Last Updated on October 1, 2022
Using topline exercises for horses is a great way to help your horse build muscle and improve in terms of balance, straightness, and suppleness. The best topline exercises for horses will result in a strong and effective musculoskeletal system, as well as increased strength and physical ability. Let’s find out everything you need to know about the best topline exercises for horses!
What Is The Topline Of A Horse?
The topline of a horse is best described as the muscles which support the horses spine. The spine of a horse runs from the top of the neck, the base of the ears, right through to the end of the tail. It is the spine of a horse that controls balance and movement, and a strong topline plays an essential role in the movement of the horse.
When we talk about the topline of a horse, there are some key muscle groups which are of critical importance. These muscles mainly affect the way in which the forelimbs and hindlimbs at the horse are moved, as well as how the saddle and rider are supported.
The key areas to focus on with the topline start along the vertebral column at the end of the neck, around the withers. This extends along the back and loin, over the top of the pelvis and into the croup. The three main muscle groups that we focus on when talking about top line are the latissimus dorsi, longissimus dorsi, and thoracic trapezius.
Many people wrongly assume that a good topline on a horse is identified by a strongly muscled neck. It is actually the muscles which carry the weight of the rider and control the movement of the horse which are most critical. Whilst an elegantly arched crested neck is a beautiful sight, it is not the only factor that constitutes a good topline.
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Why Is The Topline Of A Horse So Important?
The topline of a horse is a key indicator of how well the horse engages its back muscles when it is working. A horse may be ridden for many hours every week, but if it does not need to engage its back muscles, it will not develop a strong topline. On the other hand, horses that are schooled correctly for a short period each day can develop a strong and effective topline.
For a good example of this, you should look at the difference in musculature between a dressage horse and a racehorse. A dressage horse will have rounded and well developed muscles the entire length of its spine, giving it an elegant appearance and enabling it to carry out intricate movements. In contrast, a racehorse will have muscular hindquarters but a poor topline, as it is only needed to move forward at high speeds.
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Whilst there is no harm in ambling along on your horse in a relaxed manner, encouraging it to build top line can have some great advantages. A horse with strong musculature along its spine will have better balance and improved suppleness. It will be able to use its strength and energy more effectively and carry out more intricate movements.
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What Are The Best Topline Exercises For Horses?
Building topline muscle on horses involves encouraging the horse to stretch into a long and low profile and then gradually encouraging it to work the back muscles correctly. Here are some of the best top line exercises for horses:
- Transition Work: repeatedly working up and down through the gaits can help the horse engage the hindquarters and improve balance and top line.
- Hill Work: exercising the horse in a controlled manner both up and downhill is also excellent for building up the topline as well as fitness.
- Working ‘Long And Low‘: This is a great exercise to try on the lunge, encouraging the horse to stretch out his back muscles. This will improve suppleness as well as strength.
- Pole Work: Start with poles on the ground and build up to small cavaletti at both trot and canter. This can be done either on the lunch or as ridden work.
As with any training exercise, start off gradually and build the work up slowly. If your horse is not accustomed to using his top line correctly, you may cause pain and discomfort by overdoing it.
So as we have learned, topline exercises for horses can be used to help build up muscle strength, suppleness, and balance. The best topline exercises for horses include working the horse ‘long and low’, transition work, and riding over poles and cavaletti. Hill work is also excellent for engaging the hindquarters and building up strong, effective muscles.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the best topline exercises for horses! Do you struggle to find the right training exercises for you and your horse? Or perhaps you’ve found an innovative new way to build up your horses topline? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
How do I build my horse’s topline?
Like any athlete, the horse needs certain factors to be in place in order to build a good topline. This includes the correct nutrition as well as a carefully planned training schedule. Horses that turned out for longer periods tend to develop a natural topline which can be enhanced through training.
How long does it take for a horse to build topline?
The length of time it takes for a horse to build topline depends on the age of horse and its level of fitness. Training horse should be a holistic programme and not focus solely on building topline. Expect to see gradual progress over a period of months rather than a sudden improvement.
Why is my horse losing topline?
If your horse is losing top line, it is not able to maintain this muscle mass for some reason. This may be due to inadequate nutrition, weight loss, or poor training.
What is topline syndrome?
Topline syndrome is when the muscles around the horses spine begin to develop in an abnormal manner.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then wenton to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE