When most people perform lateral flexion stretches with their horses, they usually take the stretch to its full potential right away. Meaning they immediately take the nose as far back as the horse will go. I want to offer you a little tweak for the next time you use this stretch that will be a much more effective stretch for your horse.
There are 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck of the horse. In this horse stretch, you will isolate each individual vertebrae in it's own stretch starting at the poll and progressing to each joint down the neck. In this way, you are isolating lateral flexion to each joint by using your arm as a fulcrum for the horse to stretch around. By placing your arm just behind each joint and asking the horse to stretch at each joint, you can gain greater flexibility and range of motion than the traditional lateral flexion stretch. You can also begin to identify sticking points for your horse with this stretch. You will be able to tell if your horse is "stuck" at a particular joint and address that problem appropriately by enlisting the help of your equine chiropractor or bodyworker.
Start by placing your hand closest to the horse on the poll just behind the horse's ears. Take your other hand, palm facing out, and place the back of your hand on the opposite side of the horse's nose. Gently ask the horse to bend the head toward you, being particular that the horse keeps the head vertical. You don't want them to tip the nose upward during the stretch, as it decreases the effectiveness of it. You want both ears upright and level during the stretch. If your horse cannot do lateral flexion without tipping the nose up, it may have its ribs sticking out towards you on that side and might need a little bodywork and stretching to overcome that.
Next move your hand one vertebrae down the neck and repeat the process, again asking the horse to bend the neck at your arm isolating that joint. Do this until you get to the base of the neck. Then repeat the entire process on the other side. After you've done this stretch with your horse, come over to my Facebook page and tell me how it worked for you. Did you notice if your horse was stuck at a certain joint? Tell me what you observed: http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage
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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