Increasing your horse’s workload should improve their topline, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple! Improving topline isn’t just about implementing “topline-building exercises”. Before attempting to do so, it’s important to assess potential reasons why your horse is underdeveloped.
Why does my horse have poor topline?
There are various factors that can contribute to poor topline, including age, pain, health conditions, workload, incorrect exercise and nutrition.
Loss of topline can be a normal part of the aging process as horses start to lose muscle mass and abdominal strength. Topline muscles strengthen through building core muscles. Older horses can benefit from long and low exercises that engage the abdominal muscles.
Pain & Underlying Health Issues
A horse suffering from chronic pain will subconsciously adjust its use of muscles in an attempt to relieve pain, resulting in unbalanced musculature and a weak topline. Muscle wastage may also be indicative of underlying health issues such as polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) or Cushing’s. Horses with Cushing’s have a benign growth on their brain that causes overproduction of hormones, including those that control cortisol secretion. High cortisol levels cause poor utilisation of glucose and the breakdown of muscle tissue.
The saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” couldn’t be more applicable when discussing topline development. Remember that good topline stems from the horse’s abdominal strength. Starting with ground exercises is critical to strengthen stabilising muscles in the back and abdomen. As mentioned above, working your horse long and low under saddle will also help to engage their core.
The horse’s topline is mostly made out of muscle. Muscle is made from protein. Hence, it makes sense that the horse requires adequate protein in their diet in order to build muscle. So, if you are meeting your horse’s crude protein requirements they should turn into a well-muscled athlete, right? … The thing is, not all protein is created equal!
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. Amino acids can be classified as “non-essential” and “essential”. The horse can produce non-essential amino acids, but must gain essential amino acids from its diet. These essential amino acids must also be present in the right quantities to build muscle.
Feeding more protein isn’t necessarily the answer to better topline! Rarely are diets lacking in crude protein, but rather quality protein. Some protein sources have a very similar essential amino acid profile to muscle. This type of protein is classified as “high quality protein”. An example of high quality protein is soybean meal. This is why it’s important to read the back of the feed bag! Have a look at the ingredients list. Does the manufacturer state what source of protein they use?
What else can I do?
A muscle-building supplement can provide your horse with the extra support it needs for optimal topline development. Kelato’s ZanoBOLIC concentrate is a refined rice bran embryo extract that increases fat metabolism and protein synthesis. When combined with exercise and a nutritionally balanced diet, ZanoBOLIC concentrate can help the body to increase lean muscle mass and build topline. The great thing about ZanoBOLIC concentrate is a little bit goes a long way. It’s highly concentrated formulation means you only need to feed 10 to 30g per day!