Make the most of the time with your horse.

January 6, 2024

By Dr. Sandra

Making the most of the time with your horse.

There are three simple things that you can easily incorporate into your routine time with your horse to strengthen your bond and improve your horse’s health. You will both love it, and it takes little to no additional time.

Grooming time: Even if you do no have the time or inclination to ride, grooming sessions can be popular all around! I especially like grooming gloves as they turn grooming time into a massage, Products can vary from quite soft to very stiff. For sensitive horses, I have even had success with hand groomers made for dogs and cats! You can use the gloves like a living curry comb. If you pay attention, you will find your horse’s favorite spots rather quickly! Also as your hands are more involved, you may find tender muscles and give a delightful massage. This also has the benefit of bringing up the natural luster of the coat. Also you can often detect sore spots or injuries as you touch each part of the body.

Carrot stretches – baited stretches to each side of the body and between the legs. There are several You-Tube videos and written articles on carrot stretches. This particular exercise only takes a few minutes and has been actually shown to improve coordination and thickness of the back muscles with as few as 3 repetitions per side and 3 between the legs 5 days weekly. What a great way to assess your horse’s flexibility as well as share a tasty reward (Beware, do watch your fingers). I find it useful to have my horse follow a plastic bowel containing carrot pieces rather than feeding directly from my hand. Stay tuned for further information on carrot stretches.

Handle your horse from both sides. I challenge you – intend to handle your horse predominantly to from the right during an entire interaction session. If you are like me, you will find yourself struggling with tasks that are generally easy from the left and I often catch myself back at my usual habits (hey, why am I back over here on the left?)! Research has shown that the majority of horses prefer to view humans from their left eye, even horses with no history of contact with people! In my practice it is extremely common for a horse to react to me differently from the left to the right, and even try to change sides to stay on their comfortable side. This eye dependence is reinforced by our equestrian training- everything is traditionally done from the left. As most of us no longer wear sabers, we can work on both sides. The two sides of the horse’s brain literally do not communicate. They do not have a corpus collosum, which is the structure that allows signals to go from the left to the right side of the brain. Combine this with the natural asymmetry that both us and our horse’s are born with, you can imagine that it contributes a great deal to some of the crookedness issues we struggle with in training, and it certainly places uneven stress on the body.