When you go to throw your saddle over your horse do you notice some behavior issues? Does your horse start to swing side to side, flatten its ears, kick out? Don’t assume your horse is just being rude! Sometimes “negative” behaviors from horses are really indicators of pain in the body. In this article, we’ll discuss how to help your horse maintain a healthy, strong back.
Tight back muscles can be caused by a variety of reasons such as:
• Poor Saddle Fit-This can also include a poor saddle pad fit or the need for a different type of saddle pad
• Overworking one canter lead
• Rider Imbalance
• Not warming up and cooling down your horse
It’s important to identify what the cause of the back tightness is so that it can be addressed and you’re not in a constant cycle of a horse with a sore back. In addition to the items listed above, your horse may also have a sore back from a more serious problem such as a tendon/ligament injury, or hock/ankle issue. It’s important to have your Vet out to evaluate your horse and discuss a treatment path if your horses discomfort persists after stretching.
Forward Carrot Stretch:
Ask the horse to bring his head down and through his front legs using a carrot. Keep the carrot close to his lips as you ask him to bring his head down so that he performs this stretch slowly. Once he has his head down towards to ground and in-between his legs, hold for 5 seconds and reward with carrot. I like to repeat this stretch 1-2 times along with the other stretches mentioned.
*Photo Credit Horses Inside and Out*
Disclaimers about this stretch: You will be standing
directly behind your horse, which can be a
dangerous position. Make sure you pay attention to
you horses behavior, if they pin their ears, swish
their tail, do not proceed with this stretch. Also, if
your horse immediately clamps their tail down this
is an indicator to stop. Your horse is uncomfortable with this stretch. Instead of proceeding with the tail pull, perform basic massage on their hind end. Simply use light-medium pressure and rub along their hips, and hind end, following the direction of hair growth. Do this for a few minutes on each side and move on to arching. Try the tail pull the next day and see if the massage helped release some muscle tension, which should help your horse feel more comfortable with the tail pull.
Stand behind your horse about an arm’s length, gently hold the tail, algin the tail with the spine, slowly and gently pull the tail back, hold for a few seconds, then release slowly. Repeat one more time.
*Photo Credit EquiSearch *
Stand next to your horse’s hind end, facing their head, your shoulder next to their hip. Note their spine down the middle of their back, connecting to their tail. You’re going to start this stretch with your fingers on either side of their spine, starting on the top of their croup. Different horses respond to different levels of pressure, so start light and if your horses doesn’t react, apply more pressure. You can also use quarters or hoof picks if your horses doesn’t react to hard pressure. Applying pressure on either side of the spine, bring your fingers down just pass the base of their tail. You will see your horses back lift. It doesn’t need to be a dramatic lift, any type of movement is good for the vertebrae. I like to repeat this 1-2 times and finish it with some light massage along the spine.
* Photo Credit: Iron Gate Equine*
Taking a few minutes after your ride to address your horses back can greatly reduce pain and discomfort and significantly increase their performance.
*This article is not meant to act as Veterinarian advice. If your horse is injured or recovering from an injury seek Veterinarian advice and/or approval prior to administering stretches. *
By Erin Quitoriano – Erin specializes in the Masterson Method style of Bodywork and is certified in Sports Massage Therapy and Kinesiology Taping. She is also a Barefoot Trimmer and is a member of the PHCP. (Progressive Hoof Care Practitioner)