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Why is a topline so important?

This is a discussion on Why is a topline so important? within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Top line to bottom line ratio in horse conformation
  • Why would a horse with poor conformation have trouble surviving in the wild

 
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    12-19-2008, 07:09 AM
  #11
Weanling
Oh I also meant to say that ponies aren't meant to run the way horses are, so I feel its harder to find a pony with "poor topline" just because they are built the way nature intended, short stocky and they are meant to run much shorter distances and meant to live in harsher conditions with no real threats. Ponies are cold weather animals and are built as such (with stores of fat), I may be somewhat uneducated on the manner, but I feel the topline of a pony is much different from a horse, and is naturally easier to maintain with little exercise.. at least all the ponies I've seen. It's a muscle, and because ponies are smaller, I'd expect them to condition it with considerably less exercise. The only true pony I've seen with no topline is a 39 year old shetland, and she is so old all she does really is walk from the pasture to her stall, graze, and pull the occaisional trot and canter when she's feeling naughty and doesnt want to be caught.

Of course other larger pony breeds that have been crossed with horses long ago or presently, still need to develop topline... but the true little hardy ponies such as the shetlands, I think condition that muscle much more easily because of their small size.
     
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    12-19-2008, 07:51 AM
  #12
Weanling
One thing that tipped me off to improving topline along with the muscle development aspect, was the concern with saddle carry. I agree 100% about the development needs for terrain issues. It wasnt though until I picked up underwieght horses occassionally that I found they responded better to riding when they had a better topline development where the saddle rests. Pressure on the back is compensated with good pads and good saddles, but if there isnt much in the way of a buffer on the horse naturally, then it can really start to cause soreness. A little extra something for thought! LOL!
     
    12-19-2008, 10:54 AM
  #13
Yearling
Just a few things:

With drop your reins post, this part assumed a LOT:

'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.'


There are a LOT of 'poorly conformed' horses in the wild. How many mustangs have you seen with an AMAZING shoulder? Or a great croup? This is because good conformation to US has NOTHING to do with surviving in the wild. Mustangs have no topline--the only thing they have to do is walk, graze, and on occasion, run. Galloping is also something that is not done all on the hind end--usually it's 50/50. Race horses are taught to lean on the reins to run, and the gait is 'flat'. And I think race horse trainers would know how to get a horse to run the fastest. ;) Poor topline has nothing to do with speed.

/With that being said, I think if you're going to trail ride, then go ahead. There's no sense schooling in an arena if you're just going to putz around on some trails. Having the freedom of his head and neck, the horse should be able to balance his way out of anything as long as you stay out of his way. He can do it in the wild; he can do it with us on his back as long as we're simple, quiet passengers. Besides, horses that do a lot of walking on trails are often better muscled then today's modern dressage horse, lol!

If you're going to do ANY kind of arena work, or showing, then I suggest building topline. If you're going to expect the horse to do some real work (trotting, cantering, etc.), then you should help him do it in the most efficient way. If you're trail riding at a walk/possible jog, then it's honestly just a waste of your time.
     
    12-19-2008, 12:04 PM
  #14
Trained
Thank you so much for all the replies! I learned something new!

I'm definitely going to be doing arena work with Montana and Vega so I'll have to help them build a topline. Not sure what I'm doing with Gem yet... we might just take it easy.
     
    12-19-2008, 12:49 PM
  #15
Showing
That is one loaded question to try to answer and I doubt I'll be able to do more than just scratch the surface on that one. I'm sure if you look it up online, you will likely find even more information you didn't know existed.

A horse's top line includes a lot more than what most people think. It starts off at the croup along the back all the way up to the withers. The strength of the top line can really make a difference in the horses ability to stay sound and not develop problems during his showing career (or regular riding). Also withers should always be higher than where the top of the croup is which positions the horse better for moving under himself during riding.

The length of a horse's back will affect the horse's balance and the length and type of stride. I've read in recently in a book the length of the back is directly related to "the length and slope of the shoulder and the top to bottom" line neck ratio.

So in other words, a horse's top line is very important for soundness, sounder movement and balance and will affect their ability to perform better and longer (dressage, or jumping where the to pline kicks in with balance when they rock back to jump over the fence)without risking injury.
     
    12-19-2008, 01:55 PM
  #16
Trained
Thanks for the reply Kelly. :)

Is that book the one that Allie recommended?

With Gem, when we first got him, he spine stuck out a bit. Not a lot, but it was noticeable. He also has a very high hip bone (I think anyways). Along with that he also had athritis and his feet hadn't been done in a while.

