A healthy, well-muscled horse won’t just stand out in the show ring, but will be better prepared to perform to the best of his ability. Building muscle in your horse can help him to better carry a rider and decrease the chance of him being injured while riding. While it takes time to build muscle in your horse, there are some ways that you can help the process along.
Tweak Your Feeding Program
Making some small changes to your feeding program can make a difference in your horse’s muscle development. The National Research Council recommends a minimum of 10.6% daily dietary protein for horses, so look for a feed that offers appropriate levels, but don’t take things to excess. Horses can’t store protein to use later, and feeding excessive amounts of protein can lead to messy stalls. Seek out a feed that contains guaranteed levels of protein and amino acids, which act as the building blocks for muscles.
Making sure that your horse also has access to quality hay and pasture can ensure that he has the calories and nutrition he needs to build muscle.
Add Variety to Your Training Routine
You can structure your rides to incorporate muscle-building exercises, too. Consider spending some time during each ride doing some of the following:
- backing your horse.
- riding up and down hills.
- working over trot poles.
- focusing on building engagement and, gradually, collection.
Always introduce these exercises gradually. Watch your horse for signs of fatigue and avoid doing too much too soon, which can make your horse sore.
While lunging and mounted exercise will contribute to building muscle, you can build muscle simply by getting your horse to stretch, too. Horse Canada referenced a study that had been done on eight Arabians. The horses repeated seven movements 10 times each, then repeated that series five times daily. These stretching sessions were held five times a week. After three months, ultrasounds revealed that certain muscles had increased in size.
It’s easiest to use a carrot to catch your horse’s attention so you can guide him through the different stretches. The stretching study included the following movements:
- The horse reaches down so that his muzzle touches his chest between his legs.
- The horse places his muzzle between his front knees.
- The horse places his head between his front legs, bringing his muzzle several inches behind his front legs.
- The horse stretches his head out straight forward.
- The horse stretches his head to the side so that his muzzle is near his elbow.
- The horse stretches his head to the side so his muzzle is near his flank.
- The horse stretches his head to the side so that his muzzle is near his hock.
Never try to force your horse to stretch, and introduce stretches gradually — with plenty of positive reinforcement.
Increase and Change Up Turnout
Your horse’s time in turnout can provide valuable activity to help him build muscle. If your horse is the inactive type, work to get him moving around more outdoors. Increase his time in turnout and spread hay throughout his paddock to encourage him to move around. Putting your horse into a new paddock or field may also help to get him moving.
Supplement Your Horse’s Nutrition
With Un-Lock, you can support your horse’s performance, help to prevent cramping and tying up, and promote an improved recovery after workouts and competitions. This supplement is formulated with BCAA’s, amino acids, electrolytes, and essential vitamins to support muscle health. It’s just one more way you can support your horse’s muscle health.
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