Overuse of Stretches Could Be Harmful to Horses

A recent study shows that daily equine stretches might do more harm than good.

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Myerscough College research found certain stretching can negatively effect jointsMany riders include stretches as part of their horse’s regular workout with the belief that it will help him stay supple or prevent injury. A recent study published in The Veterinary Journal shows that this practice could actually be detrimental.

Researchers at Myerscough College in Lancashire, England found that while stretching did affect horses’ movement, it did not produce consistent improvement and even hindered the range of movement in the stifle and hock joints. This goes against conventional beliefs in the horse world that suggest equine athletes benefit from stretching as part of every workout as human athletes do.

The research team used 18 horses divided into three groups for the study. One group received passive stretches six days per week and another group received stretches three days per week for an eight-week period. The control group received 10 minutes of human contact daily, but no stretches. The horses that did receive stretches were all treated by the same person, a qualified equine body worker.

All of the horses were trotted in-hand by the same handler, and measurements were taken every two weeks, starting with the beginning of the study before the stretching treatment began. Researchers used video analysis to measure stride length and range of motion in the horses’ joints.

At the end of the study, the researchers noted that the group of horses that received six days of stretching per week had a significantly lower range of motion in the stifle and hock than the horses in the other groups. The horses that performed stretches three days per week had a higher range of movement than the other horses. The researchers noted no significant difference in stride length in any of the horses.

“These results suggest that stretching every day may not be appropriate for the horse” concludes the Myerscough study. “Stretching three days a week provided some benefit in terms of range of movement, and may be a safer option for the industry to consider.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. I think stretching is good if it’s done by the horse. I don’t think it helps though if you pull their body parts all over the place. E.g. Instead of pulling the horse’s leg forward as in the photo, have the horse stretch his own leg forward. He’ll stop if it’s too far.

  2. Hmmm – very interesting but I think I need a more scientific approach before I’m convinced. Thanks for the article.

  3. Love this article! I always thought the whole yoga for horses thing was silly. Why not just spend time warming your horse up properly and paying attention to its body language and expression before asking it to work?

  4. Would love to see a bigger study. And they say the horse’s stride remaind the same yet the range of motion in the hind legs changed??? Can someone explain EXACTLY what they were measuring??

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