In today's Guest Blog Post, Keeley Cannings (Horse Chat with Keeley) shares with us her Top 5 Stretches that you can do with your horse.
Through many years of riding, I have discovered several stretches that I am able to do with my horses that have helped them considerably. Horse stretches are great for your horse before and after a ride as they really help to stretch out your horse’s muscles as well as help your horse become limber and loose. Stretches can also help your horse if they have any stiffness or a sore back. Today, I am demonstrating my top 5 stretches on my quarter horse, Sky. These are very easy to do with your horse and it won’t take long to recognize the benefits for both of you. Check them out!
Stretch #1: Front Leg Extension
I like to call the first stretch the front leg extension. This stretch is great to do with your horse as it stretches your horse’s shoulder muscles improving your horse’s movement when you are riding. When introducing your horse to this stretch, your horse might pull, so hold on tight, but don’t make it a fight or put either of you at risk of hurting yourselves. Remember, when doing this stretch to not overstretch your horse as that can cause injuries as well. Follow these easy steps below:
- Pick up one of your horse’s front legs.
- Take the leg and extend it out in front of the horse. You should be facing the front legs.
- Gently hold the horse’s leg by the fetlock and below the knee. Wait until the horse fully extends its leg. Hold for about 5 seconds or so.
- Place the hoof on the ground after the stretch.
- Continue the stretch on the other front leg.
If my horse has a sore back, I like to do this great back stretch with her. It really helps to stretch and loosen the muscles in your horse’s back. If you horse has a sore back then your ride for that day might not be very enjoyable for either of you. Soreness can create future problems if not addressed right away. Doing this back stretch before a ride is super important in helping your horse have a great ride! Follow these simple steps:
- Place your hands in the middle of your horse’s back.
- Separate your hands so that your left hand is by the withers and your right hand is by the croup area.
- While keeping your hands in the exact same place, slowly pull your hands apart. This will help to stretch out the muscles in your horse’s back.
- Do this exercise 2-3 times on each side.
Stretch #3: Shoulder Flexion Stretch
The third stretch I love to do with my horse is the shoulder flexion stretch. This stretch can help horses with tight shoulders and a tight chest. When completing this stretch, hold your horse’s leg up for about 15 seconds in the stretch. Again, try not to overstretch your horse by pushing them into it, but rather, stretch them as much as they can do. Eventually, when you continue to do stretches with your horse, your horse will become more loose and limber. Follow the steps below:
- PIck up one of your horse’s front legs.
- Hold the leg like you are picking their hooves. Place one hand under the knee to support it and the other hand supporting the lower leg.
- Slowly lift the leg to about a 90 degree angle. Only go as far as your horse is comfortable.
- Gently place the leg on the ground and repeat this stretch on the other front leg.
Stretch #4: Hip Flexor Stretch
To change it up a bit, I added in a hip and hind leg stretch. This stretch is called the hip extensor and stifle flexor stretch. This stretch can really help a horse who is having short stride issues in the hind end. Again, when beginning to stretch your horse, your horse might find different stretches more challenging so always be careful. Follow the instructions below:
Pick up your horse’s hind leg as if you were picking up their hoof.
Place one hand on your horse’s hock and one hand on his fetlock (do not use any downward pressure on the hock).
Slowly pull your horse’s leg forward until his hind leg is fully extended.
Wait until your horse is leaning into the stretch.
Stretch #5: Neck Stretch
The last stretch is a simple stretch called the neck stretch. This stretch is used to lengthen, loosen, and stretch the neck. By doing this stretch, it can help a horse who has a stiff neck and has trouble bending or collecting. When I started riding my horse, Sky, she had a really stiff neck. But eventually, by stretching her and working with her, she became less stiff and I am now able to do so much more with her than I did before. The key to this stretch is waiting until your horse lowers and stretches its neck. Follow the instructions below to complete the stretch:
- Place your left hand a little bit below your horse’s ears and the other hand close to your horse’s withers.
- Now, like the back stretch, you want to slowly pull your hands apart to stretch the neck while still keeping your hands in the same place.
- Pull your hands apart and then once your horse lowers its head, immediately release. The release is key.
- Complete this stretch a 2-3 times and then continue it next time you ride or work your horse.
I encourage you to try these stretches on your horse(s) as these stretches have definitely helped my horses become more limber and loose. Lastly, I wish you the best in your horse riding journey! Until next time… don’t forget to hug your horse!
A note from Suzanne: Thank you so much Keeley for this amazing Blog post! I cant wait to try these stretches out on my horses.
To keep up to date with Keeley and to sign up for her FREE 7 Days to Becoming a Better Rider Email Course please visit her Blog.