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The Importance of Carrot Stretches

I clocked up an enjoyable 8 hours of CPD @ the Centaur Biomechanics Equine Sports Science Seminar last weekend and had the great privilege of seeing Professor Hilary Clayton deliver in person 5 presentations on her research on Equine Locomotion, Gait Asymmetry, Bits & Rein Tension, Mechanics of the Equine back and Core Training Exercise.

We of course know how important it is to do our carrot stretches with our horses but it was great to go through the research that has proven time and again how essential they are for improving and maintaining the health of the horses' spine.

Multifidi are the deep spinal muscles that work to stabilize the back.

Atrophy or wastage of these muscles due to injury, poor schooling, poor confirmation or just the weight of carrying a rider will result in:

  • Jiggly joints (technical term) which can lead to bone pathology and arthritis.

  • Inflammation and Osteophytes on facet joints which will cause pain and stiffness

If Multifidus is switched off Longissimus, the long back muscle where your saddle sits, will go into spasm in an attempt to compensate for lost stabilizers and so result in a stiff ever increasing circle of pain and dysfunction.

Core training exercises will activate these deep core muscles and the best thing is that they are so easy to do!!!

Baited/Carrot Stretches

  • Chin to chest - flexes upper neck

  • Chin to knees - flexes lower neck and lifts back

  • Chin to Front Fetlock - flexes lower neck and lifts back

  • Chin to girth - lateral flexion

  • Chin to hind fetlock - engages the abdominals

Research has shown that doing 5 stretches/stretch, 3-5 days/week for at least 6 weeks will significantly increase the size of Multifidus, decrease any asymmetry present and increase stride length.

Best to do them just before you exercise.

Great for all horses but especially good for competition horses or horses on box rest.

Start off with small stretches and increase gradually over the weeks... think of you touching your toes!!

Carrots are best for eliciting that stretch but be mindful of their sugar content so cut 1 carrot into a few slithers!! Once your horse has become adept at his/her stretches then you can switch the carrots for a high fibre treat :o)

For more information or help please drop me a line...

Carrot stretches = Pony Yoga..... Namaste xx

Below is a link relating to the research carried out with some fab how-to photos.