The Scoop

Stretching Your Horse with Treats

All athletes know importance of stretching before exercising, participating in a sport, and even on regular non-active days. Although he won’t be throwing footballs or cycling for thirty miles any time soon, your horse is an athlete too, and stretching his muscles just as important for his health as it is for human athletes.

Stretching exercises for horses are helpful in a lot of ways. They are used to increase range of motion, improve overall flexibility and posture, and strengthen tissues in the body to reduce the risk of injury. Whether your horse spends a lot of time in a stall or free range in a paddock, guided stretches will be helpful in making sure he is properly conditioned and his body stays strong and limber.

Here are a few easy stretches you can do with your horse offering using a reward such as baked Ginger Ridge treats as a positive reinforcement:

  • Stretch the neck downwards: Stand to the side of your horse just behind his front legs and hold a treat near his head so that he becomes aware of it. Move the treat down past the fetlock, drawing his head down to a safe stretching distance.
  • Stretch the neck and back: Stand in the same location and place the treat between his front legs below the knees, so that he must reach through to try and reach the treat. The stretch doesn’t work if he steps back; have him try again until he does it correctly and earns the treat.
  • Stretch the neck to the side: This stretch is easier performed against a wall so that your horse won’t be able to swing out and move his whole body towards the treat. Stand with your back and shoulders against his, so that he has to stretch his neck further out and around you. Get his attention with the treat and lure him into the stretch with the treat, making him reach sideways to a safe distance.

Try to have your horse hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds before releasing him and giving him the treat once he is back in a normal position. Each of these stretches should be down gradually, starting with a smaller stretch and working up to a longer and further reach over time with lots of regular practice. And always make sure stretches are done on both sides of the body so that both sides are evenly worked and strengthened.