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Here’s a great Q&A article from theHorse.com. Veterinarian Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS, offers her response to a question about asymmetrical muscle development and how it can relate to both movement and saddle fitting issues.

And be sure to note her comments in the last paragraph, “So what can you do about this asymmetry?”!


Here are a few tips to keep any stretches you do with your horse safe and effective.

  1. Have a sense of what muscles you are stretching and why before you begin. Unless the muscles across one side of a joint are initially tighter than others across the same joint, you may create an imbalance over time by only stretching one group.
  2. Apply stretches slowly! This way both you and your horse have a chance to feel when it’s time to stop before the range of motion is taken too far. If muscles are overstretched, a necessary but counter-productive guarding response occurs, or worse, a muscle or tendon may be injured.
  3. Gently jostle your horse’s leg or neck before applying any stretch. This will help muscles relax, reducing initial (and maybe unnecessary) guarding responses.
  4. Do not hold stretches for more than 1-2 seconds, but rather keep the joint moving slowly in and out of a comfortable, easy “stretch,” repeating several times rather than one long stretch. The range of motion will (usually) increase a little with each repetition, and you will avoid many potential pitfalls of the longer static stretches. The longer stretches require much more skill and experience from both you and your horse to be done well.
  5. Use either massage or exercise to warm muscles up before doing stretches. This will reduce the chances of causing a strained muscle, though even a warmed-up muscle must be stretched appropriately for safety.

Don’t assume stretching is always good for your horse! Depends on how it’s done, when it’s done, and how often, just to name a few obvious factors. (And yes, there are potential benefits to stretching, just some potential pitfalls as well.) In my book I teach a good alternative to stretching for the limbs, which is to use a combination of jostles and circles to help muscles relax and stimulate joint fluid.

I also believe that massage provides a much more efficient and effective way to improve range of motion. It can melt adhesions that may be restricting joint movements, and can also lengthen the collagen fibers (and their orientation to each other) within the connective tissue. Theoretically this is what stretching does also (one of the benefits), but only if the stretches are held for a length of time. (Some say at least 90 seconds for this to happen. Try telling your horse that as you’re trying to hold their leg in a stretch!)

So here are two links, one to the research article itself (the abstract and access to more), and another link offering a good summary of the research.

Listen and enjoy!

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Here’s a link to some new research which supports what we all already knew about the power of touch. As usual, the research is about humans, which is fine. Just know it all applies to the animals, too. (Humans are animals, too, after all!)

The article’s title is “Massage May Aid in Grieving Process.”

Equine veterinarian, chiropractor, and acupuncturist Dr. Kari DeLeeuw offers another tip on Horse Tip Daily.

Horse Tip Daily #176

  • Listen to all of Dr. De Leeuw’s tips here.
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    I’m very happy to announce that my book, The Horse Lover’s Guide to Massage: What Your Horse Wants You to Know, did indeed win a bronze award for 2010 (for books published in 2009)!
    You can see the complete list of winners and more information about the awards at the Living Now Book Awards website,

    I’m excited to announce that my book, The Horse Lover’s Guide to Massage: What Your Horse Wants You to Know, is one of four finalists of the 2010 Living Now Book Award in the Animals category (scroll down to category #7 to see the list). The final awards will be announced on April 22.

    Send those judges lots of positive vibes!

    Following up on the last post, since my horses were all sedated for their very thorough dental exams, I’m reminded of something I try to keep in mind any time they’re sedated. Along with the rest of the body, sedation can slow down the gut, or digestive process. My horse Kiona once had minor colic symptoms following a sedation, and the best guess seemed to be that it was likely due to this effect. (In her case, she came around very quickly with just some coaching from the vet over the phone.)

    So now whenever my horse’s are sedated, or even in advance if I anticipate it, I like to do at least one or sometimes several things to help their digestive system as preventative care. Massage, of course, is one of these, since the genuine relaxation effect of massage stimulates the digestion (as opposed to the effect of artificial sedation, interesting!). But there are also other very quick strategies to add to massage, or as an alternative. For example, you can offer your horse some grazing time, if possible, since fresh grass is excellent for the digestion (if your horse’s health allows). You can also soak their hay, making it more easily digested and ensuring more water intake along with it. And of course, taking your horse for a walk is helpful, since the walking movement also promotes gut movements. (Please note that following sedation you need to be sure your horse is fully alert again before offering any food to avoid risk of choke or other chewing related problems. Likewise, for greater safety, wait until the sedation has worn off before taking your horse for a walk.)