Yoga For Horses

Before you read this, I’m not an equine physiotherapist, I’m just sharing what I’ve been shown over the years by various physios.  I try to do Pea’s stretches most times I ride and she’s pretty flexible (though she wasn’t when I first started doing them!)  Read on for my reasons for stretching Pea, my top tips and our routine accompanied by pictures from our soggy, sweaty stretching session after hacking and schooling on Saturday (please forgive the state of us!)

Reasons to stretch your horse:

  • Improve flexibility and range of movement
  • Reduce stiffness
  • Strengthen tissue/protect from injury
  • Warm up or cool down
  • A nice bit of bonding time!

Top tips:

  • Don’t tie your horse up – either get someone to hold them or do your stretches in an safe space like a stable or arena!
  • Start each stretch with your horse stood squarely (where possible!)
  • Repeat everything on both sides
  • Be gentle!
  • For the treat/carrot stretches, encourage your horse to mouth the treat/carrot before you give it to them, otherwise they won’t be holding the stretch long enough!
  • Don’t force your horse to do more than they are comfortable with
  • Don’t do anything that might aggravate an injury and if you’re unsure, ask your vet or physio before doing any stretches

1. I start with neck/back stretches.  For the first one, I use a carrot or treat to encourage Pea to bend her neck around as far back as she can.

Future-Poppy Edit – If your horse gets too ‘good’ at this and snatches around without stretching, make them reach wider.

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2. I then get her to stretch down to the outside of her front hoof.

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3. By far my favourite stretch is holding the treat between Pea’s legs, she really stretches down and backwards.

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4. The next stretch involves standing in front of Pea and holding a treat up high so that she stretches her neck up and out.  In theory she should stick her head out straight but we tend to often have a sideways tilt.. something to work on!

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5. I also get her to tuck her head right in to her chest.

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6. Recently I have introduced some leg/shoulder stretches into our routine.  Firstly I stretch her front legs forward.  It is really important to be gentle with this and support the leg rather than force it.

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7. I then hold her knee up in front of her.  This one is good when you have just put your saddle on as it gets any skin folds away from the girth!

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8. I also stretch her hind legs forward – this is where it is important to be in a safe space, have someone to help you or have full trust that your horse isn’t going to walk off!

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The next stretches to add to our routine are a backwards hind leg stretch and the tummy tickle which makes the horse lift their back (I’ve been trying to find the spot on Pea but haven’t perfected it yet!)

Do you have any stretches you do with your horse?

Another ‘Normal’ – Five Month Update

Another month has passed since my hip replacement! I was thinking  of calling this ‘The Old Normal’ as parts of life seem to be back to how they were a long time ago however there is one fairly crucial difference, so much less pain.

Life In General

I have always been a busy person and although my operation forced me to have some down time, now that I’m back in a full time school job I feel like I’m right back to that ‘full on’ routine again. I am a mug to be working three jobs (my tutoring and a weekend day at the shop add on to my school job). I guess I’m still trying to make up for lost income in the summer but I’m going to cut down on the shop work after Christmas and win some free time back!

Riding

Getting back into lessons has had a massive impact on my riding. I actually feel like I’m back to where I was ability-wise before my operation although I am struggling to feel good about canter as I used to find it so painful. I’m having a lesson next Sunday so hopefully gradually I can change that. These days I’m up to half hour sessions in the school and generally it is my muscles aching afterwards, not my hip. Horray!

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Hip Matters

I don’t want anyone reading this to think that once you’ve got a new hip and you’ve done a couple of months of strengthening that all is good and you can leave it there. I’m still doing physio exercises daily (which now involve a foam roller and an exercise ball) and there is still a long way to go to improve my range of movement. My scar area is also still sore sometimes.

The key reason why this is ‘another normal’ rather than the old normal is that I can do so much more walking without limping or being in pain. We went to Whipsnade Zoo today for a joint birthday outing (if you have never been, it is a BIG zoo) and I had no issue walking around. I often refer to Pea in the winter as a muddy hippo but I’m pretty glad she’s not as wide as one!

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There was a bit of extra poignancy as the last time I went to Whipsnade (also for my birthday) was before I was diagnosed with Perthes and the hip problems started.

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