Neck Stretches for Horses
A few years ago, I suffered a neck and shoulder injury while doing a workout program called P-90X. (It turns out those little warnings about checking with your doctor before starting an exercise program aren’t a joke!) I thought the injury would go away within a few days, but it didn’t. It got worse. So off to the chiropractor I went. When that didn’t relieve the pain, I tried massage therapy, a steroid injection, pain pills, (even though I hate taking them!) and even physical therapy. Those gave me temporary relief, but it was acupuncture and routine neck stretches that finally helped the most.
Even now, I find that my neck and left shoulder can tighten up pretty easily–especially when I’m stressed or if I sleep in a weird position. So I get acupuncture done every few months, and I do neck stretches several times a week. Ironically enough, the neck stretches I do are the ones I learned from P-90X!
Horses can benefit from neck stretches too. Stretching has been shown to relieve muscle and joint pain, prevent injuries, and enhance performance for horses.
According to Linda Tellington-Jones (creator of T-Touch Method), “tightness in a horse’s neck is a common cause of resistance, soreness, shortened stride, a ‘bad attitude’, and inability to perform up to potential.” She also says that some common causes of this tightness are possibly “a horse’s natural posture or carriage, overcollection with no opportunity to stretch their necks, a heavy-handed rider, or an ill-fitting saddle.”
The neck stretches I’m going to show you are known as active stretches–stretches where the horse determines how far he can go (using a treat or carrot as an incentive.) Passive stretching is a stretch in which the handler determines the amount of stretching (such as lifting the horse’s leg to a certain height or pulling a horse’s head around to the side with a rein while mounted.) With active stretches, you are much less likely to cause any harm to the horse, though.
I learned to do these stretches with my gelding, Hershey, a while back after he was injured and showed tightness on the left side of his neck and back. You’ll need some carrots or some other type of treat your horse enjoys to do these neck stretches.
Here are 5 easy neck stretches for horses:
Nose to Chest Stretch
Slowly draw the carrot back towards the horse’s chest. Bring the carrot down between the legs and toward the girth line if horse can stretch that far. (Hershey couldn’t.)
Between the Legs Stretch
Same as Neck to Chest stretch, only lower. The goal is to get the horse’s nose between the front legs.
Up and Out Stretch
Lift carrot upwards and outwards to encourage the horse to really stretch his neck out.
Toward the Hip Stretch
Slowly bring carrot around toward the hip. Keep going until your horse can stretch no further. Repeat on opposite side.
Toward the Hock
Same as Toward the Hip stretch, only lower. Again, repeat on other side.
To see some other stretches you can do with your horse, see this post.