My horse is an absolute carrot monster and will do whatever it takes to get them, often forgetting his manners. So when I came across an article of horse physio Nina Warham, I couldn’t wait to try out these handy exercises. Many equestrian people are familiar with ‘carrot stretches’ which physiotherapists call dynamic mobilisation exercises (DMEs).
A dynamic mobilisation exercise is a fancy way of describing core stability exercises for horses. When carrying out these exercises on a regular basis they will increase spinal and postural stability and improve the size and strength of the multifidus. The multifidus is a small, postural muscle that crosses 3-5 vertebrae connecting one to the next throughout the neck and spine, supporting localised spinal stability.
The spinal muscle Longissimus acts to extend the horses back and is important for many reasons such as lifting the front end of the horse in the canter as the hind leg moves under the horse and supporting bringing the front end up in preparation to jump. Overuse and shortening of this muscle can cause discomfort and also inhibit the horse’s ability to round and flex up through the back, making the horse more hollow and less able to engage the core and soften into a contact.
So that’s the reason behind trying out the core stability exercises for horses, to flex and strengthen these important muscles in the horse’s back. Of course it can also just be another thing to try out with your best friend, play around with carrots and get in some stretching and strengthening of the muscles all at once! Here are some example exercises to try out. Try 3 to 5 repetitions in a day, holding each position for around five seconds. To begin with, you may find that your horse struggles to gain full range but over time will begin to increase in flexibility.
Using a carrot or treat, encourage the horse to bring its chin to its chest.
I find it easier to have a treat in both hands for this one. You can guide the horses nose done with the treat in the left hand and then bring the right hand between the fetlocks to give the horse the treat in the final position.
Encourage your horse around to the side trying not to let the horse twist at the poll, the bend should come from the neck. There will also be an element of thorocolumbar bend. Aim to get your horse’s nose as far back and as close to the body as possible without allow a twist at the poll.
Again use the treat to encourage side bend but into a low set position aiming towards the hind fetlock.
Source: Horse & Hound - Nina Wareham