It doesn’t matter which equine discipline you are involved in, building and maintaining a strong topline on your horse is important. Strong toplines attract judges or buyers and also help ensure the horse’s back remains strong and healthy.
While work and correct muscle conditioning play a huge role in developing and maintaining topline, nutrition plays an equally important role. To build topline you need to provide the right nutrients. Here are some tips on feeding for topline.
5 Tips for Building Topline in your horse
1. Feed enough energy (calories) for the work your horse is doing
Underfeeding means your horse will need to dip into its stored energy reserves to fuel the muscles for work. Horses will quite quickly break down their topline to use it for fuel if they are underfed.
2. Feed high quality protein
To build topline you must provide the building blocks your horse needs to make muscle. Using feeds with protein provided by soybeans, lupins, faba bean or canola meal will give your horse access to good quality sources of protein, which builds muscle. Feeds with one or more of these protein sources are best.
Avoid feeds containing cottonseed meal as the protein source. Cottonseed is a poor source of protein that is deficient in the most important amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein).
Feeding some lucerne hay will also contribute good quality protein to the diet.
3. Use top-up feeds designed to build top-line
There are feeds such as many of those based on rice bran or soybean that are designed to provide extra calories and protein to build topline. You can also use whey protein isolate or soy protein isolates. It is often wise to strategically feed whey protein based products immediately after work for the best timing to allow these products to assist in building muscle.
4. Feed a balanced diet
Once again it really is so important to ensure your horse’s diet is meeting all of its nutrient requirements as any deficiency will stop your horse from reaching its potential and this includes its potential for building topline. Also, minerals like zinc are needed to effectively build muscle; failing to provide these nutrients will inhibit muscle growth, no matter how well the horse is being worked and fed with quality protein.
Again, this is where FeedXL is so useful; knowing that you are feeding a balanced diet that does meet your horse’s nutrient requirements.
5. Avoid or treat back injuries
Use properly fitted saddles at all times and quickly treat any back injuries that may occur. A horse with a sore back will avoid using its back muscles correctly, in turn preventing it from building a strong topline.
Feeding a good diet with quality protein, in conjunction with exercise aimed at strengthening the topline should give you noticeable results in 4 to 8 weeks.
Meet The Author: Dr Nerida McGilchrist
Dr Nerida McGilchrist is FeedXL’s resident equine nutrition specialist. With a degree in Rural Science, a doctorate degree in equine nutrition and nearly 20 years of full time, on the ground experience in feeding all types of horses Nerida is able to help FeedXL members solve any problem they may come up against with feeding their horses. To learn more about Nerida and to ‘meet’ the rest of the FeedXL team, check out our About Us page here.
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