A common problem for many horse owners is their horse lacks a muscular and smooth topline. While you can’t change your horse’s conformation, you can improve on what they already have. It is always wise to contact your vet before making changes in your horse’s nutrition or workload.
First, you need to look at your feeding regime. To build muscle, you need protein. Start with your hay. Are you feeding alfalfa? If you aren’t, you may want to. Alfalfa is a high protein and high-calorie hay. As long as your horse doesn’t have any dietary restrictions to alfalfa, start adding this to their diet. Please, consult your vet before making any food changes with your horse.
If this isn’t enough or you already have your horse on alfalfa, find a ration balancer. This fills in the nutritional gaps depending on the hay you are feeding. There are many formulas, but find one that matches the exercise level and nutritional needs of your horse.
Next, would be to add a concentrate, or grain, to your horse’s diet. Grain should be used in moderation and started slowly. Read the feed tags to find out what has the most protein and fat. Remember, if you add grain to your horse’s diet, you need to add exercise, or you might have a fire breathing dragon on your hands!
Once you have the diet figured out, you need to plan out an exercise routine. You don’t need to ride to improve your horse’s topline, but it can be easier to work them that way. Whatever you do, you need to do it consistently. Working your horse one day a week won’t work. Working your horse three days in a row and then give them a week off doesn’t work. You should try for at least 3 days a week of structured exercise. This can be longeing on a line, using a round pen, ground driving or riding.
If longeing on a line or using a round pen, make sure your horse isn’t just aimlessly going around in circles or ripping around with a mad man. Practice transitions, encourage lengthening and collecting of gaits and change directions often. Set up ground poles and work over them, changing gaits and distances.
While ground driving, you have more control over their frame, so you can encourage your horse to get long and low and drive from the rear end. You can do everything while ground driving that you did while longeing, but have someone help you if your horse has never been ground driven.
While riding, ride in the trot, a lot. It helps build even muscling. Lengthen and shorten your stride. Set up some ground poles and walk, trot and canter over them. Transitions are great for muscle building and improve your horse’s over all training.
There are a ton of ways to work your horse that will help build muscle, but again, consistency is key. The most common exercise is to trot your horse in a long and low frame.
When making changes to your horse’s diet or exercise visual change can be slow to come. It can take months for your horse to build the muscle that makes their topline better, as it is usually the first thing to go when their nutrition falters. So stop changing their diet every two weeks when you don’t see results. It will be easier to maintain your horse’s topline than start over. Get out and work your horse at least 3 times a week to turn the calories into muscle. Most of all, be patient!