Mobilization exercises from the dvd Activate your Horses’ Core by Dr. Hilary Clayton and Dr. Narelle Stubbs. This is one in a series of notes for my blog I’ve written to record my horses’ progress.
Disclaimer: I highly recommend you consult your vet and chirporactor first, and read and research if these exercises are appropriate for your horse due to his training, health, age, and past medical history. I am posting this information primarily for my own benefit and posts do not go into detail.
Mobilization exercises are the easiest to begin… Stability exercises using motion that are Horse Led (letting the horse determine the amount and duration of stretch). Exercises are started 3x working up to 5x, held 3-5 seconds, done 3-5x a week, post regular exercise (so muscles are warmed up prior). It is preferred that the horses’ body remains straight and square, with no backing up.
These exercises, often known as “carrot stretches” (as a carrot is used for the horse to follow i.e. “bait”, and perform the stretch) have been around for some time, however, this section of the dvd goes into more detail on how to perform it correctly.
Rounding, Longitudinal: neck remains straight when viewed from the front. If the horse moves backward, use a corner, fence or gait to prevent the backward evasion. The horse may bend one foreleg, to aid the bend – this may be used as an evasion from feeling the deepness of the stretch, though I personally allow the horse to show me what he is comfortable with doing, and so do allow a bit of knee bending.
- Chin to chest flexion – stretches the upper to middle of neck’s spine
- Chin to knees or between knees – stretches middle and base of the neck, lifts back
- Chin to fetlock or between fetlocks – stretches base of the neck, lifts back
Thought: the “behind the bit” horse will perform this exercise easily so this does not mean this method of going horse is athletic but just flexible in this direction. Be sure to encourage the “behind the bit’ horse to stretch forward with the neck extension (see below).
Thought: Horses can be trained to follow a target to perform these stretches. My preference would be to use clicker training so the horse follows a target, receives a click once the stretch if held fully, then reward.
Lateral Bending, Rotation and Flexion: Done on both sides. In her video. Dr. Stubbs stands at the shoulder, then flank, and horse wraps around here, in order to prevent a cheating strategy where the horse does a sharp bend. Bending should be low, not high to the hip as this, in some horses, causes an inverted back.
Horse should not move legs, back, forth or sideways; if they do, a wall, fenceline or corner can help.
- Chin to girth
- Chin to flank
- Chin to hock or hind fetlock – activates pelvic stabilizers and abdominal muscles.
Thought: Generally, this exercise shows you that a horse is stiffer to one side then the other. What does this mean for your riding? Let’s say the horse has a harder time reaching to the left side. This means his right side muscles are more contracted – he probably takes the clockwise circle easier then the counter-clockwise circle. On the counter-clockwise circle he may push his nose to the outside, and has a stiff inner shoulder (left).
Neck Extension: Use a low barrier, such as a stall guard or, in my case, the hitching rack. Or ask a helper to put a hand across the chest to prevent forward movement. The stretch is performed low to the ground.
What’s interesting is to see the difference between my two horses. First, Big Guy, a senior who is used to doing carrot stretches and has had some training doing these bends, yet, is also still recovering from an injury on his right side (pelvis fracture – Jan. 09) is able to perform all of these movements relatively easily.
Now ZZ, who is totally ignorant to what I’m wanting her to do, yet is younger (age 3) and healthy, but is still stiff, especially on her bends. This has me thinking I will have the chiropractor do a few sessions with her starting in November.
Be sure to read the intro post here.