Most people are familiar with the classic form of the front leg extension stretch as being performed by standing in front of and facing the horse. However, this method loses its effectiveness in improving range of motion to the lower portion of the limb and sets both you and your horse up for potential injury. In the below video clip, I'd like to demonstrate an alternative form of the front leg extension stretch more effectively stretches the entire length of the limb and offers a better position with regard to your own body mechanics.
Horses do not have a knee cap in their front legs. What is commonly referred to as the horse's "knee" is actually the equivalent of the wrist in the human. Their patella is actually located in the hind limb and is part of the stifle. Because they do not have a knee cap to help prevent hyper-extension of the forelimb, it is important to support the forelimb during stretching. This form of the extension stretch supports the horse's limb in a safe manner for both you and your horse. And by adding support at the toe and encouraging our horse to push through the heel, they are able to actively participate in the stretching process and stretch more completely through the extensors, including the deep digital flexor tendon and suspensory ligament.
I teach this as a basic maintenance stretch to all of my clients and it is especially helpful for horses with old injuries of the forelimb and shoulder which has limited extension of the forelimb. It's also a key stretch in helping horses with the condition known as "club foot" or excessive upright growth. Stop by the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage and let me know this stretch works for you.
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the "whole horse".
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