The Science Of Dynamic Stretching and Fascial Release: 5 Tips To Maximize Equine Flexibility

Not all stretches are equal when it comes to increasing flexibility and improving muscular symmetry. Science has smashed the belief that the best way to improve flexibility is through static stretching. When it relates to the equine world, science has proven dynamic mobilization decreases asymmetry in certain muscles ( m. multifidus) which provide stability to the equine caudal thoracic and lumbar spine

Focusing on stretches to strengthen equine posture along with fascial release techniques to keep the fascial tissues elastic is essential for equine (and human) range of motion.

The role of fascia in equine flexibility and posture

Fascia is the most abundant tissue in the body and it lays beneath the skin, covering, encapsulating, separating and stabilizing muscles and organs. It requires proper hydration for elasticity and function. If the fascia is stiff or restricted, it can’t receive the proper hydration necessary for optimal function. Restricted fascia can contribute to pain. Fascia also provides valuable proprioceptive feedback to the body because the fascial tissues are innervated with sensory nerve endings. Incorporating myofascial release as therapy in your horse's care (and you too) is vital to achieving a better range of motion and overall wellbeing by aiding in pain management.

Fascial health, coupled with dynamic stretching, hydration, nutrition, and exercise is the key to achieving better ROM and longevity for your horse.

There are many important factors to consider when implementing a training or conditioning routine for your horse and regardless of discipline, a stretching routine is highly beneficial to performance and development.

Dynamic stretching activates the essential tissues and fascia through movement and prepares them for exercise and releases muscle tension after training has ended.

First, it’s important to understand the basic terminology when it comes to the different types of stretches, so let’s take a look.

Static

  • Static stretches are intended to be challenging, but not uncomfortable or painful. Typically the positions are held for 10–30 seconds.
  • Static stretching is very common, especially in terms of general fitness because it’s considered safe for improving total flexibility.
  • Experts now state dynamic stretching is the preferred method for improving range of motion for functional movement.

Dynamic

  • Dynamic stretches are performed by moving through a challenging posture through a repetitious range of motion (10-15 times).
  • Dynamic stretching requires focus through coordination and is highly beneficial in improving posture, functional range of motion and overall mobility. 

Passive

  • Passive stretching is using an object or outside assistance to achieve a stretch.
  • Some of the hindquarter stretches require you to assist your horse with are passive stretches.
  • With passive stretching in horses, the muscle(s) you are working with relax while you aid and support the horse in stretching.

To increase equine range of motion it’s important to understand the role of fascia what stretches are the most beneficial and the science of when and how to implement them in your equine conditioning program.

Want to help your horse gain better flexibility in minutes a day? Simply follow the steps below.  

 5 Ways To Maximize Your Horse’s Flexibility

1. Stretch 2x Daily to Reach Optimal Flexibility

If you are fortunate enough to see your horse twice a day, get your stretches in. While it’s true, stretching first thing in the morning can be a bit more challenging for the body, when you add this to the daily routing, mobility becomes more fluid.  Repeat the stretches in the evening or late afternoon with your horse. 1x a day is OK, but 2x is excellent.

2. Stretch Your Horse After Training

While the joints, muscles and connective tissues are warm and supple flexibility is increased. Stretching your horse after exercise is essential to decrease the build of lactic acid to prevent “tying up”. Stiff muscles are often times a result of not properly stretching after training.

3. Do the 5 Dynamic Mobilization Stretches

I’ve provided a resource in the form of a guided pdf to challenge your training skills with your horse. Learn how you can improve your horse’s flexibility and mobility utilizing dynamic mobilization for developing posture stability.

4. Follow a Conditioning Program and Track Progress

A good trainer has a plan for a horse. When you have a strategy mapped out, you have the ability to track and assess a horse’s progress. With this knowledge, you can adapt or adjust conditioning to meet specific goals. Training your horse without a plan with specific measurable results is equivalent to flying blind and hoping you land in paradise. You’re more likely to smash into something and wonder what went wrong.

5.  Focus and Adapt Stretches With Other Exercises

A horse’s body can quickly adapt to exercise and stretching routines. It’s crucial to overload by altering stretching exercises, patterns and resistance to consistently develop the body’s strength and flexibility. It’s important to recognize a horse’s limitations in regards to reaching optimal range of motion. Some horses will have a limited range of motion due to physical or medical conditions.

All you can do as a trainer is to develop a horse and guide them to reach their personal optimal range of motion. Never push a horse past the limitations of their body. There should never be pain or discomfort when engaging in stretches and exercise.

Take the 5-Day Strong and Stretchy Mini-Course to improve equine postural stability, achieve greater flexibility and range of motion.

Check out my online course: Strong and Stretchy is a 30-day program dedicated to maximizing equine flexibility. Click HERE for details. 


OTTB ACADEMY Is a Support Site for Equestrians Interested in Improving Equine Flexibility, Strength & Mobility Utilizing Holistic Training Techniques to Increase Range of Motion With a Special Focus Centered on Biomechanics and Reschooling Off-The-Track-Thoroughbreds.

*Information on this site is for educational purposes only.  If your equine is experiencing or exhibiting symptoms of illness or lameness, please consult your veterinarian.

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