Building a topline in your performance horse can be one of those elusive aspects of care and training that is difficult to master. Some horses respond completely differently than others, and while it may be easy to build a topline in one horse, another can pose a real challenge. Taking a multifaceted approach to building topline is often the best strategy, getting you good results while improving your horse’s physical condition and athletic performance.
Understanding Toplines in Horses
The topline in a horse refers to the muscle that runs along and above a horse’s spine. When a horse is lacking in topline he’ll have a thin neck, may have limited muscling along his withers and back, and can have a flat, thin appearance from his hips through his dock.
In the performance horse, topline does more than help you to place well in conformation classes. The muscles that create a topline help your horse to balance while racing or jumping, contributing to his overall strength and athletic performance.
Because a topline is made of muscle, it takes time to build and strengthen. However, there are a number of ways you can help to build a topline in your horse.
Provide Appropriate Nutrition
Nutrition has a direct correlation with the development and maintenance of a horse’s topline. You need to provide your horse with enough calories to maintain his topline while he’s in work, and the fat content in your horse’s body can help to supplement the appearance of a topline. But if you’re not feeding enough protein, even if you’re feeding plenty of calories, you won’t get the quality topline that you could see otherwise.
It’s easy to add in the protein that your horse needs by incorporating a ration balancer. Unlike feeds, which often require you to feed a large quantities per day, a ration balancer provides concentrated protein when fed at smaller amounts. This can support the development and maintenance of muscle with adequate nutrition.
Building muscle also requires exercise, and you can adjust your horse’s workout to help build the right muscles. Teaching your horse to travel long and low under saddle can help him to stretch down and develop those topline muscles. Incorporating cavaletti and working your horse in an appropriate frame, with his hind end engaged, are also excellent ways to build topline. Backing your horse up under saddle and in hand can also help, and hill work is another option that can build muscling in your horse.
It's important to slowly approach the process of developing your horse’s muscling. When you’re asking your horse to use these underutilized muscles, it will be difficult for him at first, and too much exercise too quickly can leave him feeling sore.
Even increasing your horse’s turnout time and allowing him to move around naturally can help with this process. If possible and safe, allow your horse to be turned out with others, which can help encourage him to be active throughout the day.
Feed Un-Lock to Support Muscle Function
The exercise component of building muscle can be tiring for horses, but feeding Un-Lock can aid in your horse’s muscle recovery. Un-Lock contains BCAAs, amino acids, electrolytes and essential vitamins to support muscle health and function, amounting to an improvement in your horse’s performance and recovery.
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