Many youngsters and older horses struggle to build a topline. Many lack muscle growth and proper nutrition to maintain topline muscles all year round. Some horse breeds, including Thoroughbred horses, Akhal teke horses, and Arabians, are also prone to a weak topline.
Horse trainers are quick to recommend the latest supplement to build topline (that will cost you an arm and a leg in monthly feed costs). To build a firm topline, horse owners need to look over the horse’s diet and set up the appropriate exercise regime – but you can do this on a budget! The biggest misconception in the horse world is that horses need multiple grains and supplements to build a topline quickly. A poorly developed topline is often the result of insufficient good-quality protein; other signs might be visible hip bones and pointy shoulder blades.
The Number One Feed that Helped My Horse Build a Topline (In Less Than 8 Weeks)
Save money on horse feed, supplements, or horse trainers to fix a poor topline on a horse. This is what I used to do, and yes, increasing your horse’s hay and grain will eventually help build topline, but it will take a lot of time and become very expensive. The one thing you need to invest in that will create a topline and make your horse’s coat super shiny while still keeping your horse’s energy level stable is the Nutrena Proforce fuel horse feed. This higher crude protein feed will build a horse’s topline in weeks. The following horses are young thoroughbreds that came to us undernourished with a weak topline, and the followeing plan was put in place:
- Feed quality hay three times per day (avoid Alfa Alfa as they can make high-energy horses too wild)
- Feed up to 7lbs (3 scoops) of Nutrena Proforce fuel per day
Give it 2-4 weeks for you to see a difference and up to 8 weeks for your horse to have a healthy topline and shiny coat. Why does Nutrena produce fuel work? The feed is made from high-quality protein sources and is high in fat and controlled starch. The following photo shows a horse that has been fed Bermuda hay thrice daily with 6 lbs of Proforce fuel for ten weeks. This thoroughbred showed and improved topline within 4 weeks and filled out completly after 8 weeks. The horse was kept in light work with lunging two days per week, pole work under saddle once weekly, and trail or arena work twice weekly.
The whole shape of the horse changed, and the muscle mass increased. Once a good topline and muscle tone have been established, it’s reasonably easy to maintain, and the amount of feed can be lowered slightly. You can adjust to your horse’s work schedule and season. Is your horse in a challenging work training program or just being ridden a few days per week? Standard practice is to follow the instructions from the feed manufacturer.
Another way to improve and build a healthy topline is to buy increased forage and hay. Alfa Hay will build that topline fast, as seen in the photo below.
Other Areas to Consider When Improving a Poor Topline
Horses are naturally built to thrive on hay and forage only; it is, therefore, essential your horse is constantly being fed quality hay at least twice per day. Alfalfa hay is the best and most affordable option for weight gain and topline purposes. However, please note that alfalfa hay is high in sugar and will make some horses too hot, so it should only be fed in moderation to certain breeds. Easy keepers do not need high-sugar hay like alfalfa to maintain a perfect topline.
We recommend feeding rice bran with beet pulp to calm your horse with manageable energy and affordable feed. These low-sugar-cheap supplements will help your horse gain weight and improve its top line. Other popular and effective grains we recommend for the hard keepers:
- North America: Nutrena Proforce Fuel
- Australia & New Zealand: Mitavite
- Northern Europe: Krafft
Other famous fat supplements horse owners use to add weight and topline on a horse in an affordable way is adding vegetable oils or soybean meal to their horse’s diet. Even though this is usually effective, and you will see results relatively quickly (improved overall body condition), it’s not a feed we recommend as it can mess with your horse’s digestion. It is not natural for a horse to consume that much plant oil. Also, remember to add grain to your horse’s diet with reasonable feeding levels and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
To allow proper muscle development, it is also effective to add specific exercises to your horse’s weekly schedule:
- Hill work – Cantering up a hill multiple times with a 2 min break between each set will improve the strength of the topline
- Pole work – Trott poles are an excellent tool for building top lines, especially on a circle.
- Long & Low – Work the horse long and low under saddle, do stretching exercises before getting on, and allow your horse to stretch its neck at the beginning and end of every ride
- Lunge Line – Use side reins or pessoa when lunging to encourage the horse to lower its head
4) Reduce Stress
If your horse’s feeding or work schedule hasn’t changed, any recent topline loss can result from stress. Horses thrive in a pasture turnout in a herd where they can play and walk around. However, our modern society of keeping horses in small stalls or corrals can build up a lot of stress in the horse’s body – signs include topline loss, weaving, cribbing, dull coat, and loss of muscle tissue. Keep the pressure low and allow the horse to go in a pasture turnout with other horses as much as possible.