A horse’s topline is shaped by the muscles along the withers, back, loin and croup. A well-developed topline is essential for long term health and performance of the equine athlete. Although the overall muscling can differ between horses, every healthy horse can develop a strong topline. The key elements are well-balanced nutrition in combination with proper exercise. In this blog we share with you 3 essential elements for building a strong topline.
1. The right building blocks to make muscles
Muscle protein is made up of amino acids, linked together in a specific sequence. Essential amino acids need to be obtained from the diet and can be found in high-quality protein sources. If some of them are missing from your horse’s diet, the amino acid chain cannot be completed. And that means the synthesis of muscle protein will be limited. Therefore, always make sure to supply enough, high quality protein in your horse’s diet.
2. Energy to transform building blocks into muscle
No matter how much protein your horse gets, he also needs the energy to transform those building blocks into muscle. That is why it is important to maintain a good calorie to protein ratio in the diet. Energy-dense nutrients like starch, sugars will help stimulate muscle protein synthesis for faster and more effective results.
3. The right amount of exercise and rest
Muscle development will only occur when the muscles are challenged on a regular basis. Intense exercise will cause microdamage in the muscle fibers, triggering the body to repair and improve muscle function so it is better prepared for the next intense training session. This repair process takes a minimum of 24-48h, so it is important to alternate between light and intense training sessions.
If the horse is overworked and intensely exercised before the repair is completed, the muscle will have no time to restore resulting in a loss of muscle mass rather than gain. On the other hand, if the training intensity not challenging enough, no microdamage will occur and no muscle will be built.
For optimal muscle development, incorporate 2-3 days of light exercise in between more intense training sessions. This progressive, stepwise increase in training intensity is essential to keep stimulating the body’s adaptive response to continuously make improvements in muscle strength over time.
To conclude: proper nutritional support in form of adequate protein and energy supply combined with an appropriate exercise program are the essential elements to develop a strong topline in your horses.
If you like you can also watch our movie about developing a healthy topline.