Why is a topline so important? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 04:11 PM Thread Starter
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Why is a topline so important?

I've seen numerous posts on how to create a better topline for a horse.
I can see if the horse is competing that you want the horse to look correct, but for someone who is just a weekend or pleasure rider, would they really need their horse to have a topline?

Are there any ill affects of a horse NOT having a topline?

I don't want to start an argument or anything, I'm just looking to expand my knowledge.
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post #2 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 04:14 PM
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I was just thinking the same thing! Honestly, ill have to compare pics as well to see what the difference would topline vs. no topline.

thanks for posting this, i would like to learn as well!
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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no problem Lacy!
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post #4 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 05:01 PM
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The topline provides the muscular structure to connect the forehand to the rear. The engine is in the rear so without a decent connection the horse cannot use himself effectively.

Certainly a show horse will require the best that can be developed for it will be asked to do more but even a trail horse needs the structure to do what is required of it.

The best analogy I can provide would be a car. If that car was not well connected front to back then it spins its wheels going nowhere, or very inefficiently. This makes no difference whether it is a sports car or pick up or 4X4 or just a sedan. The uses for the car may be different so the structure/chassi will be built different but some degree of strength is required at even the basic level.

Same with the horse and even a trail horse has to go over rough terrain and carry weight sometimes for long periods. Poor conformation/topline will only hinder that horse so it will do the job but less efficiently or could possibily break down as the horse over uses muscles in other areas of its body to make up the deficit.
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post #5 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for the reply Spyder!

Can horses naturally build up their topline by themselves or is it more of a human thing that has to be done?
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post #6 of 27 Old 12-17-2008, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by appylover31803 View Post
Thank you so much for the reply Spyder!

Can horses naturally build up their topline by themselves or is it more of a human thing that has to be done?
If a horse naturally had to traverse rough or hilly terrain I can see a topline build up on its own.

But horses are lazy animals and if there is an easy way to go from one clump of grass to the next then they will do only the work required to get to that next clump...LOL
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post #7 of 27 Old 12-18-2008, 02:17 PM
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Hey! I have been wondering the same thing recently but haven't asked yet. I'm glad I saw this!

Thanks Appy for posting this and Sypder for the good info.

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post #8 of 27 Old 12-18-2008, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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I've been thinking about this all last night...

They wild mustangs, the ponies on assitague, and other wild horses around the world, they obviously dont have a rider to help them engage their hindquarters and for them to round there back and all. Yet they travel distances and i havent seen/heard anything bad happening to them.

would this be an instance where they naturally build it up? or do the horses learn how to perform even if they dont carry themselves properly?
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post #9 of 27 Old 12-18-2008, 05:14 PM
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Haha, I've also been wondering the same thing! I guess it looks nicer if they have a good topline, & maybe building it up is good for them. But in my opinion, I don't think it's really necessary, like your horse HAS to have a topline. But it depends; if you're showing, it might look better!

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post #10 of 27 Old 12-19-2008, 05:56 AM
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By nature horses don't really carry themselves the way we expect them to when we ride. You will see some horses collect and perform nicely when they are loose, but they are generally provoked and/or showing off.

In nature, the only way I see a horse really utilizing its assets and collecting itself is at a full gallop where its depending on its speed to escape a dangerous situation, and cannot afford to be lazy or clumsy (i.e. rely on the forehand), it will lift its front end up and utilize its engine (the rear end) to be as light and fleeting as possible in order to gain the most speed.

However if horses are leisurely traveling from one side of the herd to the other they are not worried about swiftness, and therefore probably are more on the forehand.

One way to relate it to people is slouching. Everybody slouches, the only time you sit up straight is when you have to, when you are exercising or playing a sport you (or should!) keep your shoulders up. However when your at home watching tv on the couch your slouching, and when you go to the fridge for some snacks or your hanging out with your friends and your comfortable, your not going to worry about if your posture is correct.

However if your running a race (or for your life, hopefully not) your back is straight up, your light on your toes.. yet if your in the mall running to catch up to some friends your not utilizing all of your energy and your posture probably isn't conducive of winning a race. Even the most out of shape person can run 20 yards to catch up to someone. (i.e. ME!!!!)

Now back to horses, I'm not saying wild horses are "out of shape" they are certainly equipped to travel far, but in general they do what your horses do in the field. Graze graze graze. They really only run if their playing or if their threatened, and even then they only run far enough to feel safe.

Like, when you go out to catch a rotten horse (like the way my gelding used to be) who doesn't want to be caught. You are the threat and the horse is enacting the flight response. He runs far enough to be a safe distance from you (the threat) but once your far enough away he stops to graze again. Generally, in the wild the threats will follow them, [like wolves, say] so horses will move a greater distance with a swifter speed, but they will stop as soon as that threat is out of their sight, smell, and hearing range.

Also, with feral herds, there is natural selection. Horses who have poor enough conformation will be eaten by predators. With people, horses with poor conformation are only susceptible to the ailments associated with that conformation and not the actual threat of death (at least not immediately). So theoretically, most of the horses in the herd have decent enough conformation (i.e. topline if need be) to survive the next day. A horse with really poor topline, may be the slowest horse and therefore the next one eaten.

The ponies, however have no natural predators on the island though, I thought. So they really just graze themselves to their content, and hope they aren't going to be wrangled up in the yearly sale.

So to answer your question, they have naturally built enough topline to keep them out of danger for the near future. (Except the ponies, that is a good question, I'm sure many of them are poorly built, nothing bad happens to them because they have no natural predators.. The mustangs are still susceptible to wolves and I'm sure Mountain Lions or other predators, as well as people who also wrangle them up and sell them)

Horses just perform according to instinct, if they feel they are in danger, they naturally will lift off their forehand and carry themselves and become more swift.

However domesticated horses, in general, will have much more well developed topline than wild horses because horses learn to carry themselves under saddle all the time, or else are asked to by their rider. Your horse at home doesn't necessarily need a developed topline for leisurely riding, but you should be asking him to carry himself correctly (aside from building topline you avoid the injuries that are associated with clumsiness, horses pull shoes more easily if they are just running through your hands and not executing their movement properly, and it shows a more sophisticated rider).. for the sake of proper riding. Some horses are more prone to carry themselves than others, usually the lazy-heavy mouthed forehands rely on their forehand, while the light mouthed, push button horses are more likely to carry themselves (or at least are more easily directed and will not fall out of frame as easily as the lazy ones). That is a bit a general, and it all depends on the type of bit you have and the type rider you are.

Hope that helped!
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