Since we moved him to the new stable, and he's been able to get proper nutrition, get his feet trimmed and on a regular schedule, and has room to move around, his topline looks better to me, and he's also moving a lot better, so I can definitely see how a topline can better a horse.

I had just always thought that if you were showing that you'd want your horse in tip top shape, but I now know that if you want your horse to be sound and move well, then you'd need topline.

Thank you very much to everyone who informed me!
     
    12-19-2008, 02:00 PM
  #17
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by appylover31803    
Thanks for the reply Kelly. :)

Is that book the one that Allie recommended?

With Gem, when we first got him, he spine stuck out a bit. Not a lot, but it was noticeable. He also has a very high hip bone (I think anyways). Along with that he also had athritis and his feet hadn't been done in a while.

Since we moved him to the new stable, and he's been able to get proper nutrition, get his feet trimmed and on a regular schedule, and has room to move around, his topline looks better to me, and he's also moving a lot better, so I can definitely see how a topline can better a horse.

I had just always thought that if you were showing that you'd want your horse in tip top shape, but I now know that if you want your horse to be sound and move well, then you'd need topline.

Thank you very much to everyone who informed me!

Hey no problem, I do wish my response was better tho. Yes it is the book JDI posted about a couple months ago. I ordered it online in case you start looking for it
     
    12-19-2008, 03:25 PM
  #18
Trained
Thats ok Kelly :)

I'll have to order that book.. or maybe I'll add it on my x-mas list.
     
    12-19-2008, 04:42 PM
  #19
Weanling
Quote:
'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.'


There are a LOT of 'poorly conformed' horses in the wild. How many mustangs have you seen with an AMAZING shoulder? Or a great croup? This is because good conformation to US has NOTHING to do with surviving in the wild. Mustangs have no topline--the only thing they have to do is walk, graze, and on occasion, run. Galloping is also something that is not done all on the hind end--usually it's 50/50. Race horses are taught to lean on the reins to run, and the gait is 'flat'. And I think race horse trainers would know how to get a horse to run the fastest. ;) Poor topline has nothing to do with speed.
I never said horses needed impeccable conformation to survive, I said they need to have "decent enough" conformation, to survive to the next day. I also said "THEORETICALLY." It's survival of the fittest, natural selection. Of course a horse doesn't need even decent conformation, technically. As long as their legs are sound enough to run, they're good. However, a lot of conformation issues lead to lameness, and if its serious enough, a wild horse could be supper. If a horse can't move quickly enough, its not going to survive. True wild horses faced a lot more predators than they do now, wild horses in the west face what.. IDK I assumed wolves and mountain lions, to be honest I'm not sure they would even be bothered enough to catch a horse... However the horse would still perceive them as a threat, they would sense them as a predator and they would still run, regardless. I'm sure a dead lame horse who can't walk in the wild (due to what else, horrible leg conformation, and a year too many of carrying its own weight) might be preyed upon, especially if the herd left it. I was also stating theoretically because I meant true wild horses, waay before domestication..

Also you are taking my words waay too literally, naturally a horse who was 100% off their forehand would be rearing (That was sarcasm). I said that yes, to be as light as possible the horse would have to lift its back and front end. The result is still the same, the horse is lifting up their back, and flexing their topline muscle, something they normally don't do otherwise. If the horse was too much on its forehand when it was running, it would lose balance from all the unequally distributed speed and stumble and fall. In the wild, that might equal slowest horse. Slowest horse equals next meal. Technically, the horse wasn't utilizing his topline muscle, and lifting his back and lightening his front end... You see where I'm going with this.

I think a poorly developed topline muscle has to do with speed, more so endurance, but it still has a lot to do with speed. A lot relies on the individual horse, breed type, etc. but if the experiment could be done with two identical horses in all respects, except one horse has a developed topline and one doesn't, the horse with the developed topline is going to win.
I'm not saying that my pretty little Morgan who has a nice developed topline is going to win in a race against a thoroughbred with a poorly developed topline.
It's a muscle but in times of extreme peril (i.e. For the wild horse) the flight response will take over, and topline doesn't matter so much because hormones in the brain take over for the horse. The horse still has to be able to flex that muscle and lift his back. Done often enough, its called developing topline.

The question was, what does topline play in the wild? I think I answered it sufficiently and truthfully if you choose to read what I am saying and not take each word literally. I'm aware of how poorly built horses are in the wild, the idea of conformation is something that humans fathomed when studying horses, but some of the ideas would still play a role with wild horses from 3,000 years ago. Their anatomical structure has everything to do with survival, that includes the muscoskeletal system as a whole, and therefore conformation.
     
    12-19-2008, 05:05 PM
  #20
Showing
Very very interesting!
     

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