What does “carrot stretching” mean in horses?
Horses are great athletes, and just like people, they do better when they’re properly warmed up before they work out. Stretching with a carrot can be a great way for a horse to warm up and cool down.
Carrot stretches are a type of dynamic stretching in which a horse’s neck is moved into different positions with the help of a carrot or other high-value treat. It helps make the spine more flexible and mobile, builds core strength, and improves overall balance.
Not only can carrot stretching help horses that are competing, but it can also help older horses with arthritis by keeping their cores strong and making their stiff or sore joints easier to move. It can also help horses get better after an injury, when they aren’t moving much because they are resting or getting better.
How to give your horse a carrot stretch
Carrot stretches must be done in a safe place for the safety of both the horse and the person working with it. This means a place where the ground is flat, there aren’t many distractions, and there’s enough room to move around without bumping into things.
Take off any blankets, straps, or tack that might make it hard for the horse to move.
Start by putting the horse in a straight line on a flat surface.
Use a treat to get the horse to move in the direction you point with your hand.
Hold each position for three to five seconds before giving your horse a treat and letting it relax.
You can do each of these exercises anywhere from 3 to 5 times. Start slowly because your horse may not have used these muscles in this way before. If you start out too hard, you could hurt yourself or make yourself sore.
Don’t make a horse do a stretch or stretch past the point where they feel comfortable. This can also hurt someone. The more often you do these stretches with your horse, the further and longer they will be able to hold the stretch.
Best Horse Carrot Stretch Exercises
Stretch sideways toward your waist, then your hip and/or hock. On the other side, do it again.
Rounding stretch: Tell the horse to bend its neck toward its chest, between its knees, and then toward each front hoof.
Trunkal lifts: Press lightly but firmly on the horse’s sternum to get the horse to lift its back.
These stretches are great for horses that are in good shape, are getting better, or have arthritis. Follow your horse’s lead. If something seems too hard or they don’t want to do it, slow down and stretch less often or for less time.
How often should you do the carrot stretch?
Just like with any other exercise, it’s important to start slowly and build up over time. At first, your horse may only be able to do one or two short repetitions without getting tired. Follow what your horse tells you to do and don’t ask them to do more than they can handle. With regular, consistent practice, you’ll be able to move more freely. It may take a few weeks before you notice a big change in how flexible your horse is.
Carrot stretches can be done at any time, but they might work best after a light walk or trot to warm up the muscles. They are also great for helping the muscles relax and stretch after a workout.