Improving a Horse’s Topline

If you’re like most horse owners, as soon as you recognize there is a problem with your horse, your mind immediately searches for a solution. You may ask yourself, “how do I fix this?” and, more importantly, “how fast can I fix this?” The good news is that topline can be improved in a short amount of time. In fact, once a feeding program that provides the correct amino acids in the right balance is implemented (utilizing feeds that include Topline Balance), you may be able to start seeing results in your horse’s topline in as little as a few weeks! Factors to keep in mind to see the fastest results:

  • Feed the correct product. Products that include Topline Balance are: SafeChoice productsProForce products, and Empower Balance products.
  • Feed the product at the recommended rate: Do the math on the feed tag and figure out exactly how much feed your horse should receive for their bodyweight and work level. Don’t estimate!
  • Next weigh it in a scoop and then ensure it’s fed every day; consistency is key!
  • If others are in charge of feeding your horse, make sure they understand the importance of the right amount of feed every day.
  • Assess your horse’s topline and body condition monthly or more and adjust within the feed tag directions as needed, remember forage will change cutting to cutting.

Decreases in topline condition

It can happen faster than you may think possible, but topline condition can start to deteriorate as quickly as it improves – in as little as a few weeks. Once specific amino acids are absent from the diet or supplied in a less bioavailable form, the muscles begin to atrophy, which is quickly noticeable in a simple visual observation. 

Frequency of evaluation

To ensure you are making progress improving your horse’s topline, evaluation should take place on a regular basis – every 30-60 days is a good starting point for maintenance. We recommend more frequent evaluation for horse owner’s closely monitoring their feeding program in order to affect a change.

For more information, and a customized assessment of your horse’s topline, visit Topline Balance.

Improving Your Horse’s Topline – Why Exercise Alone Isn’t the Answer

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of work ‑ is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise will certainly alter existing muscles, building new muscles is a different story. The nutritional building blocks of muscle (essential amino acids) must be present in sufficient quantities and balanced with adequate calories to rebuild or augment muscle tissue. In fact, if a horse is worked hard but his diet lacks sufficient amino acids, existing muscle mass can shrink. This can be a slippery slope in some situations, and as muscle atrophy sets in, the belief is that the horse needs to work even harder when in fact the fuel is not present (in the form of nutrition) to help support and repair tissue that is broken down with exercise. Just like human athletes, athletic equine partners need more essential amino acids than maintenance horses to maximize the effects of training and allow the horse to look and feel its best.

Certain exercises are thought to improve topline include hill work, backing exercises, and those that encourage the horse to collect and arc the body. These exercises can help condition muscles, but only if the diet is supporting the muscles through proper nutrition. Before you put your horse into a conditioning program, be sure that your diet is in balance and you’ll be much happier with the results.

To determine what nutrition best fits your horse’s needs, take the Topline Balance assessment for a customized nutrition plan.

Amino Acid Requirements for Horses

In order to fuel, repair, and recover muscle, equine diets must optimally contain a superior amino acid profile, including all 10 of the essential amino acids. Most horse owners can quickly name the crude protein level in the feed they provide their horses. But, what horse owners really need to know about is the amino acid content. Protein is made up of amino acids, similar to how a chain is made up of links. There are two basic categories of amino acids: Essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids must be provided in the diet, as the horse cannot create them on its own in the digestive tract, where the nonessential amino acids can be made.

Another key point is that some amino acids are known as “limiting” amino acids. This means that if a horse runs out of this type of amino acid, it can’t utilize any of the remaining amino acids present in the feed. If the horse has enough of the first most-limiting amino acid, but then runs out of the second most-limiting amino acid, it can’t use the remaining amount of the third most limiting, and so on.

In horses, the first three most-limiting amino acids, in order, are lysine, methionine and threonine. Generally speaking, if these three amino acids are present in sufficient quantities, the ingredients used also provide the remaining amino acids in sufficient quantities. It is increasingly common to see these three amino acids listed on the guaranteed analysis of horse feed tags, as it is an indication of the quality of the protein sources and the balanced nature of the feed.

If you are looking for a feed that may help impact topline, be sure to look at the guaranteed analysis on the feed tag. In specific Nutrena feeds – SafeChoice productsProForce products, and Empower Balance– the amino acid levels are called out and guaranteed on the tag. The amino acids included in Nutrena’s Topline Balance products are included in specific amounts and ratios. Research has shown that this specific combination and type of amino acids help to support a healthy topline when fed correctly.

Guaranteed amino acids on the tag is a good starting point. You then need to let the horse tell you if the feed is working by regularly evaluating and noting changes in topline condition.

To determine what nutrition best fits your horse’s needs, take the Topline Balance assessment for a customized nutrition plan.