“Does my horse really need stretching?” Let me answer that question with another question…Do you think you would benefit from stretching? Do you think you might feel a little less stiff, gain a little bit more flexibility, be a little less likely to pull something when exerting yourself if you did stretches on a regular basis?
I was asked not too long ago by someone responding to a bodywork article, “My horses are out on pasture 24/7. What benefit would they gain from stretches since they move all the time?” If the simple act of movement canceled out the benefits of stretching, then why do top athletes stretch before their training sessions or an athletic event?
EVERY being can benefit from stretching before and after activity. Even horses not in work are susceptible to the stresses of life. Have you seen horses play??? Running in the pasture, bucking, jumping, dodging, are all very athletic movements and create stresses on the body. Horses slip and fall in the slick mud after rain.
Horses that are more sedentary or stalled become stiff from standing and inactivity. Horses in work or training are working their muscles very hard, and are often developing specific muscle groups for a specific discipline, and can become quite sore and/or stiff. Over time, if sore, tired muscles are not released, they can become chronically contracted or in spasm, adhesions in the muscle fibers can develop, and the horse can lose flexibility and suppleness.
These horses are much more prone to injury as well. In a performance horse, this can mean the difference between winning or losing a competition. In every horse, this means a reduction in quality of life/comfort levels.
I would like to pose a challenge for you. For the next 30 days, perform some very basic stretches with your horse after a brief warmup of the muscles. The warmup can be as simple as rubbing your horse down or going for a short walk. On each leg do a series of flexion, extension, rotation, abduction (take away from the body), and adduction (bring toward the body).
Do these every day, once a day (or at least 3 days per week). Then come back and tell me if you notice any difference in how your horse moves and/or feels.
You will be amazed at how something as simple as a few very basic stretches can make a HUGE difference in your horse’s comfort level. If you would like to learn more simple strategies like this to help improve your horse’s performance, flexibility and overall quality of life, consider joining me in my next Essential Horse Care 30-day Intensive on-line training class (also available for home study on DVD) or check out my Basic Equine Stretching For The Horse Owner DVD. Your horse will thank you for it!
And don’t forget to come back here and tell me how your 30-day Challenge went!
The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition or illness. Nor is it meant to replace proper veterinary care. It is meant for educational purposes only. Always consult your chosen veterinary professional before starting your horse or another animal on any therapy.
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, using essential oils for animals 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”.
Are you ready to get better results with your horse? Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to. Click here to get started!