Achieving a good topline requires a good exercise programme and a balanced diet, which can be supported by supplementation with key nutrients including lysine, vitamin E, and selenium.
Topline is how we describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump.
You might be one of the lucky people who has a horse with a naturally good topline. Native breeds tend to carry a very good topline, particularly once mature. Beware that toplines in these breeds are often made up of fat as well as muscle though – something that event judges and potential buyers are likely to be aware of.
Developing and maintaining good topline comes down to a balance of diet and exercise. Ensuring your horse is free of pain and has no skeletal/conformational limitations to building the optimal topline, will give you a great start to any exercise regime. Work to build topline should include proper warm up and cool downs, stretching exercises, groundwork, hill work and pole work. Walk and slow trot are the most effective paces, and the horse should be worked in an outline and engage well.
A good example of a horse that may need help building its topline is the racehorse turned riding horse, as the riding styles differ. Racehorses were traditionally worked in a way that did not prioritise the development of muscles over the neck and back. However, as it is now recognised that a good topline can improve performance and soundness, training racehorses in a ‘rounded’ outline to enhance topline is becoming more commonplace.
As muscle is made up of protein, a diet that contains an appropriate level of protein is key for muscle development. It is not just the protein quantity that matters, but also the quality of the protein that the feed contains. Providing adequate energy is also important to ensure the horse is energised and working well, and key vitamins and minerals play a major role in normal muscle function, ensuring that muscles don’t become fatigued prematurely slowing progress down.
Protein is made up of chains of amino acids. There are two types of amino acids – essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the horse and so are not a necessary part of the diet. Essential amino acids must be provided in the diet because the horse is unable to manufacture them themselves. Quality protein is protein that contains high levels of these essential amino acids. One example is Lysine, which is arguably the most important essential amino acid in the horse’s diet. It is described as a limiting amino acid, because a horse with insufficient lysine in the diet will have limited growth and development.
One way to provide additional high-quality protein to your horse’s diet is via an equine protein supplement. Muscle Prep is a liquid supplement that contains high-content, high-quality, hydrolysed plant protein, specially formulated to support muscle development in horses. Muscle Prep is especially useful when you are under pressure to be ready for an event where an excellent topline is essential to success, such as ahead of a sale. Muscle Prep includes all essential amino acids meaning that the branch chain amino acids – Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine, are also included. Muscle Prep provides vitamin E to support recovery from exercise and B vitamins to promote protein and energy metabolism.
Once you have achieved optimal topline on your horse, it is important to continue to utilise the exercise and feeding regime that bought you the success in the first place. However, depending on your horses age and work level the actual protein demands to maintain muscle mass may be less compared to the earlier stages of training. Maintaining excellent muscle mass and supporting normal muscle function can be achieved using Muscle Max. This daily liquid supplement will optimise your horse’s intake of lysine and antioxidants to aid muscle function and recovery. To learn more about the importance of antioxidants read here
For more advice on building a topline in your horse, get in touch with our equine experts.