5 stretches for your horse
I am in England for the summer, staying in the countryside with my friends Sam and Tom. They are total polo nuts in their spare time, and have 14 polo ponies/horses roaming around a nearby field. They spent the last few months making a new stick and ball field in “their backyard”, which is a dream, but more on that another day. What I really want to tell you guys about right now is Equine Massages.
Yesterday we had a visit from the lovely Sarah Fruen, a very accomplished Equine Sports Massage Therapist. She came to have a look at a few of the horses, who have been showing little irritations in their backs, shoulders and hind legs. She told me that the most common problems in polo ponies are found in the right hind leg and on the back, just behind where the saddle goes.
Sarah started with Canton, a gentle horse, with an attitude due to a sore back. She poked and pressed specific pressure points forcing him to relax tense muscles. “You can’t just tell a horse to relax his muscles, like you can with a human on a massage table, so I need to force the horse to relax certain muscles by pulling at and pressing on others.” Sarah explained. This is not recommended that you do yourself unless you really know what you are doing. Canton twitched quite a bit and it was very funny to see how a poke on the butt made his face pull a weird expression.
Sarah shared 5 safe stretches that are beneficial for polo ponies, and there is no risk of doing them wrong!
- Exercise 1: 8 Tail: Grab underneath the tail with one hand and “drive” it around in a figure of 8. Repeat 2-3 times
- Exercise 2: Tail stretch: Grab the tail with both hands and lean back slightly, so the horse resists a little bit by leaning itself forward. Do not pull at the tail.
- Exercise 3: Leg Lifts: lift the back leg and pull it gently forward, so the hoof is about 10 cm ( about 4”) off the ground and stretch the front legs by lifting up and forward. Repeat 2-3 times on both side.
- Exercise 4: Neck Stretch: Stand with your back to the horse’s shoulder, hold a carrot or treat out in the opposite hand of its head, so that the horse must wrap his neck around you to reach the carrot. Repeat 2-3 times on both sides.
- Exercise 5: Bow down: Hold a treat between the horse’s legs right by the cannons so he will stretch the backside of his neck getting the treat. Repeat 2-3 times.
These are great stretches to do after exercising your horse, or after playing a match or chukkers. Though it might not be feasible to do it every time, even once in a while will be very beneficial for your horse and will help him stay healthy longer. Stretches are great for maintenance, but like us humans, when there is a specific issue, a proper massage can work wonders for the horses.
Sarah states on her website: A massage by a Skilled Equine Massage Therapist will create long-term benefits your horse by maintaining muscles so they can perform to their optimum potential. This means muscles free from tension and knots, which allows the muscles to return to homeostasis, back to their relaxed state. You will see great benefits in increased strength and endurance along with agility and grace in their movement.
There are three roles of soft tissue massage therapy:
To learn more about Equine Sports Massages and the work Sara does, check out her website right here.
Now that you know how to stretch your horse, check out how Angela does yoga on her horse.