To keep your horse’s back healthy, strong abdominal muscles are key. One of the easiest and best exercises you can do with your horse are belly lifts. Think of them as “crunches” for your horse! Belly lifts help horse engage and strengthen their abdominal muscles which, in turn, helps build muscle on their topline. Over time strong abdominals improve your horse’s ability to support his spine and work in a balanced frame. They also work to stretch the spine.
Ask your horse to lift its stomach by gently scratching the center of his belly. Be careful when starting as some horses might react badly if you press too hard. Gradually increase the pressure of your fingers until he contracts his abdominal muscles and you see his back lift. When you start, only ask your horse to hold the lift for a few seconds and don’t ask for more than a couple of repetitions. You can add a rep or two at each session, or ask your horse to hold the stretch longer, once they understand the exercise.
I usually give my horse a treat when she’s done so that she looks forward to it.
This is probably the single most beneficial stretch you can do for your horse and it only takes a few minutes! I incorporate it into my grooming routine along with rump stretches and carrot stretches.