Monday, August 4, 2014

"Easy Fun Stretches For Your Horse – For restart or any time"

Howdy Friends,
Kessy and I have not been able to hit the trail since the last week of April because of my adventure in cardiac land. We won't be enjoying saddle time, or trails, until September, but I've been given the okay to do a lot of things now, and I'm beginning to get Kessy ready for the big day. Bringing a healthy horse back from a 4 month vacation is certainly not as difficult as one that had been given rest due to injury, but I believe care should be taken in the restart just the same. Even though she enjoys her big treed playground and run-in, I've not been able to do anything with Kessy for 3 months, except Coffee Clutch and brush her. She's had no body work, exercises or any of the things we hold so valuable. I even had a friend trim her feet! Still can't go back to that for 8 weeks.

The past few days I've begun to do little things with Kessy to get her body in shape again, and one very important thing is to loosen her up with gentle, easy stretching exercises, and I thought I'd share them with you. These carrot exercises are for the horse to release in her own comfort zone, no pressure, no stress.  I recommend these for every horse all the time, but they are highly important to restarting a horse. Once you start doing them, you will be amazed at how much your horse changes.
Kessy demonstrating the side carrot stretch, slow easy and release
First start by offering carrot on the left and right, hold your hand somewhere near her side so she reaches for the carrot. Two things are important, she must not step to come for it, and don't ask for too big of a bend at first. Some horses will bend all the way to their ribs the first time, others will only be able to come half way or less. Whatever suits your horse is best keep it comfortable. This is all you do every day for a few days until she can do this with ease. Then you can add the bow carrot.
Kessy demonstrating the bow carrot stretch, full release, notice she has not bent her knees, this is correct.
To do the bow carrot, reach between her front legs and encourage her to bow to reach for it. At first she may not be able to bow very far, don't push it, reach up to her, keep her comfortable. Gradual increases in reach over a few days will get her all the way. Then you can add the big stretch carrot.
Kessy demonstration the big stretch carrot - notice her feet are planted. If your horse steps around to reach, don't give the carrot, start over, ask for, "Stand," she'll get it.
To do the big stretch carrot your horse must be able to do the side and bow carrots with great ease. Start with them each day, then when she is ready, stand toward her rear, reach between her hind legs up to her toward her belly and encourage her to reach back and under for the carrot. At first she will be confused, side step, try to turn to get it. Be consistent with your encouragement, and ask her to stand still and reach with her neck to accomplish the stretch. If you have given enough days and time to the side and bow stretches she will be able to do the big stretch the first or second time you try, but don't rush it.

Be sure to do these stretches at liberty, no halter no lead rope. She must be free to release, relax and stretch. Don't hurry the process, give each exercise the days it takes to master. Just because your horse snatches the carrot, if she is fast and struggling to grab it, she has not mastered the release, slow down and watch for the graceful move … After you and your horse have mastered them, make them a part of your pre-ride warm up. Kessy and I hope you enjoy these stretches, and joining us on our trail riding restart. From time to time, we'll share more restart exercises.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry