Use sensitivity, make sure you’re breathing freely. Remember - this is to test the flexibility of your horse, not to test their willingness to endure you contorting them into uncomfortable positions so you can get a good score. We’re finding out where you are - then we can work towards getting you where you want to be 🙂
- Bring your horses head round to the side, can they touch their nose to their ribs?
- Lift the front leg forward holding the hoof (pick it up by the knee initially - protect your back!). Can they hold the leg out straight?
- Lift the hind leg and bring it forwards. Can they get their hind hoof within 10cm of their front fetlock?
- Scratch firmly with your fingers in their sternum, does the back lift and the stomach muscles engage?
- Pick the front foot up and hold it so you’re standing face on to your horse’s side. Support the hoof with the hand nearest the hind, use the hand nearest the front just above the knee on the inside to draw the leg outwards towards you. Can you get at least 5cm of movement?
Breathing is really important. I know that sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how easy it is to hold your breath when you’re trying to learn something new. It’s not unusual for me to have to tell someone 3-5 times during any one of these exercises to breathe. I’m not there to remind you, so try to remind yourself. (have I nagged you enough yet? I can go on…)
Watch your back! Make sure you’re in balance, having a wider stance on your feet can help, bend your knees and if you can’t move your feet without falling over, then you’re leaning on your horse, this will interfere with the results.
Just like people, horses will have different ranges of motion. Size, age, amount of work and breed can all have an effect, doing these checks yourself, and being able to repeat them will help give you a better idea of what your horses natural range of motion is, and what’s improving or becoming more restricted.
Distances are a guide, obviously it's going to be a bit different for a Shire and a Shetland. Use your own judgment (or come and ask about it in the facebook group)
For each 'NO' answer score 2 points.
If your score is 0
YAY!!! Looks like there's no major problems to worry about.
If your score is 1-3
Things are fairly good, there's no need to panic but there's room for a little improvement.
If your score is 4-6
There's a few problems in this area. Something is out of balance and the whole system is beginning to show the strain. Doing a few of the other health checks may help you identify other areas that are feeling the pressure. If your score surprised you, it may be worth seeking further help and advice.
If your score is 7-10
There are significant problems in this area. I strongly recommend you take action. Getting help from a professional with a proven track record may be necessary to get things back on track simply and quickly. It's likely that other systems are struggling under the strain as well so I'd recommend you do some of the other health checks too.