hand on the inside of the pastern and the other holding the carpal region

Step 5- Gently guide the leg inwards (towards horses other leg) with the hand on the pastern until you feel resistance. Pulse slightly and then gently guide the leg outwards (towards yourself) until you feel resistance and pulse slightly. Do this stretch about 3 times towards the inside and outside each

*DO NOT attempt to exceed the resistance as this is only a light stretch and is only meant to stretch between the joint space

Step 6- Repeat steps 1 through 5 to the horse's other front leg


Exercise 2: The Doughnut (Intercostal Stretch)

In this Stretch we are attempting to expand the muscles in the ribcage. What is done to one side should be done to the other

*Assess if the horse is willing to do this stretch and DO NOT attempt if horse says "no". Assess by lifting the horses tail, if the horse tucks it tighter or underneath themselves this is an indicator that the horse is unwilling. DO NOT attempt stretch if this occurs

Step 1- Asses if the horse is willing with checking if they are ok with their tail being lifted. If they are fine with it continue to step 2

Step 2- Make sure you have a lead rope and the horse is not attached to anything. Using one hand holding the lead rope loosely put the other hand down the horses back and slowly move your body down their body until you are able to reach their tail.

Step 3- Watching the horses gently grab the tail anywhere under the bone and move it towards the side that you are on.

Step 4- Turn your body perpendicular to the horse and holding both the tail and lead rope begin to position yourself towards the middle of their ribs.

Step 5- Walk your front hand up the lead rope slowly until you can reach the cheek strap on the horses face holding the tail tightly. At this time your horse may try to turn around, stay calm and just move with them if needed until they stop circling.

Step 6- Lean your body weight backwards and hold for 10 seconds. If the horse has never done this before, hold for 5 seconds and reward afterwards.

Step 7- Repeat steps 2 through 6 on the horses other side


Exercise 3: The Arch (Back bend)

In this stretch we are attempting to engage the horses core and lower back muscles to help with topline.

Step 1- Position yourself close behind the horses backend keeping your hands on them so that they are aware of you being there. Keep your body and toes pointed towards the horses head with one foot between their back legs and the other foot on the outside of their leg

Step 2- Find where the tail connects to the body and position your hands on either side of that area, this is the height of the stretch point. Move your hands outwards to the groove between a horses bicep femoris and semitendonosis, this is the width.

Step 3- Using your middle and index finger and your thumb make an scrunching movement putting pressure on the area until the horses muscles start to tense. Continue doing this motion and hold 3 secs for new horses and reward. As horse gets more comfortable and stronger, hold 5-10 second intervals 3 times


Exercise 4: Tail Stretch

*Assess if the horse is willing to do this stretch and DO NOT attempt if horse says "no". Assess by lifting the horses tail, if the horse tucks it tighter or underneath themselves this is an indicator that the horse is unwilling. DO NOT attempt stretch if this occurs

Step 1- Asses if the horse is willing with checking if they are ok with their tail being lifted. if they are fine with it continue to step 2

Step 2- Position yourself close behind the horses backend keeping your hands on them so that they are aware of you being there. Keep your body and toes pointed towards the horses head with one foot between their back legs and the other foot on the outside of their leg

Step 3- Grab the horses tail and slowly move backwards with a loose grip until you are near the end. (Til you have most of the tail in your grip)

Step 4- Tighten grip and lean your weight towards your heels and hold for 5 seconds, repeat 3 times. As horse gets more comfortable you can hold up to 15 seconds

*Horse will often shift weight forward to help create a bigger stretch when they get more comfortable or are tight in their lumbar spine.


Exercise 5: Bow

This stretch is done to attempt extent the crest muscles in the horses neck (Cervical trapezius and cervical rhomboid) to increase their range of motion and keep the area limber.

* This is a cookie or food stretch! I would suggest using a treat that is bigger/long so that the horse doesn't nibble on your fingers.

Step 1- Have your cookie/food prepared! Place your body parallel to the horse, toes pointed forward, standing on their side by their shoulder/scapula region

Step 2- With one hand hold the treat at the horses nostrils so they can smell it and when they start trying to grab at it start dragging it down an invisible line between their front legs. Make sure the horse is following!!

Step 3- Have your other hand between their from legs and quickly switch the treat from the hand guiding their head down to the hand between the legs. When the core reaches their pectorals allow them to try and nibble the treat for a couple seconds and then give it to them.


Step 4- Repeat 2-3 times






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