Stretching Exercises for Horses
This months focus - for different ages and different levels of
Part 1 written by Barbara Dreyer
parts - this
We all know that we have to
warm up before and stretch
after exercise to prevent
injuries. This goes for horses
as well. Have you ever seen
your horse scratch on a certain
post or tree in the field and
wondered, ‘how is that even
comfortable or possible’?
Horses instinctively know how
to stretch and they will not
overstretch. Horses living out
or who are being turned out
regularly, will stretch their own
muscles whenever needed.
Horses who spend a long time
in stables will not have the same
opportunity to stretch.
There are many benefits from
stretching such as:
I am an Equine Massage
Therapist, I run a mobile
Equine Massage Therapy service in Cheshire
and North West. I have
worked with and around
horses my entire life. I
believe massage is a necessity - not a luxury!
• Reduction of muscle tension
• Increased circulation of both
blood and lymph fluids
• Increased elasticity of the
muscles, tendons and
Increased flexibility and range
of motion of the joints
Reduction of muscle strain
and ligament sprain
Improvement of the stride
Promotes the maintenance of
the older horse
When to stretch?
Always stretch when the horse
is warm, remember stretching
a cold horse can cause injury.
Stretching should be done
every day after every training
or massage session. Ride your
horse as normal, but before
putting him away for the night
finish off your routine with a few
stretches, this can prevent future
injuries. The dark and cold winter
evenings are perfect for spending
a bit of quality time with your
horse. The winter weather doesn’t
always permit riding so why not
go for a long slow walk or lunge
him instead and finish off with
What NOT to do ...
Never stretch cold body parts- this can cause injury!
Never pull or stretch the part beyond its established range of motion- this
can cause injury!
Never bounce a stretch back- always return the stretched body part to its
normal and recognised position.
Never stretch an injured area.
Never stretch a healing area! If your horse is recovering from surgery or
has recently had any physical problems that affect the joint and muscles (a
fall or kick) contact your veterinarian or Equine Massage Therapist before
starting a stretching exercise program.
Everything Horse UK Magazine • February 2014 • Issue 5
How to stretch
Stretching is not a competition, it is not about
how far you can go or how bendy your horse
is on the first attempt. Stretching takes time.
The aim of stretching is to relax the muscles
and the ligaments tension so freer movement
is obtained. Always stretch safely. Start off with
the easy stretches and build it up to a regular,
deeper stretch. Never go too far! This can
cause the muscle to tear.
Horses of all ages and fitness levels can
stretch. I recently had great fun with a 3 year
old mare who had never tried stretching before.
She quickly saw it as a game and excelled in
a very short time.. The old saying ‘practise
makes perfect’, really is true. Your first few
attempts might not go as a