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September 19, 2014

The Basics Of Carrot Stretches

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

I teach owners ‘carrot stretches’ to help horses maintain their neck, back and rib adjustments.  When the owner incorporates these maneuvers into their routine, the horse will hold a chiropractic adjustment much longer than if they are not stretched on a semi-regular basis.

Carrot stretches are very easy to train your horse to do because they involve the feeding of treats.  Your horse will not realize that they are actually working for their goodies.

I prefer using carrots for two reasons:

  1. They are generally longer than other treats so hopefully you can avoid having your fingers bitten.
  2. They contain only natural sugars, vitamins and fiber.  Processed sugars and grains can cause an insulin reaction while being digested and absorbed.

I always teach owners to do at least 4 separate Carrot Stretches.

Stretch #1

The first is a stretch to either side of the horse, as far back as they will come.  I like to hold on to the tail and pull as hard as the horse will let me.  This helps to convert the stretch from just a neck stretch into an entire spinal maneuver. You will notice that, if you hold the tail, the horse stretches from the nose clean through the neck, the thoracic vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae, the sacrum and tail.


If the horse won’t stretch evenly to both sides, tilts its ears parallel to the ground on one or both sides, or lifts a hind leg during the stretch, they may need a chiropractic adjustment.

Stretch #2

I also like to have the owner stretch the horses nose straight out to the front.  This stretch is very beneficial for the throat latch area.


It is important to get your horse to invert their neck just behind the ears.  If your horse tries to walk forward, you can put pressure on their shoulder with your hand while you stretch the carrot in front of them with the other hand or ask someone to help.

Stretch #3

I will then get the horse to bring its nose between her front legs; this move will stretch the nuchal ligament.  I can tell the most about how flexible the horse is by holding the carrot up high to the chest.


You can change this one up to where you hold the carrot at the level of the knees or even the fetlocks, but if you only have time or carrot for one of these, the chest is definitely the most important.

Stretch #4

For the more advanced, you can also break the carrot into one inch pieces and hold it at the level of the shoulder in the center if the triceps muscle, your horse will have to really flex their neck to get the carrot from here.


You will often hear the neck “pop” when stretching; these are vertebras that are “self-adjusting”.  This will help your horse to hold their chiropractic adjustment for much longer than if you don’t stretch them. 

Good luck and happy stretching!!!!

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