Stretches for horses
Your guide to increasing flexibility, comfort, and range of motion
I recently had a request come in to write about the best stretches to do with horses. As many of you know I’m a big fan of gathering and testing out info from many different sources, which is why this post is somewhat of a mash-up of tips and ideas that I’ve found to be most effective for keeping horses flexible and increasing their range of motion through stretching.
Stretching with your horse
Tactical Tips For Optimal Results
If you’re going to take the time to stretch your horse out it’s worth doing a bit of prep to ensure that your horse feels good about the process and doesn’t injure anything. This post here covers some great pre-stretching tips to make sure you’re working with your horse’s body.
How often is too often? One study tested stride length and range of motion in horses after doing 8 weeks of stretching. One group of horses did stretching exercises six days per week and the other group did them 3 days per week. Spoiler alert less is more, the horses that did stretching three days per week showed the most improvement. You can check out the detailed results here.
Stretching plus gymnastic groundwork exercises equals a winning combo to build muscle and increase their range of motion. Positive results were seen in a similar experiment to the one listed above with the addition of gymnastic ground work. You can check out the details of the full experiment here.
I’m not going to go into listing a ton of gymnastic groundwork exercises in this post but I’ve found Pinterest to be a good spot to go for inspiration, especially for ground pole patterns activities. Working up and down hills with your horse in hand is also very helpful for maximizing the benefits of your stretching.
Stretch Tutorials And Complimentary Practices
This article here from Dr Bona is great for going over basic shoulder and leg stretches for your horse.
You can also check out Dr Bona’s posture prep tool on this site too for another way to help your horse stay more flexible through skin mobility and increased circulation (I haven’t tried it yet but it’s on my short list). She has some great videos in her tutorials section as well.
Many of you have probably heard of doing carrot stretches with your horse. They are great for working out tense areas in your horse’s neck and topline but only if they are done correctly. This video series by Equi-Librium does a good job of explaining the goals of the different stretches and shows step by step how to do them correctly.
The Masterson Method is another great resource to utilize with your horse to help relieve tension and restore balance & ROM. Because it uses acupressure points along with specific movements it can be great for making progress on areas that may otherwise be too guarded for standard stretches. The Masterson Method youtube channel has a couple of playlists that give step-by-step details of some of their incredibly beneficial practices. Check out playlist one and playlist two.
I do recommend working with a qualified equine bodyworker in your area to get specific help on your horse’s issues. I’ve found that they often offer modifications for stretches to maximize your horse’s progress and help ensure that you are doing each stretch safely within the comfort zone and capabilities of your horse. In many cases after even one visit they can set you up with “stretching homework” to do for weeks or months between visits.