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Carrot Stretches

Three quick exercises to help increase your horse's flexibilty.

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1. CARROT STRETCHES – Break a few carrots (or any horse treat) into small pieces so that you have enough to reward about 12 stretches (six on each side). Stand about where your leg would be if you were riding. Show the carrot piece to your horse and use it to encourage him to reach around to where you’re standing. Note how far your horse can comfortably stretch, and record it in your horse log. After practicing these stretches for a month, compare your “before and after” results.  

STRETCH #1 - Hold the carrot about midway down your horse’s barrel, where the girth would sit. When he reaches around to grab the carrot, try to keep him from snatching it and whipping back. Aim to keep his head there for at least three seconds, stretching through his neck and into the opposite shoulder. Repeat this stretch three times on each side.  

STRETCH #2 – This is similar to Stretch No. 1, but hold the carrot higher up on your horse’s barrel – approximately where the corner edge of your saddle would be. 

STRETCH #3 - Hold the carrot on the outside of your horse’s front foot, right at the hoof. Encourage him to reach down and stretch his neck out to grab his reward.

Add a nice neck scratch between stretches, and your horse will be very happy to see you the next time you visit!

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Reader Comments

Laina    Pewaukee, WI

1/2/2011 3:48:37 PM

I do this with my horse. It has not caused bad habits such as snatching food or nipping. Many people believe that any hand feeding leads to this type of behavior. This is one of the great horse myths that lives on. If you are letting the horse call the shots, as in, hand over the food or else, it would be trouble. Done correctly, it is fine.

Patricia    Largo Canyon, NM

1/2/2011 3:24:49 AM

I do positive reinforcement training with food so I am not opposed to handfeeding. But I think Ralph is right in saying getting the horse to grab it from difficult positions teaches the horse bad things. Better to make a target for the animal to touch, then reward it for doing so.

Ralph    New Zealand, AL

12/31/2010 2:08:43 PM

Sorry, but I don't like this method of achieving flexibility at all. Flexibilty can easily be achieved with pressure and release. Using a carrot or any food for training is unecessary and in my view dangerous. Using a carrot like this will encourage many horses to make a snatch for the food potentially taking your fingers with it if you are not just enough out of reach. Next they will be reaching (snatching for it)out of your hand when you are leading them in and you are carrying one or have it in your pocket. You are going to end up being bitten any time they think you have feed or they can smell it.I don't like this idea at all.

Diane    Scottsbluff, NE

9/9/2009 3:04:36 PM

Any ideas on helping an 8 year old stud horse who is gentle but never been rode? He takes the saddle well, but has no idea about the bit. We are working on flexibility but need advise on helping him move his feet.

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