Getting the Topline to Win!

Getting the Topline to Win!

A horse's topline is very important not only to his appearance, but to his health, and exercise alone cannot improve or protect it.
text size

When you think about an ideal halter horse, does topline play an important part?  Your horse’s overall health is what makes him look good, feel good and win for you.  The very first thing you can do right by your horse is be sure he is getting proper nutrition to help him have all the building blocks to get to his top potential in the show ring. 

Your horse's topline can be influenced by his conformation. To become a horse conformation expert, purchase AQHA's Form to Function eBook.

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of exercise is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise alters 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.

“Being structurally incorrect does not guarantee a horse won’t be sound; but the vast majority of unsound horses are structurally incorrect,” AQHA Judge Jim Heird, Ph.D. points out. If performance is in you and your horse's future, becoming an expert in conformation will help you identify potential soundness issues. Purchase AQHA's Form to Function eBook now.

All of these things combined can help you to win in the arena.  Your horse has to look his best and feel his best to perform his best.  This all starts with his nutrition.  Look for Nutrena® and Progressive Nutrition® products that include Topline Balance, which is a unique approach to Topline health.  Also, to learn how to assess your horse’s topline, visit