I noticed that one of my horses was very tight in his triceps and chest. I could feel the tension when I gave him his pre-ride massages but I couldn’t get him to fully release. I mentioned this to my vet and she showed me a stretch that really helped him: a foreleg stretch.
After the stretches he gave the signs of a huge release — he yawned and chewed and licked. The other thing that she explained that sometimes just giving him a good shake on the withers also would help him release.
Interestingly, she said that tension held in the triceps and withers area is often a sign of pain in the front feet. Two days later he came up dead lame in the right front, which turned out to be an abscess.
When you do this (or any other stretches) let your horse tell you how much of the stretch he is ready for — if he’s tense or pulls away, don’t ask him to do more. Other signs of resistance might be if the horse puts his head up in the air or takes a swayback stance. You want the horse to relax into the stretch and it might take your horse a few tries to understand what you’re doing with him.
When you do this exercise, always stretch both legs of the horse. Make sure that you protect your back using your knees (not your back) when holding up the leg.
For a more detailed instructions on how to perform the stretch, watch the video below. The demonstration is done by Dr. Joanna Robson, a vet in California.