Stretching is an integral part of an athlete’s regimen, in everything from ballet to football. It loosens and relaxes the muscles, reducing stiffness while increasing range of motion. Horses are no different. Stretching has the same benefits for equines; it helps improve their flexibility and performance under saddle. Adding a few of these simple stretches to your pre-ride routine can make a noticeable difference to your horse’s movement. Check out these nine easy stretches to do with your horse the next time your ride.
Nose to Fetlock
This exercise stretches your horse’s neck and back muscles. All it requires is a treat. To start, squat just behind their front leg. Take your treat and bait them to move their head to the side, slowly stretching downwards until their nose is even with their front fetlock. Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and then allow them to relax. Complete the stretch by rewarding them with the treat. Repeat on both sides.
Between the Legs
This stretch is great for loosening up their back muscles. Every horse can benefit from this stretch, but it should especially help horses who struggle with “long and low” work. This stretch also requires a treat for baiting. There are three areas to aim for: their chest, knees, and hooves. Each spot stretches a different portion of their back and neck.
The stretch itself is easy. Just hold the treat in between one of those landmarks and bait your horse’s nose in between their legs. Again, hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and then reward them with the treat.
Nose to Elbow
This stretch is similar to the nose to fetlock stretch but it targets a different group of muscles. Stand beside your horse and bait their nose to their elbow/girth area with a treat. Hold the stretch for up to 15 seconds then reward them with the treat. Repeat on both sides to prevent one-sided stiffness.
This stretch focuses on the shoulder flexor muscle group and is ideal for horses who have stiff shoulders. Begin by standing in front of your horse. Lift one front leg up and support it by placing one hand behind the knee and one hand behind the pastern. Gently pull the leg up and forward. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Forward Front Extension
The forward front extension stretch targets the shoulder extensor, elbow extensor, and carpal flexor muscle groups. Note that it is not recommended for horses who have had lower leg injuries. This stretch has the same setup as the previous one. Stand in front of your horse and lift their leg up. Support their leg behind the knee and near their hoof. Gently pull their leg outward until it is fully extended. Once they start to lean into the stretch, you can release their leg and give them some praise. As always, repeat this stretch on both sides.
Backward Front Extension
This stretch relaxes the shoulder extensor group. As the name suggests, it is exactly the same as the forward front extension stretch, only their leg is being extended backwards towards their hindquarters. Pick up their leg as if you are going to pick their hooves out. Place one hand in front of their knee, and the other hand in front of their fetlock. Gently push their leg backwards until it is fully extended and they begin to lean into the stretch. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
This stretch is quick, easy, and perfect for building topline. Place one hand underneath your horse’s stomach near the girth, and one hand slightly behind that. Tickle or scratch the area, using some pressure, until you see them noticeably lift their ribcage upwards. Feel free to perform this stretch more than once.
Forward Hind Extension
This stretch focuses on the hip extensor and stifle flexor groups. It is beneficial for horses that short stride. To start, stand beside your horse’s hind leg and lift it up as if you are going to pick their hoof out. Support their leg with one hand behind their fetlock and one hand on their hock. Like you did with the forward front extension stretch, gently pull their leg forward until it is fully extended. Wait for them to lean into it and then release their leg. Repeat on both sides.
Backwards Hind Extension
The backwards hind extension stretch targets the hip flexor muscle group. Once again, pick up their hind leg as if you are going to pick out their hoof. With one hand on their hock and one hand in front of their fetlock, slowly push their leg behind them until it is fully extended. Hold it for a few seconds and then allow them to relax. Repeat with both legs.
We can’t stress the benefits of stretching enough. Make sure you try these easy stretches to ensure the quality of movement and health of your horse so you both can perform better than ever. We hope you enjoyed these tips and if you’d like to join a community of like-minded riders, then consider joining our official Pivo Horse Riding Community or our newest platform, Pivo Circle where you can connect with horse riders, coaches and creators alike to share ideas and more.