The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

27.8.2022 Excerpt from ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

From Chapter 12: Does your horse score 10/10 for comfort?

10. Carrot stretches

What to do: Use a treat or training to encourage your horse to bend his head as far round towards his point of hip as he can reach. There are various ways to do this safely. You can spear a piece of apple onto the end of a stick, poke a carrot through the bottom of a paper coffee cup and keep your hand inside the cup, or put a few treats in the bottom of a feed scoop. Ask your horse to stretch to the right and to the left. You might find it easiest to do this with your horse standing with his bottom in the corner of a stable or field shelter, so that he can’t move backwards or move his quarters over away from you to avoid stretching for the treat.

The ideal: The horse is able to reach to the same point on both sides. He should be able to reach to the point of hip in both directions.

Check: Does your horse find it more difficult to bend one way than the other? Does he ‘cheat’ and hold his head at a different angle or a different height in one direction than the other? Is he able to reach further one way than the other? Does he move around more when you ask him to reach to one side than to the other? (Note: if you hear a ‘click’ when your horse bends his neck, this is only relevant for this particular exercise if there is a pain reaction involved).

For the rider / trainer / instructor

If you’re an instructor with a client who’s struggling to achieve what you’re asking of them, you can suggest these exercises and help them to find the right treatment for their horse. They’ll get more from their lessons with you on a horse who’s physically better able to cope, and your obvious care for the horse’s wellbeing will help to build greater trust and respect. If you’re a professional rider and one of the horses you are riding is finding something overly difficult, or not performing as well as you would expect him to, these exercises could help his owner see that his performance might improve further with extra help from a vet or physical therapist. This would allow you to improve your scores, or work or compete him at a higher level, and owners will appreciate your breadth of feel and understanding for the benefit of their horse.

For the therapist

As a saddler, dentist, farrier, or other equine paraprofessional, you can point owners in the direction of this book and these exercises to help them recognise when their horse needs help from another professional as well as yourself. This will make your job easier since you’re not trying to multitask and cover work that others could do more easily, and it further improves the service you are offering to both client and horse. Increasingly clients are (quite rightly) expecting service over and above ‘the norm’, and with so much information freely available on the web, they expect every equine professional to be the fount of all knowledge. Since none of us can possibly know everything (and if someone claims that they do, perhaps they are not the right person to be working with), one priority is to point people in the direction of the right help. The trick is to know when and how to do that, and where to point them. I sincerely hope this book will help, for the sake of ridden horses throughout the world.

“A horse doesn’t care how much you know, until he knows how much you care.” Pat Parelli

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© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

August 27, 2022
Sue Palmer