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30.12.2021 How To… Care For The Older Horse… In 10 Easy Steps: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Carrot Stretches

“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.” Joseph Pilates

The body functions based on instructions from the nervous system, which begins with the brain and spinal cord. Restrictions in the movement of the spine can affect the nervous system, potentially affecting the body in lots of different ways.

It’s not just the muscular system that can be affected, but also the internal organs. So restricted movement through the spine could potentially affect not just movement, but also perhaps gastric function and hormones for example. Not being able to bend properly or fully through the neck and back can be uncomfortable, and can lead to compensatory patterns of movement, which in turn can increase the risk of injury. So you can see why it’s really important to keep your horse’s spine as flexible as possible.

Restriction in movement is inevitable to some degree with age in some horses, but it is not a given (most of us will be able to think of an older person who is far more flexible than we would expect for someone their age). We can help to maintain the level of movement that currently exists, reduce the onset of further degeneration or restriction, and in many cases reverse the restriction that is already in place.

Probably the easiest way to do this is with carrot stretches, or lateral flexion exercises of some kind. Encourage your horse to follow a treat with his nose towards different parts of his body (a likit or similar works really well) to cause movement throughout the spine. Pick several different spots, and do at least three movements towards each spot on each side. For example, you might choose to encourage your horse’s nose towards the chest, to the ground between the front feet, to the ground to the outside of each front foot, to each shoulder, towards the middle of the back where the saddle sits, towards the ‘hip’ (tuber coxae), towards the stifle, towards the hock, and encourage him to stretch out forwards and upwards in front of the horse.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

December 30, 2021
Sue Palmer