Stretching can help prepare your horse’s body by loosening him before you ride, which can help him if he’s feeling a little stiff. BHS instructor Vikki Hayton shares her tips for stretching your horse before a ride.

Please note: it is important not to ask for too much stretch before your horse has warmed up.

Carrot stretches

Before you start any ridden exercise, do some carrot stretches. Note to self: be careful of your fingers and use long carrots!

  • First, stand with your shoulder at your horse’s shoulder and ask him to reach round for the carrot.
  • Then encourage him to stretch again, but this time stand next to where the girth would be and ask him to stretch around to the side.
  • In both stretches your horse’s head shouldn’t tilt, as this will prevent the outside of him body from stretching correctly.
  • Next, ask your horse to reach between his front legs for a carrot so he’s stretching his top line.
  • Hold the carrot between his knees and gradually build up the stretch as you lower the carrot.

In-hand exercises

Once your horse is tacked up and you’re walking him out of the box, always do transitions, in-hand, to halt and then back up to walk. These are really good for establishing obedience too.

If you have room, another great in-hand exercise is to ask your horse to step sideways away from your hand:

  • Make your hand into a soft fist and gently ask him to yield away from it, just as you would if you were riding and asking for leg-yield.
  • Bend your horse slowly to the right and left, again not allowing his head to tilt.
  • You could also try pushing his quarters away from you. Imagine he’s standing with his nose on a traffic cone and get him to circle, using his hindquarters only, around the ‘cone’.

About the expert: Vikki Hayton is a BHS instructor and examiner, and British Dressage judge based at College Farm EC. 

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