This is an analogy we often you when out saddle fitting, especially when its a young/green horse or one who is lacking topline & muscle. We ask clients to visualise their horse’s back as a suspension bridge and when we add weight and additional stress to this bridge in terms of a rider, saddle, it is likely the bridge will start to dip and sag unless all the wires, stays and supports (muscles, ligaments, bones) are in place and strong enough to support these new forces. Too much weight too soon, for too long could affect your horses ability to train correctly, willingly and quite possibly impact on their long term health and welfare. Building core strength in our horses is essential if we expect them to carry us round.
We were lucky enough to hear Professor Hilary Clayton speak on the ‘Mechanics of the horse’s back in health and disease’ which looked at this suspension bridge in more detail and her talk highlighted the importance of the multifidus muscles, the spinal stabilisers, and how back pain can damage these muscles which in long term may not recover without specific core training exercises.
Behold the Carrot Stretches!! 🥕🥕 👏🏻👏🏻 these aren’t just stretches for flexibility but activators of the core.
Recent research carried out by Prof Clayton and other teams around the world working in various disciplines have shown that using ;
6 types of carrot stretches with 3-5 repetitions of each, for 3 days a week, over a period of 6 weeks, actually saw an improvement in the multifidus muscles not only in their length but in their symmetry too. Whether the horse was young or old, a thoroughbred or a therapy pony, all showed positive results and so much so many continued with the exercises after the research projects had finished.
So fitting these exercises into your horse’s weekly routine is something we should all consider if we want to have a positive impact on our horse’s ongoing back health & long term welfare.
“Activate your Horse’s Core – unmounted exercises for dynamic mobility, strength and balance” by Prof Clayton is undoubtedly my new fav read and fits in perfectly with the suspension bridge analogy 🤓