Carrot stretches 🥕 … what’s the point?
What’s the point?
When we train, ride and even care for our horses, and ourselves our main aim is to achieve the best possible performance whilst remaining injury free. As with humans, stretching is rapidly being recognised as an asset to a training regime and becoming part of many peoples everyday routines. Stretching helps to maintain healthy musculature, flexibility and suppleness. An important factor in reducing the risk of muscle or tendon damage. Elongating the muscle fibres can help reduce injury by lessening the tension on joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments along with improving posture, decreasing soreness after a work out and regain and improve range of motion.
Carrot stretches are a great way of asking your horse to stretch without forcing a stretch and potentially over stretching.
They aim to stretch, stimulate, strengthen and activate the core muscle groups within the back, abdomen and neck of the horse and when done regularly can improve balance, aid topline build up and stability, and increase peripheral awareness throughout the body. when carried out regularly results can be seen as quickly as 2-3weeks.
It is important that a horse stretches its spine correctly and frequently to help activate all the small muscles that stabilise the spinal column to help prevent them becoming wasted and asymmetrical.
3 carrot stretches to practice…
Arm yourself with carrots ! or your horses favourite treat & make sure your stretches are carried out in the stable or on a non-slip surface, begin with your horse standing square.
stand with your back to your horse’s shoulder and get him to bend his head and neck around you, ideally keeping his head vertical, and aim for the direction of the back fetlock. Aim for a smooth stretch – not a snatch – and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
stand with your back to your horse’s shoulder and get him to bend his head and neck around you towards the girth area, ideally with minimal head rotation. Again aim for a smooth stretch – not a snatch – and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on both sides.Advanced stretch as your horse progresses, extend the stretch towards the hip or down towards the hock.
stand near the horse’s girth, facing the same direction as the horse. Use the treat to encourage the horse to stretch down to the knees or chest (for greater flexion of the neck). The horse should bend evenly through the neck and back. The head is level and the back is rounded. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Advanced stretch as the horse progresses and grows confidence extend the stretch between the knees or down between the fetlocks. Some horses often elevate the heals of their front feet or slightly bend their knees. This is normal
• Ataxia or difficulty balancing at rest
• Persistent and consistent pain or difficulty
with a specific stretch
• Certain neurologic disorders or
musculoskeletal injuries as determined by a vet.
As a therapist I regularly incorporate stretching within my treatments and encourage carrot stretches to almost all my clients. But if your unsure on the methods or if carrot stretches are right for your horse please do contact me or your regular therapist or vet.