Stretch for optimum mobility in your Horses Core and Sternum
Just like human gymnasts or runners, equine athletes benefit immensely from proper stretching. Creating time in your horse’s training schedule for targeted stretches will help improve the flexibility, balance, and strength they need to perform their best during competition or strenuous activity. When done consistently, an effective stretching program can even help reduce the risk of certain injuries. I often give stretching assignments to my clients and their grooms.
Two areas that are especially important to stretch regularly in horses are the core and sternum. The core muscles provide essential support to stabilize the back, abdomen, and hips during movement. Meanwhile, ample extension and mobility in the sternum allows for better freedom of shoulder movement and lengthening of the stride. As well as creating better core strength. Tightness in either area can limit an equine athlete’s range of motion, power, and endurance.
So where should you start? Aside from the stretching you already do while in training with your trainer. Try incorporating these simple stretching exercises into your horse’s routine:
Core and Sternum Stretches:
– Belly Lifts – My favorite! Using your fingertips, place them under the belly on the midline, you should feel an indentation and push upwards gently running your fingers side to side. You should see your horse engage their abs and lift at the wither, thus moving the sternum. Hold for 8 seconds and repeat on the other side. I suggest this before putting on the saddle and even afterwards when you’re done.
– Carrot stretches – With a helper, place a carrot forward between your horse’s front limbs on the ground. Let them reach down and back up to strengthen abdominal muscles.
– Hill walks – Walk your horse for short intervals up and down slopes to encourage lifting and engaging the core.
– Cavaletti work – Use ground poles in a fan shape to encourage your horse to consciously lift their front end and stretch out their chest.
Aim to stretch for 10-15 minutes daily if possible. Pay attention to your horse’s comfort level. Proper stretching should never cause pain or strain. Done regularly, these simple exercises can make a huge difference helping your equine athlete become their healthiest, most agile performance self while reducing injury risks. Give them a try!