When was the last time you stretched?
Yoga has become a big part of my life. Not only does it involve stretching out sore and aching muscles from riding, I also use it as a form of meditation. When I am on my mat I can focus on the present moment without worrying about the past or future. Yoga has amazing healing benefits and mentally and physically it can help in any aspect of your life. My interest in yoga began when I started getting into health and fitness. I didn't know a thing about it other than to start with simple stretching. As my interest grew I turned to Instagram where I stalked amazing yoga people and copied a lot of what they were doing (the_southern_yogi and jessicaolie were two big inspirations that I used). I started to become addicted to learning new poses and began challenging myself to master many of the inversions. Conquering a new pose is the greatest feeling; satisfaction and a sense of achievement drives me to learn more.
Flexibility is important for yoga and also in your everyday life. When we ask our bodies to do something we are making our muscles move in different ways that they might not be used to. Exercise is a part of many people's lives to stay fit and healthy. We need flexibility in our muscles so they can move our bodies. If my muscles lack flexibility they start to ache and tighten. Lactic acid also builds up and that is when rips or tears can occur. You may be thinking I can't do yoga I don't have a mat or can't afford the pricey class prices. Well, you do not need these things to do yoga or stretch. Simply sitting on the floor and beginning to conduct simple stretches will straight away make beneficial changes to your body. Another great spot to stretch is in bed as soon as you wake up (lie on your back and bring one leg up to your chest, hold for 10 seconds, repeat on the other side). Stretching your muscles has a number of benefits these include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increase in overall strength
- Reduce lactic acid build up after a hard workout
- Reduces injury
- Reduces tiredness
- Improves sleep
- Improves joint mobility
If we get so many health benefits from stretching then let's apply this to our horses. We ask a lot from our horses every time we put a saddle on their back. They do not really have a choice in whether we ride them or not so we should be doing anything we can to make them happy and comfortable when exercising them. Horses benefit from having flexibility too! Making sure you remember to stretch your horses before and after you ride has similar benefits to us. There are simple stretches that you can do to your horse that will make a big impact.
4 simple stretches for your horse:
1. Front leg extension
- Supporting the fetlock joint and the back of the knee joint pull the leg out straight in front of the horse, ho
ld for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side. This stretch is essential once the horse is saddled and girth tightened. It prevents any pinching from the girth,
2. Front Leg Flexion
- Facing the front towards the horse, stand by the shoulder and pick up the leg so it is bent. Hold the fetlock with one hand and place the other just above the knee on the front of the leg. Use a pulling pressure and hold for 10 seconds, repeat on other side.
3. Neck stretch
- Standing at the shoulder place one hand on their cheek bone and get them too bend around you. A food reward can help with this stretch. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side
4. Back Leg Stretch
- Making your horse walk backwards for 4/5 steps then forward for 4/5 steps. Repeat three times. By walking backwards the back legs are stretching themselves without you getting kicked from picking up their back legs.
These are four easy stretches that you can do to your horse everytime you spend time with them. They may feel tight and resistant when you first start to stretch them but after a week I can assure you that their flexibility will increase and they will find it a lot easier to complete the stretches.
Before you have your next ride have a stretch before you get on or even once you finish your ride. Make note on how your muscles recover and feel! I know that my muscles feel amazing after a good stretching session and I know that the horses also appreciate having a stretch. STAY FLEXIBLE.