Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Washington, USA.
There's nothing wrong with giving treats. They have to be rewarded and most any animal is food motivated. I stretch my horse's neck out after every ride. You have NO idea how much looser and more flexible she is because of it. =]
Make sure you do it after he's been worked. I typically bring my mare back in when she is still a little warm. When the muscles are warm and soft, it's easier to stretch without the straining you would get if you tried to stretch a "cold" muscle.
It's also important that your horse doesn't "bounce" in the stretch. I heard that when people, say, bend down to touch their toes, when they "bounce" it pulls the muscle more than stretching it. I imagine the same principle applies with horses. Muscle is still muscle. =]
When I stretch my horse, we stretch to the left, to the right, the left, and then the right again. I also get her to put her head between her legs to stretch her back a bit. She usually brings a leg forward, so I make sure to do it from both sides as well. For example, when I stand on the right and put the treat between her legs, she brings her right leg forward to stretch down. You can also encourage your horse to stretch his neck straight in front of him.
And since my horse knows her routine, I can do these things without a treat, by tapping a certain spot on her sides and legs. I still treat her though, but only once per side. For example, she stretches twice to the right, but she only gets the treat the second time. That way I only go through 4 treats instead of 8. =]
Sorry my reply was so long, I'm just REALLY into stretching, and it makes me so happy when other people decide to stretch their horses too. Athletes stretch, your horse IS an athlete. There's no reason they shouldn't get to. I like to stretch her legs too, she's getting older and while she doesn't usually get stiff, I want to make sure I do all I can to keep her un-stiff. =]
PS. I'd stretch from the ground almost all the time. While your horse can still stretch while mounted, it's like trying to stretch with a backpack on. It restricts movements, and your horse will still have to hold you while at the same time relaxing muscles so that they can stretch properly.
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."