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Horse Topline Troubleshooting

feeding horse with hands

Q: I feed my horse a good feed with recommended amino acid content, but don’t see any difference in his topline. What is going on?

A: if you are feeding the recommended amount and still not seeing a change, you might take a look at your hay or pasture. If for example your hay is 7% protein, you may need to feed a slightly higher rate of your feed. If you still are not seeing the change you want, it may be due to the bioavailability of the amino acids in the feed. Talk with your veterinarian, nutrition consultant or feed dealer about a recommendation of a product with a more bioavailable “usable” amino acids for your horse.

Q: I feed my horse a lot – over 8 lbs of commercial feed per day. Her body condition is great, but her topline is still terrible!

A: It’s great that you’re not afraid to feed your horse in order to try to impact his or her topline. However, you may want to check your feed label. Does it include guaranteed amino acids like lysine, methionine and threonine? If these are not guaranteed on the tag, what you’re feeding your horse may not be fully supporting muscle maintenance and development. Also seek a feed that includes the right amino acids in the correct form and ratios.

Q: I’ve increased my horse’s exercise program to help strengthen his topline, but it doesn’t seem to be working!

A: While exercise will condition and train existing muscles, it can only help build a topline if the nutritional building blocks of muscle are available in the diet. In fact, the muscle mass of a horse being worked hard enough can be reduced if significant amino acids are not present in the diet to build and develop the muscles being trained.

You should combine a feed that contains guaranteed levels of the right amino acids (fed at the right amounts per the feed tag) with a healthy exercise program for best topline results.

Q: How can I improve topline in my young, growing horse?

A: Topline health is important to horses of all ages, and especially young, growing horses. It will take more amino acids in the right combination to develop and improve the muscle appearance and tone of your young horse. Amino acids act as the building blocks of muscles and are critical for proper development, especially seen in the topline area. Caring for your horse’s topline starting at a young age can help set him or her up for success through their entire life. A good mare and foal feed to start is key here – for example SafeChoice Mare and Foal fed according to the tag instructions through the first year of life.

Q: Can the topline of senior horses be impacted? Or is a poor topline just another part of the aging process?

A: It is possible to improve the topline and muscle tone in horses of all ages. By adding a feed with an improved amino acid profile, an aging horse’s muscling surrounding his or her spine can be strengthened; however it is important to differentiate this from “lifting” a swayback. Nutrition can improve the muscling supporting the spine, but it cannot change the horse’s conformation.

Q: I have a broodmare and every year I notice her topline condition decreases as the foal at her side grows and gets bigger. She is a great mom and gives everything she has to the foal – but her overall body condition and topline suffers. Any tips?

A: It is possible to impact the topline of almost all types of horses, and broodmares are no exception. In lactation, a broodmare’s nutrition needs can exceed those of a performance horse – she is working hard to feed her foal! Give mares a feed with guaranteed amino acids to help develop the quality of the topline, throughout her entire gestation and lactation.