How is your horse’s topline?

Dr. Cat Reczek

One of the most common issues I see among my equine patients is a poor topline. The topline consists of a group of muscles that run along your horse’s spine that extend from the withers down through the croup. These muscles are necessary for flexion and extension of the spine, and are needed in order for your horse to lift and round himself up properly while under saddle. Without these muscles, it is much easier for your horse to become saddle sore and lame in the front end due to dumping their weight on the front. There are a few reasons why your horse can be lacking in his topline.

Obesity, lack of movement, and weakened abdominal muscles are contributors to a poor topline. Obesity and decreased movement cause weakened abdominal muscles in horse. If he is not using those muscles, then the muscles will begin to weaken. When your horse has weak abdominal muscles, his back will sink down to create an excess lordosis, more commonly known as sway back. This changes his natural conformation making it more difficult for him to both use his back muscles properly and to build up those muscles.

Poor nutrition is another factor that plays a role in your horse’s topline. Complete proteins are needed for muscle growth, and the building blocks of protein are amino acids. Some amino acids are created in the body and some need to obtained through diet. If your horse is not getting the amino acids he needs in his diet, he will not be able to build the muscle he needs to enhance his topline. If his diet is poor, even with the proper rehab exercises, your horse will still be unable to improve his back muscles.

Restrictions in your horse’s spine is one of the leading contributors to having a poor topline!  When a joint becomes restricted, there is pain, decreased movement, compensation in the joints above and below, and as a result there is muscle spasm formation. If a joint has lost its motion, range of motion is significantly reduced and your horse is physically unable to flex and round his back while under saddle. This means that you can improve his nutrition, do all the rehab muscles in the world, and your horse will still not be unable to build his topline because he cannot use his muscles properly if his joints are not able to move as they should! Chiropractic adjustments remove restrictions and allow your horse’s joints to move fluidly as they should. Once restrictions have been removed, then it is time to address the nutrition and proper rehab exercises that will allow your horse to then build his topline muscles back to where they need to be.