Shoulder the Load- 4 Tips to Keep Your Horse’s Shoulders Loose and Flexible

May 10th, 2017 11:38 PM | No Comments

DSC_0785 copyThe horse’s hind end gets a lot of the glory when it comes to its performance.  If moving correctly, it’s where most of the “horsepower” comes from and engaging the hind end is crucial in the majority of maneuvers.  However, it is only one sum of the parts.  A horse’s shoulders are just as important from extending the trot in hunt seat events, throwing that front leg out in the free-flowing stride in western pleasure, nailing a spin in horsemanship or reining, to the sweeping movement of a perfectly executed lead change.  

Like all joints and muscles, your horse’s shoulders can fall victim to stiffness and soreness which impede your horse’s movement and abilities.  Like people, many horses carry tension in their neck and shoulders which only adds to flexibility issues.  In addition to properly warming up and cooling down your horse with every workout, there are some maintenance tips that you can incorporate into your routine to maximize your horse’s suppleness and strength in his shoulders.  

  1. Have a qualified bodywork therapist exam your horse.  Used in conjunction with proper veterinary care, a bodywork therapist can not only determine where any problem areas may lie, they can also use massage therapies to help loosen tight muscles, and recommend a stretching regimen to help increase flexibility.
  2. Regular stretches, both passive and active, can not only help loosen tight muscles, but also prevent tension build up.  Different stretches work on different areas and can be done either on the ground before and after riding or during riding.  A bodywork therapist can recommend a variety of stretches that will benefit specific problem areas on your horse.  
  3. Therapeutic Shoulder Guards can help warm up muscles prior to exercise and prevent stiffness when used after work.  Back On Track’s Therapeutic Shoulder Guard is made with their their ceramic-infused Welltex fabric that radiates the horse’s own body heat back into muscles and soft tissues.  For a full body option, check out their Therapeutic Mesh Sheet or Therapeutic Fleece Horse Blanket.  BOT Shoulder Guard
  4. Make sure  your saddle and tack fit properly.  A poor fitting saddle can pinch and add pressure to your horse’s back and other areas, creating “guarding patterns” that affect how they carry themselves and can have an overall domino effect when it comes to muscle and soft tissue tension and pain.

Like with any stiffness or soreness problems, the first step is to have a veterinarian perform a thorough evaluation to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical problems contributing to these issues.  Putting these practices to use can not only help your horse’s physical performance but also create a happier relationship between the two of you.  

This post was sponsored by Back On Track USA, but all opinions are those of


Leave a Reply