How To Develop A Topline

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How To Develop A Topline

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  • Topline exercises for horses
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    06-09-2011, 12:02 PM
How To Develop A Topline

I see a lot of people asking this question, so I thought that we could all put the great information in one place, so that newbies or those who want help, can come to one thread to find what they need.


First and foremost, I believe the most important factor is good nutrition. Without the nutrition, your horse will lack the muscle development needed.

Here is a great article that I find helpful:


Secondly, another important factor in the equation of developing a strong topline, is saddle fit. If your saddle does not fit correctly, that will only hinder or impede muscle development, and only create the reverse effect.

Muscle atrophy is very common in horses who are going around with an ill fitted saddle. If the saddle isn't allowing the horse to relax uptop, to stretch and lift - then you wont get far with developing a topline.

Here is a great discussion on proper saddle fit, with wonderful video's put out by Schleese to help you decipher if your saddle does, or does not fit. *Remember, this does not replace having a Professional Saddle Maker/Fitter assess your horse in person, 1 on 1*


Once you have figured out a good nutirional balanced diet for your horse, that will help develop muscle, and know, that your saddle is a correct fit for both you, and your horse, the next step is to help develop the topline from the ground.

Here is a great video that does a great job showing the steps and stretches that you can do with your horse on a daily basis to help loosen, relax and work the back.


And of course, under saddle work. Lots of great advice given here on HF, on exercises to do, to help your horse develop that topline.

Long and Low Work
Hill Work
Trot Poles
Raised Trot Poles
Cavaletti Work

But you have to know, that in order for your horse to be effective during these exercises, you, the rider must be as well. You must know how to ask your horse to open up front, track up, and lift their backs up into your seat. You must be effective, in order for your horse to be as well.


Feel free to add your experiences and your input on the matter. The more the better!
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    06-09-2011, 12:04 PM
Great job, putting this together! Two thumbs up! :)
    06-09-2011, 12:34 PM
Great idea MIE!

One thing that people forget about as well is a good conditioning program and training program. It is beneficial to have a good working relationship with your vet and continually assess the horses condition and be reworking his program. It is also beneficial to be working closely with a coach and trainer to develop your skills as a rider and work on development of a good training program that compliments the conditioning you are doing.
Good riding and adequate work is what develops the correct muscles over time.

My rule of thumb is showing at a competition. I think of the level of work I expect my horse to be doing at a show and aim to be working the horse longer, more intensely and for more days in a row than at the show. This way I know he is fit and muscled enough to perform at the level I am training at.
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    06-09-2011, 12:40 PM
Great post Anabel! Thanks for adding that great information.
    06-10-2011, 11:48 AM
Great thread, I hope people will use this as a reference !
    06-10-2011, 12:29 PM
Thanks Unicorn! I appreciate that :)

I hope more will post to add their input and ideas on how to develop a topline, the more information, the better for the readers who are dealing with this situation.
    06-10-2011, 12:33 PM
Thanks for putting this out there. :)
    06-10-2011, 01:33 PM
This is awesome advice MIE (<3 you!)
I don't think enough people pay attention to diet, saddle fit, and actual conditioning when assessing "training" and weight issues. My horses that aren't in work are getting such good nutrition that they still have topline even though they aren't in ANY exercise. I saw this firsthand also with another friend's horse out in OH when I was out there to visit. The mare hasn't been worked regularly in months and gets limited t/o and looks like she's in 3x a week work with a super shiny coat and beautiful muscling. And that's just from diet alone!

Of course there are exceptions and horses with special needs and/or aging that need more work to maintain or even build topline, and every "rule" has it's fair share of exceptions. However guidelines are a good place to start and these are great guidelines! Thanks again MIE!
    06-10-2011, 01:46 PM
That's great information CJ! Thanks for sharing that, greatly appreciated :)
    06-10-2011, 11:55 PM
Originally Posted by Tamibunny    
Great job, putting this together! Two thumbs up! :)

Thank you! I appreciate it

Originally Posted by crimsonsky    
thanks for putting this out there. :)
You are welcome! I hope you found it helpful

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