I’ve begun doing a few “carrot stretches” with Mad for Smarty when I go out the barn. Essentially, it is a bit of yoga for my horse. You take a treat and hold it, say, towards his left flank. The horse then has to stretch their neck and work on bending to get the treat. There are several different positions I’ve been doing – left side, right side, in between the front legs – all to get Smarty stretched out and thinking about bending his body. At first when I held the treat to one of his sides he would try to spin in circles to get it. I wouldn’t give it to him those times, but instead would keep asking him to really make an effort to bend his neck and flex to the left. After a couple tires he understood what I was asking and would stand in place and only move his head and neck. I would give Smarty the treat while his head was still in the correct position or the stretch. That way, he’ll eventually learn to hold his position for longer intervals of time.
At first, Smarty was having issues flexing to his right. This was expected coming from the track, and I had already assumed that left would be his easier direction. He kept spinning in circles in an attempt to get the treat held to his right side rather than giving in a bending. Smarty was also less flexible to the right side; he wasn’t able to stretch as far to get the treat. But by the second day he was already improving and had a better idea of what I was asking of him.
The point of this exercise is to get Smarty thinking about bending and to build up a little strength and flexibility. When I begin working with him, Smarty won’t stretch down for the bit or bend but will try to carry his head too high and tense. These simple exercises will hopefully help him learn to relax and flex . Plus, it gives me another thing to do with him until I can begin work.