If you notice your horse standing stretched out, most of the time, it is because your horse is urinating or has muscle stiffness. However, there can also be slightly more concerning reasons such as abdominal pain, back pain, or it could be that your horse is scared of something.
In this blog, you will learn why your horse is standing stretched out, what to do if your horse won’t stop stretching out, the benefits of stretching your horse, and different stretches to help your horse.
5 reasons your horse is standing stretched out
Horses tend to stand stretched out while they urinate. The stance is described as a parked-out-stance. The hind legs will stretch behind, and the front legs stretch forward while your horse tilts its pelvis to help muscle movement.
It may help to stand in your stirrups for your horse to be more comfortable while their backs are hollow and make it easier for them to reposition their legs under themselves again when finished urinating.
#2 Muscle stiffness
Horses may also stretch out if they feel stiff in their muscles, just like your cat or dog. You may find them stretching with their front legs out in front and their bum in the air, which is entirely normal.
Your horse may do that after being in their stall all night or being in a trailer for too long, making their muscles feel stiff. You may even notice your horse stretching like this when you are riding.
Your horse may be spooked by something and could be seconds away from bolting. So, be careful!
Usually, when a horse is scared, it will spread its legs out to the side and lean back. The standing stretched-out stance helps them prepare to bolt if needed.
If you notice your horse is uneasy about something and starting to go into a stretched-out stance, it helps if you try to stay relaxed.
Horses can sense our tension, so it is essential to remain calm and collected when you notice your horse going into a spread-out stance.
#4 Abdominal pain
Your horse may have abdominal pain, and standing stretched out may relieve some pressure in its stomach or intestines. Depending on whether it is moderate or severe pain, your horse may be having ulcers or low-grade grumbling enteritis.
Keep an eye out to see if your horse only stretches with front limbs forward and hind limbs back or with both hind limbs.
If both hind limbs are back and your horse repeats the stretch multiple times, it is a sign of abdominal pain or colic.
#5 Back pain
Back pain can also cause your horse to stretch often. Stretching out while standing may help relieve your horse’s spine from stress.
Many factors can cause back pain, including sore muscles, tightness, injury, or inflammation.
You may also notice that your horse is reducing their movement while performing, which may progress to behavioral problems. However, some back pain treatments may help your horse, depending on the factors associated with their pain.
What to do if your horse won’t stop stretching out?
You may want to evaluate what might be causing your horse to stretch out. It may be abdominal pain, back pain, or a disease.
Look to see if your horse suddenly started stretching when tacked up or while being ridden or stretches several times repeatedly.
If you believe something is wrong with your horse, then it may be best to contact your vet for a consultation.
Your veterinarian may run some exams to determine if your horse has any problems. The examinations would probably be focused on your horse’s abdomen or back.
There are some significant issues that are associated with standing stretched out, including urinary/kidney disease, reproductive problems, colic, or peritonitis.
Signs that are related to these issues consist of stretching out, decreased appetite, strain to urinate, depression, fever, and lethargy.
If your veterinarian finds anything wrong with your horse, they will recommend steps to take, which are usually associated with medical treatment.
It may help to find the proper diagnosis depending on the type of pain before deciding on medical treatment. Your horse may need to be treated for its abdominal, back, or disease.
There are plenty of medical treatments out there for your horse once your veterinarian addresses the issue.
You may want to prevent or reduce your horse’s risk of acquiring future pain. It will help your horse while saving you time and money.
The recommendations for prevention may include changing your horse’s feed, turnout time, amount of water, routine, and monitoring.
It is best to speak with your veterinarian for further recommendations depending on the type of pain your horse is going through.
Stretching can be beneficial
Stretching can improve your horse’s flexibility and range of motion, enabling it to perform to the best of its ability.
When exercising your horse, its muscles will tighten up, especially if your horse’s muscles are overused or underused.
Stretching will help your horse’s muscles loosen and lengthen. Creating a stretch routine and fitness regimen will help keep your horse flexible and balanced.
It’s always best to talk with your veterinarian before beginning a stretching program with your horse for any qualified recommendations.
It may help prevent injury by strengthening supportive tissue and helping to guard against muscle tightness and tendon shortening. When your horse’s muscles tighten and shorten, it can lead to stiffness and injury.
Stretching will help your horse stay supple. Studies have suggested that static equine stretches outside of exercise help improve power and speed as well as reduce the risk of injury.
Stretching can also help your horse reduce soreness, discomfort, and muscle fatigue. It helps relax tense muscles, increases circulation to reduce localized pain and swelling in a specific area, and relaxes your horse’s general attitude,
Be prepared to be hands-on with this, as stretching can involve motions such as lifting and manipulating the limbs and asking your horse to bend its neck to reach treats held at different points.
Early warning signs
This may surprise you, but stretching your horse may help you detect early warning signs of potential injuries and can aid in injury rehabilitation.
While stretching your horse before exercising to help him warm up, look out for areas that are unusually sore or stiff.
You may also find swelling or an inflamed joint. If you detect an injury while stretching your horse, contact your vet.
Different stretches to help relieve and strengthen your horse
#1 Tummy tucks
If you want to help your horse stretch its abdominal muscles, then tummy tucks may help. Tummy tucks are similar to “crutches,” but this version is for horses.
The tummy tuck can warm up your horse’s back before exercising. You may work on the tummy tuck to strengthen your horse’s abdominal muscles after exercise.
#2 Forelimb stretches
If you need to stretch out your horse’s forelimbs, there are three forelimb stretches that you may refer to: shoulder flexor, shoulder flexor II, and shoulder extensor.
Shoulder flexor stretch focuses on the shoulder and elbow extensor groups. It is a great stretch if your horse is experiencing short striding in the front and has stiff shoulders. In addition, it helps unfold skin that is being pinched under the girth.
Shoulder flexor II stretch is focused on the shoulder extensor group, elbow extensor group, and carpal flexor. However, this stretch is not recommended for horses with lower limb ligament injuries.
Shoulder extensor stretch focuses on the shoulder extensor group. It will help your horse that has tension in the chest and shoulders.
Each stretch focuses on different parts of your horse’s flexor groups. It may help your horse with any stiffness in the shoulders and chest.
#3 Hind limb
There may also be times when you need to stretch out your horse’s hind limbs. There are two hind limb stretches that you can focus on: hip flexor and hip extensor, stifle flexor.
Hip flexor stretch focuses mainly on the hip flexor muscles. It is a stretch that can help improve your horse’s range of motion.
Hip extensor, stifle flexor stretch focuses on the hip extensors and stifles flexors. The stretch may be challenging for some horses, but it is an excellent stretch if your horse is experiencing short striding in the hind limb.
Both hind limb stretches focus on the hip flexor, hip extensors, or stifle flexors, which may help your horse relieve any tension after riding or improve movement.
#4 Neck and back stretches
Your horse may also need its neck, back, or trunk stretched. There are three different types of stretches to benefit your horse: neck extensor, spinal extensor, and lateral flexor stretch.
Neck extensor stretch focuses on stretching the top of the next from the poll to the withers and ensuring both sides of the neck are evenly stretched.
Spinal extensor stretch focuses on stretching out the back and helps cold-backed horses or can help your horse stretch before or after riding to relieve any stress associated with their back.
Lateral flexor stretch focuses on the lateral flexor of the neck, which is great for horses that have weak turns while doing vaults or other turning/circular tasks.
Each stretch focuses on either the neck or spine and may help your horse relieve tension after riding or improve mobility.