Do you stretch your horse?

Learn the benefits of including more stretching into your horses dressage training

If I’m totally honest, it has been many (okay now, get ready for it) decades since I signed up to the local aerobic gymnastics program . . leopard leotards, crop tops , sweat bands! (Okay, I’ll stop now.)

My memories, however, take me back to the importance of the stretching exercises. In the warmup, during, (when over achieving through my routine and forced to stop and stretch a screaming muscle), and of most importance, in my warm down routine.

As your equine’s own personal trainer, it is vital to ensure that you are also paying attention to the importance of their stretching exercises.

As with my “80’s” burst of aerobics, warming up, warming down, and stretching your horse is of paramount importance to reduce the risk of muscle strain and injury during exercise.

As for performance and conditioning, veterinarians encourage stretching exercises for the ease of joint stress and for encouraging your horse’s range of joint motion.

Stretching’s “gold nugget” benefits don’t just stop there.

In dressage terms, the benefits of enhancing balance and coordination are huge. Suppleness in the gait is always a green light indicating an elastic, well-conditioned horse. Dressage judges will always reward an elastic, swinging supple horse. Such horses will always score highly in the dressage arena as they radiate health and correct training.

Muscles that move with elasticity not only enhance the physical appearance of your horse but, let’s be honest, offer a much smoother and enjoyable ride. No matter which discipline, a supple horse always enjoys a more pleasurable experience – and that’s for both parties.

Putting on my “trainer’s cap”, nothing tests the riders’ contact and builds trust in the partnership between horse and rider like a stretch within the gait. It is also a great indicator of a rider’s ability to communicate with an elastic, supple trusting reign aid. I like to include this in all my paces – even in piaffe and passage – checking my softness, elasticity, and of most importance, relaxation and trust in the most collected of movements.

Not only will your horse’s body improve, but your partnership will also. Stretching really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As Cailee Spaeny said: “I hope to always keep stretching myself and not stay in one box or lane.”

So, channel your horse’s inner “Jane Fonda” through stretching – warming up, cooling down, and regularly in between. You know you will be actively increasing their flexibility and, of paramount importance, helping to reduce the risk of injury.

In summary, through stretching you will be making your horse a happy, well-muscled, sound athlete and your horse will not be confined to a single box or lane.


In Vanessa Way’s season two of ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements’, she runs you through exactly how she warms up various horses, from a 5 and 6 year old, through to grandprix.

See first hand each horse and watch how Vanessa works on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses to create balance and thoroughness within each of their warm ups and incorporating stretching throughout.

Here is a wee snippet from Vanessa’s training at home in Season two of ‘Master your Dressage movements’, riding 5 year Jade through a piece of her warm up. Showing what to pay attention to at this age and stage.

Get access to the full video plus over 4 hours of Vanessa’s teaching with her season two online training program ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements.’

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.

Accuracy in lateral movements

How to do flying changes

Centre lines and halts season one

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

Check out all of Vanessa’s online programs here

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