Horse owners often talk about their horse’s condition, and that often includes talking about the horse’s topline. Feeding a supplement to improve your horses’ topline is always a hot topic in forums, but can they really help? Horse topline supplements, do they work, what should you consider so as to make your best choice to improve topline for horses

What Is Topline?

Your horses’ topline is the group of muscles that runs along the top of your horse’s neck, along the back and over the hindquarters. These areas are made up mostly of muscle in a healthy weight animal. How to build topline muscle on a horse covers two aspects; correct training/work and quality protein absorption. Your first question should be “why has my horse lost topline”. Suppose that your training is right and yet topline doesn’t develop as you expected, does your horse need remedial feed (i.e. its regular  feed + turnout are inappropriate or insufficient) or does your horse need help with absorption of feed. Or a bit of both? The only difference between ‘how to build topline on a thoroughbred’ and ‘how to build topline in older horses’ is in the pace of training progression. Because the nutrient building blocks are the same for both although the uptake in a TB may differ from that in a veteran horse. In a horse without topline you must take into account that the spine may be involved or affected. Improving the topline for horses with Kissing Spine Syndrome (KSS) can reap enormous benefits. Feed them a supplement that builds topline muscle, that at the same time helps control inflammation, that at the same time provides the scala of minerals necessary for bone strength. Note that the topline makes up only half of your horse’s core musclulature, don’t forget the abdominal muscles in your training (i.e. strengthen abdominals, stretch hip flexors).

How Does Protein Work?

Protein, as we know, is crucial for building muscle, but what qualifies as ‘quality protein’ can vary! Proteins are long chains of not-yet-cleaved amino acids. Your horse needs stomach acid + pepsin to start cleaving (digesting) protein in its stomach, and digestive enzymes in the gut to break protein down further into amino acids. Imagine feeding the best possible ‘quality protein’ to a horse that is on antacids… Yes, that means that protein won’t get broken down into amino acids efficiently, that is to say, the quantity of proteolytic enzymes in the gut now determines how much of the ‘quality protein’ is cleaved into amino acids. The essence of all protein ingestion is for your horse’s digestion to chop up those chains completely so as to have the freedom to re-arrange the amino acids in whatever sequence suits your horse best at that time.

Some of these amino acids are classed as ‘essential’ because the body can’t produce them so must be provided by the horse’s diet. Quality protein is measured by the level of these essential amino acids. Perhaps the most important of these acids is Lysine. It is probably the one that is most lacking in your horse’s diet because here in the UK, our forage usually is generally low in Lysine. Lysine plays a crucial role in muscle development. Plant proteins are made up of about 20 common amino acids, mostly contain incomplete protein. The proportion of these amino acids varies as a characteristic of a given protein, but all food proteins —with the exception of gelatin— contain some of each. Amino nitrogen accounts for approximately 16% of the weight of proteins. These 20 amino acids can be arranged in millions of different ways to create millions of different proteins, each with a specific function in your horse’s body.  In other words, the recommended nutrient is protein, but what we really need is amino acids.

Cleavage of proteins starts by Pepsin in the stomach. Next are Trypsinogen and chymotrypsinogen, released by the pancreas into the small intestine, but these two must be converted into their active forms in order to digest proteins. Trypsinogen is activated by the enzyme enterokinase, which is embedded in the brush border of the intestinal mucosa. Tripsin in turn activates chymotrypsinogen. Intestinal microbiota affect brush border enzyme activity and gene expression (enteropeptidase mRNA), that is why proactively feeding for a healthier gut microbiome with Aloeride is clever.

Do I Need To Feed A Protein Or Topline Supplement

Talking to the manufacturer of your horse’s feed will quickly determine if you need to feed an additional supplement to your existing horse feed. Ensuring that your horse is getting the correct levels of protein and Lysine, as part of the aminoacid profile in his or her diet, will have a partial impact on your horse’s ability to develop topline. However, excess protein and amino acids will simply be flushed out in your horse’s urine, along with all your ££££, so it’s worth talking to your nutritionist before going down the route of adding more protein focussed supplements to your horses’ diet. Bear in mind that excess protein may affect your horse’s suppleness, by changing the pH of the interstitium which in turn affects connective tissue suppleness. I explain this in Comfortable Movement and Suppleness.

Work It

No protein alone will give your horse a magic topline without the correct work! Your horse’s muscles need the training to stretch, repair then lay down the new cells and in turn grow. It doesn’t matter how good the quality is, without a considerate training plan, your horse won’t be able to develop superior muscle tone. Every rider can do pole or cavaletti work (on a lunge line or under saddle). Pole work requires your horse to lift its legs higher than normal and thus work its back more. In school you can exercise shoulder-in and canter-walk-canter. Obviously you pace your training. If you haven’t read Sarah Rogers’ article Fantastic Elastic equine flexibility then you should, fab tips on training for suppleness! If you are blessed with gallops with an incline then this is almost the ideal, the incline asks more from the topline and the galloping contracts the bottom line. Don’t let them off the contact, always keep them in a frame, work up the hill at all three paces. Physical training to the point of fatigue is the necessary prompt to grow muscle.

How Can Aloeride Help

Aloeride gives you 7 out of the 8 dietary essential amino acids (Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine (!), Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, there’s no consensus on Tryptophan yet). Aloeride gives you 12 dietary non-essential amino acids (Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Cysteine, Glutamic Acid, Glycine, Histidine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine, Glutamine, Aspartic Acid). Aloeride gives you vitamin B1, B2, B3, (indirectly B5), B6, B9, B12 and vitamin A and C. Aloeride gives you the inorganic minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus, Manganese, Molybdenum, Copper, Boron and Chromium. Next to all these nutrients, Aloeride firmly supports digestion and the uptake of dietary nutrients. That is why Aloeride helps build topline muscle on a horse. It has always been poor nutritional advice to suggest that to improve topline on a horse you need to feed it protein. Protein without sufficient means to cleave it = trouble. High dosage of essential and non-essential amino acids = freedom to re-arrange these into the proteins that your horse needs.

Han van de Braak

About Han van de Braak

Han van de Braak BSc LicAc MCSP MBAcC (Retd.) is a registered healthcare provider who started to make the best possible in aloe vera in 2002. Aloeride aloe vera for Horses and Aloeride aloe vera for People are Soil Association Certified Organic and give you the best in aloe vera at the best price.

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