What is Topline and How do you get it?

What is Topline and How do you get it?
5 July 2017 | Foran Equine


Achieving a good topline requires a good exercise programme, a balanced diet and is supported by supplementing with key factors Lysine, Vitamin E and Selenium.

What is Topline? ……And how do you get it?

Topline in horses is the term used to describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump.

Why do we want topline?

Two main reasons:

1. Athleticism:

Because topline is muscle it means that horses with good topline have more power and ability to move well and jump well.

2. Appearance:

Show horses and sales horses are prepared in a manner to give them good topline so that they look as well and athletic as possible for their big day.

How to get it?

You might be one of the lucky people who has a horse with a naturally beautiful topline. Native breeds tend to carry a very good topline particularly once mature, but may tend towards getting fat as well rather than having just a well-muscled frame.

Many horses do not have a naturally beautiful topline and will need some help. While a good diet is essential for lots of reasons, diet alone will not give you a perfect outline.


A typical example of a horse struggling for a topline is the racehorse turned riding horse.

The difference in riding styles between racehorses and leisure/sport horses means that the horse is used to working in an outline that does not enhance the development of muscles over the neck and back. As training styles evolve racehorses are tending to work in more of a “rounded” outline as trainers recognise that improved topline brings improved performance and soundness.

Young horses too benefit greatly from exercise designed to promote topline and muscle.


A well balanced diet is crucial for all horses but what are the main ingredients for muscle?

Muscle is protein and so the protein in the diet is key for muscle development. When choosing what to feed it is not necessarily the figure listed for protein percentage that matters as much as the quality of the protein.

The science bit!

Protein is made up of chains of amino acids. The amino acids build up the protein molecule like building blocks. 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 has cannot manufacture them within the body. Quality protein is protein that has high levels of these essential amino acids.

Lysine is the most important essential amino acid in the horse’s diet. It is described as a limiting amino acid, this is because a horse with insufficient lysine in the diet will have limited growth and development.

Protein is digested within the body, which just means that the horse breaks the protein molecules back into the amino acid chains so that the amino acids can be used.

The best quality protein has high levels of the essential amino acids and is easy to digest.

What about the vitamins and minerals?

Vitamin E and Selenium are very closely linked with muscle health and development.

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant which has a protective benefit for muscles. Selenium is an essential trace mineral and it too has a role in antioxidant. These factors are integral in the daily diets of performance horses, protecting muscle and reducing damage during exercise.

Exercise ok, diet ok, what else can you do?

Having gone to the effort of perfecting your horses diet and fine tuning the exercise program you may have a horse who needs a little bit of help to get that final bit of topline. Maybe you need to speed up the process in order to meet a deadline of a sale or a show? Or maybe you have a horse in hard work who struggles to maintain condition?

These types of horses will benefit from extra levels of “ingredients” for muscle.

Add Lysine, Vitamin E and Selenium to the diet.

What supplements are useful?

Adding Vitamin E will aid muscle function and reduce muscle damage in horses in work. Using a supplement with Vitamin E and Selenium will have added benefits and adding the amino acid Lysine maximises muscle development and health.

V.S.L is available in a powder or liquid form and provides these key ingredients, Vitamin E, Selenium and Lysine in amounts that will support muscle development, performance and recovery.

Anything else?

The B vitamins do not have direct involvement with the development of muscle, however, due to the fact that they regulate metabolism they do have an effect on the how efficiently the muscle works. B vitamins in the diet have a role in controlling the rate at which amino acids are used and ensure that proteins are used at an optimal rate that reduces muscle damage. Another function of B vitamins is in red blood cell synthesis, they thus ensure that plenty of oxygen is carried to the muscles when in work.

Use Muscle Max to optimise muscle development by providing the key elements of Vitamin E, Selenium and Lysine, as well as providing B vitamins to improve general health and optimise metabolism of amino acids and muscle efficiency.