How to Build a Better Topline on a Horse

The top line of a horse is the most visible part, and what makes it distinctive in appearance. The term “topline” is often used to refer to the length or breadth of a horse’s back at its withers.

The “how to build topline on a thoroughbred” is an article about how to improve the horse’s top line. The article includes pictures and video links.

How to assist your horse create a stronger top line is one of the most common questions I get in horsey Facebook groups and from new horse owners.

In this piece, I’ll explain why my response is more complex than a list of activities.

Why Do We Want Our Horses to Have a Better Topline?

A horse with a lovely top line is more aesthetically appealing, just as an athlete’s physique is more attractive.

But, just like with the athlete, it’s not so much about appearances as it is about health, strength, and vitality.

A horse with a nice top line is fit and athletic, and he knows how to utilize his body properly.

While we have a natural tendency to concentrate on the aesthetic, it is attractive since it represents a healthy way of movement.

Horses with lovely top lines utilize their bodies properly and, as a result, have a far longer healthy athletic life than horses that do not use their bodies correctly.

Horses that do not move their bodies properly are prone to injury and repeated stress on joints, resulting in arthritis, kissing spine, and other crippling Lee problems.

However, as with most things pertaining to horses, it is not as easy as doing exercises XY and Z.

Top line, there’s a lot more that goes into making a horse.

First, we must rule out any underlying disorders that might prevent the horse from gaining muscular mass.

There are a number of medical issues that might prohibit the horse from developing a top line, regardless of his diet or training routine.

exercises for building a better topline on a horse

Medical conditions that make it difficult to gain muscle mass include:

  • cushings
  • a lack of protein uptake
  • cancer
  • EPM
  • Sarcopenia as a result of becoming older
  • proteolysis
  • a large number of worms
  • PSSM

So, if you address your horse’s diet and activity program and he still isn’t putting on the sort of top line you want, I suggest having your veterinarian come out and do a full bloodwork.

exercises for building a better topline horses

Protein Requirements in the Diet

Every horse requires a different amount of protein.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and if we go back to high school biology, your body can’t make a new muscle fiber unless you have the correct amino acid combination.

Your horse will not be able to build new muscle fibers if one amino acid, known as an essential amino acid, is absent.

As a result, when it comes to muscle mass and a horse, protein is the most significant food.

Each horse has a different protein need.

According to Dave Frape’s “Equine Nutrition and Feeding: Second Edition” and Equine Research Inc.’s “Feed to Win II,”

  • At maintenance, an 880 pound horse needs 536 grams.
  • At mild labor, an 880 pound horse consumes 670 grams.
  • At moderate effort, an 880 pound horse consumes 804 grams.
  • When an 880 pound horse is working hard, he needs 1072 grams of food.
  • At maintenance, a 1100lb horse consumes 656g.
  • At mild work, a 1100lb horse uses 820g.
  • At moderate effort, a 1100lb horse consumes 984g.
  • When a horse weighs 1100 pounds and is working hard, he needs 1312 grams of food.

Do you have any idea how much your horse weighs? For further information, see this article: Without Scales, How to Weigh Your Horse

Your pasture puffs would need maintenance.

Working 1 hour or less 2-3 times a week is considered light work.

1 hour of moderate labor each day is considered moderate.

Working 2 hours every day is considered tough labor.

So now that we know how much protein your horse need, let’s look at how he gets it.

The use of forage should be encouraged. Grass and hay are the principal sources of nutrients for your horse.

However, the quantity of protein in pasture grass varies depending on the kind of grass and the time of year, and the amount of protein in your hay varies depending on the type of hay and whether it’s first cutting, second cutting, or even third cutting.

I suggest contacting your local agricultural extension officer for both of these.

Your tax money are already paying for his job, so take use of it and ask them to come out and check at your field, and see if they provide hay testing services.

If they don’t, they may refer you to a lab that will accept your money and test the hay for nutrition.

Then we have to perform some arithmetic to figure out how much fodder your horse is eating and how much protein is in that forage if he eats 1 to 2 percent of his body weight in forage every day. 

Next, if the quantity of protein he consumes from his forage does not meet the amount he requires based on the formula above, we must supplement with feed.

Your local feed shop should have an equine nutritionist on staff who can advise you on what seed is best for your horse to acquire enough protein.

ring of muscles on horses

Build a Stronger Topline: The Muscle Ring

How do we go about establishing a top line now that we know your horse is physically capable of doing so and has the proper nutrients to do so?

I was exposed to the concept of the ring of muscles a long time ago, and how it runs from a horse’s rear end up to his belly, chest, and back.

When a horse is moving correctly and in collection, his rear end is well beneath him, his front end is lighter, his neck and back are arched like a bow, and his muscles are being used appropriately.

Consider a person standing motionless. Normally, our backs are arched and our stomachs are flabby.

Maybe our shoulders are slumped and we’re not using our muscles appropriately.

Tuck your pelvis under you, engage your abs, lift your neck up, and move your shoulders back and forth.

This is how a horse feels when his muscles are appropriately used.

If this is the case, any activity that stimulates your horse to step his hind legs deeper under him will help to develop the top line.

As a result, you’ll often see individuals advising various workouts in Facebook groups, such as hill work, tight circles, Cavaletti, poles, backing up, and so on.

All of these remarks, however, overlook the fact that completing these exercises is not as straightforward as it seems.

This in-depth article about the ring of muscles in horses may be found here.

how to build a topline on a horse

All of these responses are lacking a crucial component.

Your horse doesn’t only have to complete these exercises; he also has to do them properly.  

We can perform stairsteppers and sit ups as badly as we can do them properly as humans.

If your horse is executing these exercises with his head in the air, his back clamped down, and his rear end dragging behind him, he is still doing them, but they aren’t helping him.

In reality, they’re constructing the incorrect muscles.

When you ask your horse to undertake these exercises, stop as soon as he becomes tired and starts to raise his head, clench his back, and disengage his hind end.

When we become fatigued on the stairclimber, we start seeking for shortcuts, much like we do when we get tired on the treadmill.

We lift ourselves up with our arms and fling our weight aloft.

Instead of properly engaging our glutes and hamstrings.

So, if your horse isn’t engaging the necessary muscles, put him down for the day or give him a break.

Undoing improper muscle work and building the right muscles takes a long time.

Include these exercises in every ride after your horse’s top line has improved. 

long and low walking for horses

Exercises to Improve Your Topline

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here’s a comprehensive list of exercises you can perform with your horse to improve his topline:

  • working gently up and down slopes
  • a backup plan (read how to properly train your horse to back here)
  • Carrots wrap around the sides and beneath the abdominal button.
  • transitions
  • poles
  • cavaletti
  • lengthy trail walks at a leisurely pace
  • tiny spheres
  • work on the side

Watch This Video-

The “how to build muscle on a horse” is an article that will teach you how to build muscle on your horse. It includes some great tips and tricks on how to train your horse properly, so they can be the best they can be.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make my horses topline better?

A: First, you need to make sure that your horse head is oriented correctly. If its not in the correct position, then there will be a noticeable difference on how well their top line looks. For example, if they are looking towards the left side of the screen when mounted and facing right while standing still with good posture at full speed (only one point per step), then turn them around so that theyre now facing forward and look down as they walk so their eyes are below where their feet would be from above.

How long does it take for a horse to build topline?

A: It takes a horse about four months to build the desired length of its spine.

How do you build the topline on an older horse?

A: There are many different ways to build the topline. For example, you can use a foal surcingle or long hackamore pieces. Other methods include using a neck rope and/or halter with fixed rings that fit around your horses head like an Elizabethan collar.

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