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Because Quality of Movement Matters



I Hate Carrot Stretches!!!

Posted by [email protected] on 31 January, 2017 at 15:35

I hate carrot stretches. As much as I hate side reins, draw reins, harsh bits, ill fitting saddles, people who blame the horse for every thing, that Winter is as long as the other 3 seasons put together, that chocolate makes me fat, that I can't ride my horse more often, and........the list goes on, but I won't bore you with my non-horsey pet peeves anymore. Okay, so, back to the topic at hand..... carrot stretches, and why I hate them. They're always recommended, by other practitioners, for horses who have problems flexing their necks laterally (left or right). I have been told by clients that the stretches were recommended by one or all of the various practitioners who have been to see the horse, before me, to solve the problem. As a massage therapist I have had clients with stiff horses who have been on the carrot stretch program, for weeks to months, to increase their neck flexibility and flexion. And let me tell you, oh baby, by the time I've gotten to them they can stretch back to their hips and between their legs and almost touch their belly button (do horses had belly buttons?)! I am always polite and ask to see the display, because everyone is so pleased with their horse's new found flexibility they want to demonstrate it, plus, the mighty steed in question will get treats. Then I put my hands on this mighty flexing machine and feel their muscles, that are tight, sore, in spasm, or some combination of all 3 problems. You know, the muscles. The ones that need to work properly to flex your horse around your leg on a circle, and the muscles that have to take the power from the hind end and push it up and through the back, lift the shoulders up through the withers into the neck, to allow you that soft feel in your hands? Then there are the muscles that create the flexion from the inside hind leg up into the hip via the stifle; softening the rib cage, keeping the shoulders and front legs on the same path as the hind legs, culminating in a soft curve through the neck. That same soft flexion which the horse can hold on his own without balancing on our inside hand? Is that giving you a picture of the flexion that we are talking about? Yes? Well...does it look similar to what the horse is doing in a carrot stretch? Then, like a good trial lawyer (who always knows what the answer to their question will be, or they don't ask it) I ask my question; so, how is he/she flexing when you are riding since you've been doing the STUPID carrot stretches? Well I don't add stupid, at least not out loud. And the answer is always the same..........You guessed it.....; "no better". AAHRRRGHHHH I hate carrot stretches! Soooo, now I've gotten that off my chest I can proceed, rationally, to clarify. I don't really hate carrot stretches! They are a tool which is not being used correctly, to solve a problem it wasn't intended to solve. Surprise, surprise, they aren't to improve neck flexion! What do you know! They are actually called Dynamic Mobilization Exercises, and they're also known as baited stretches, or carrot stretches. Now I will quote from Dr. Hillary Clayton who has done the research on these dynamic mobilization exercises; "Specific muscles are activated in order to move and stabilize the intervertebral joints as the horse moves his chin into the different positions. The abdominal muscles help to round and bend the back, while the back muscles provide a counter-torque that stabilizes the intervertebral joints during back movements. Joint stabilization is very important both for improving athletic performance and for preventing back injury. Research has shown that regular performance of dynamic mobilization exercises over a period of 3 months stimulated hypertrophy (enlargement) of the muscles that stabilize the horse's back." This research was published as Dynamic mobilisation exercises increase cross sectional area of musculus multifidus in the prestigious Equine Veterinary Journal in 2011 . Now you may ask, do I have the solution? Yes I do, and how do I know it works, My clients tell me what a difference they feel when they ride, and their horses muscles tell me as well. Give me a call if your carrot stretches haven't improved the flexibility through the neck and body of your horse, I'd love to help!

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