In order to perform at their best, your equestrian athlete needs to be able to access as much of their mobility as possible. Owners and caregivers will be happy to know that there are many options for improving range of motion in their horse.
Understanding the Horse’s Anatomy
Muscle stimulation begins with the nervous system, which produces acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine binds to sodium channels. The channels open and send sodium into muscle cells that cause them to move.
Before You Begin
Important: Before beginning any technique to improve mobility in your horse, it’s best to begin slowly and gently. This will help prevent you from causing them pain and also prevent their resistance to these techniques.
Learn Your Horse’s Body
It’s difficult to know where to begin with improving your horse’s mobility if you don’t know which areas need attention. Using your hands and fingertips to palpate their muscles will help you to identify problem areas.
Couple this with observation. Note how freely your horse moves in one direction vs. the other, at varying speeds, and observe restrictions when doing certain movements.
Mimic Current Movements
Ensure that techniques resemble your horse’s movements during training for easier adoption. Make sure that mobility movements are smaller than training movements to prevent pain due to over-flexing and help your horse improve their mobility gradually.
Consider Factors That Affect Mobility
All horses will have a different ability to respond to mobility exercises. Contributing factors include living conditions, environment, diet and nutrition, and age and fitness level.
Best Techniques to Improve Equestrian Mobility
Massage – This warms and oxygenates the muscles. It readies your horse for stretching. Blading or use of a massage roller are both great ways to help relax and prepare the back muscles.
Carrot stretch – When your horse has reached their treat, make sure they feel the stretch for several seconds, and then return slowly to the neutral position. If you notice struggle or deviation, return to those points and hold before increasing to a slight degree and then releasing.
Equine pelvic tilts – Apply light to moderate pressure from croup to hip joint on both sides at the same time, with the goal of engaging the hind end squarely. Correct uneven tilt with increased pressure with the hand their haunches move to.
Effective Physical Therapies
Hydrotherapy, or exercising in water, is a wonderful way to help your horse achieve maximum mobility.
Walking helps horses achieve better mobility through controlled exercise. Both hand-walking and the use of hose exercisers or treadmills help to promote overall fitness and muscle flexibility.
Inclines help to strengthen hind end muscles, and front and hind limb muscles can be activated by having your horse walk over ground poles.
Chiropractic care and acupuncture can help maintain spinal health and keep energy flowing to the muscles.
Whole-body vibration, or WBV improves circulation, stimulates the muscles, improves range of motion and also promotes healing. Horses that receive regular WBV enjoy a lower risk of injury and better performance.
Best Practices for Successful Mobility Maintenance
In order to achieve continued improvement in mobility, it’s critical to be consistent. As you notice their range of motion improving, slowly introduce deeper stretching and more challenging inclines and movements.
Regular veterinary visits will help keep your horse in top shape and allow the opportunity to identify and treat any conditions which may be interfering with mobility.
Don’t Forget About Yourself
It’s important for horse riders to improve their own mobility. Ensure clear communication with your horse by exercising your core muscles.
The ITB stretch helps you improve your riding experience. Lie on your back with both legs flat. Then lift one leg and let one knee drop over the opposite leg. Straighten this leg until you feel the stretch, hold for 10 deep breaths, and repeat on the other side.
The downward calf and ankle stretch helps you achieve a longer leg during horse riding. Stand and then fold at the hip with hands on the ground in an inverted V. Bend one knee while pushing the opposite heel toward the ground, repeating on the other side.
The lunge stretch helps you achieve an independent seat by loosening the hip flexors. Start by kneeling with a straight back, and bring your right leg forward until the knee is bent at 90 degrees and aligned with your ankle before sinking hips toward the ground.
The Albatross is an upper body solution for improving posture. Simply lie on the stomach, keeping feet on the floor, stretching arms to the sides, and then lift chest and arms together. Hold the stretch open for as long as possible.
Leading Equine Therapy Products
Full mobility contributes to your horse’s strength, performance, and well-being. As the inventors of WBV therapy, Vitafloor’s vibration floors and plates continue to benefit horses of all ages and fitness levels. As well, our exercises, massages, and solariums are used and endorsed by breeders, trainers, and veterinarians around the world.
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