A carrot stretch
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, September 15, 2013 08:25 PM
I am not a big fan of carrot stretches except one. I heard about it from Dr. Hilary Clayton during a symposium in Texas a few years ago. I liked it right away and now I started doing it with Santo on regular basis.
Here is the stretch:
  • Position your horse straight, come to the side near one of his hind legs
  • Ask your horse to lift the leg and pick it up slightly forward with stifle and hock joints bent. Do not physically try to lift the leg yourself, make sure he lifts it with your assistance.
  • Support the leg and ask your horse to turn his head to you and stretch as much toward lifted leg as he can by offering him cookies/carrots/apples what ever he likes the best :)
  • Offer a few pieces and give them one after another so your horse spends time in the stretch.
  • Do both sides twice at least. Do the stretch twice a week.
Santo loves it, of course, cookies involved :). He lifts his leg and holds it himself. And he stretches back to the point of eating cookies from his leg. His leg is so high, almost parallel to the ground, it is quite possible to put a cookie down on his fetlock and let him eat it :)
At first he tried to get cookies without lifting the leg. However, every time he moved sideways instead of giving me a leg he didn't get any cookies. Now he knows and as soon as I move toward his leg he gives me leg and turns for the cookies :). At first he didn't lift as high and could not hold for long. Now he easily eats 4 cookies, taking one at a time, and can probably stay in a stretch longer. It is not just a stretch it is also an exercise for leg muscles as he holds the leg himself and he has to balance on his other hind leg. The benefit of that is strengthening and stretching of the muscles of the hindquarters and the muscles that run horizontally through the entire side of the horse's body. Dr. Hilary Clayton said that one of her horses struggled with sequential flying changes and this stretch helped him to tackle that difficult exercise.
A word of caution with carrot stretches. Horses can get impatient and pushy. There is a potential for you to get hurt if you are not paying strict attention to appropriate behavior and polite way of taking cookies from your hand. Avoid doing carrot stretches with very young horses unless you are absolutely sure in their behavior.
Happy riding...
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