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The Key to a Strong and Healthy Horse: Building Topline

A strong and well-developed topline not only enhances your horse's appearance but also plays a crucial role in overall performance and soundness.

What is Topline and Why is it Important?

Topline refers to the musculature along a horse's back, from the withers to the croup. It includes the muscles of the neck, withers, back, and hindquarters. A well-developed topline contributes to a horse's overall strength, balance, and movement.

A strong topline provides support to the spine and allows for proper movement and flexion. It helps distribute the weight of the rider, absorb shock, and maintain a healthy posture. Additionally, a well-developed topline contributes to increased power and athleticism, improving your horse's performance in various disciplines.

You can't feed your way to a good topline any more than a bodybuilder can protein-shake his/her way into big muscles. It is a combination of fitness and supporting muscle health through nutrition.

What Causes Poor Topline?

Musculature will naturally drop away in old horses just as it does in people. Grandma is generally not that buff even if she was an athlete in her day.

Poor saddle fit can cause discomfort and/or restrict a horse's natural movement. Read more about saddle fit here.

Chronic illness like Cushings or PPID (pituitary pars intermediary syndrome), EPSM (equine polysaccharide storage myopathy) will effect the ability to build muscles in horses.

Inadequate nutrition can cause poor topline. If the horse is poor overall, it is difficult to build muscles.

A relatively young horse who is turned out, and in regular work should have a naturally good topline, unless there is inadequate nutrition or some underlying health concern.

If your horse has uneven musculature (bigger muscles on one side than the other, or bigger muscles in one spot and wasted muscles in another), frequent disuniting, or a very strong preference for one lead, you may need to seek the advice of a bodyworker to regain alignment.

Exercises for Topline

  • Allow your horse to work long and low in the roundyard or on a lungeline. stretching the muscles in their neck and back.

  • Transitions cause a horse to use their whole body, engaging their back and hindquarters. It also asks them to concentrate.

  • Backing up. This is something you can ask them to do on the ground (as long as they are dropping their head to back and not hollowing, so ask politely). They will engage their hind quarters and lift their back. It also helps to develop a more responsive horse on the ground.

  • Carrot stretches are yoga for your horse. Nose to shoulder, nose to hip, nose to hock, nose to sternum are good daily, or at least weekly exercises for suppleness.

Proper nutrition plays a significant role in building topline.

Forget expensive topline supplements.

A balanced diet that provides essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals is essential for muscle growth and development.

Straight lucerne hay is high in protein.

Soy bean meal is high in amino acids. Lysine and methionine in particular are important for topline.

Copra meal is high in fat, high in fibre, but low GI, and can help put condition on a horse that is underweight.

Adequate minerals are required for a balanced diet. Sound Advice Trace Mix supplies minerals that are typically deficient.

In horses, magnesium plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. Deficient horses can show signs of nervousness, shying, muscle weakness, stiffness, girthiness, poor tolerance to work and predispose 'tying up' in performance horses. Read more about tying up here. At a cellular level, calcium and magnesium work hand in hand for muscle contraction and relaxing. Sound Advice Calm Mix is magnesium based.

At Sound Advice, we understand the importance of proper nutrition in building a strong topline. Our range of top-quality supplements are specially formulated to promote muscle health, enhance performance, and maintain overall well-being. Shop with us today and give your horse the sound advice it deserves!

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