View Full Version : Topline : feed vs work

15-03-08, 02:13 AM
I am just having a b!tch about this as I am sick to death of hearing about all these miracles of feeds giving topline.

Yes some feed will help in muscle growth - but they will not target muscle groups not in work. When I sit on my bum all day and eat high protein/amino acid foods I will not magically have stunning abs. So why do people feel that THIS will create "topline"? Stuffing feed into your horse wil make it FAT - maybe they are looking for crestiness rather than muscle tone?
Who knows, just having a rant.


15-03-08, 02:22 AM
I'm with you Nox!

15-03-08, 03:31 AM
Yep totally agree, another money making scheem for those not too experienced and think it will magicaly appear overnight!!

15-03-08, 03:44 AM
Well, I'm pretty sure I'm reasonably experienced, and I certainly know that weight lifter for one gives a great topline, and a lot more so than any other feed I've ever used. But let's not confuse 'topline' with muscle, because while I've posted on an endless array of 'how do I fatten my horse' threads about how great weight lifter is for that purpose, I would obviously never say that any food on it's own (including weight lifter of course) can ever produce muscle because of course it can't. But topline in the sense of good even conditioning along the length of a horse's neck, back and croup, that it can and does give to virtually every horse I've fed it to.


15-03-08, 03:55 AM
Ok these are 2 different things - topline from feed is basically putting "fat" on your horse Topline from work is putting muscle on your horse...... 2 different things

When people are asking about getting topline on a thin horse i believe they are just talking about putting weight on enough so said horses back bone is not showing - simple - fatty/protein feeds will do this (working the horse correctly turns this fat in to muscle to get a correct topline).

When people are asking about topline on an already well fed horse then that obviously refers to working a horse correctly to muscle said horse up.....

I take it from most posts about this people are mainly refering to the the first type and the answer is simple - more fatty/protein feeds - eg: your horse needs to be fatter but they need to realise all horses react differently ponies generally get a topline super easy on just feed where some TB's may been a combination of both feed and correct work to get a decent topline. :)

15-03-08, 04:12 AM
I am, and the person I was getting annoyed at are definately not talking about weight. "Topline" always will be the development of muscle tone across the back and neck. Not that horrid obesity that many people mistake it for where said horse's bum looks like an apple and his neck starts to wrinkle under the weight of the crest - this is NOT topline, just a very fat horse. What the fat version of "topline" is referring to is cover... not muscle.

See I am still getting cranky about it.


15-03-08, 05:22 AM

I am fascinated with what you feed your horses. It sounds as if they are in great condition on a very economical feeding schedule. Is there any chance that you could outline for me your exact feeding schedule? I have a thoroughbred gelding, an older warmblood mare and a few young warmblood fillies. I would love to give it a try. And maybe others would like to try it too.


15-03-08, 05:39 AM
*The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary describes the word Topline as: A word dating back to 1909 used to describe the outline of the top of the body of an animal (ie a dog or horse).

Equuinox, not really wanting to labour the point here, but given that I'm one of those people you referred to in your op who believe that certain feeds (such as weight lifter) can substantially improve the topline of a horse, I want to make sure it's clarified that the word topline in this context is essentially just a term to describe the 'upper outline' of a horse, something that can be 'built up' and/or improved aesthetically by adjusting either the amount of fat OR the amount of muscle tone/mass present in that area, OR by a combination of the two (just like we can improve ourselves aesthetically through adjusting one or both of the above). And a horse can obviously achieve a marked aesthetic improvement in their topline through feed alone without ever getting even close to the degree of obesity you referred to above (just like an underweight person will look better with a little more weight on them, regardless of whether or not they're exercising at the same time). Having said that, an improvement in the functionality and strength of the topline can obviously only be achieved through a combination of the two, appropriate exercise AND appropriate fodder.


15-03-08, 05:42 AM
I agree with you Nox...

Topline or any other shape change is created by muscle tone...

Beefed up horses are created by making them fat or giving them hormones.

I have a friend who gives their horse hormone injections for the topline... Yes, it makes me cranky also, I think they lack knowledge. They go to me, look how muscley my horse is getting ... I go you should try riding it, it is healthier.

15-03-08, 07:40 AM
Hi Mighty,
No problem, I'm happy to let you know exactly what we feed our horses, although in all honesty it's not very economical to feed them what we do in the begining, it's only after we've got them in good condition that it starts to get really economical to feed, which tends to take about 2-6 weeks. Then we're able to start cutting the food right back without them losing any condition again. And I really don't know if our feeding regime is technically any more effective than anyone else's, either, but I do love the fact that all of our horses, regardless of what breed they are or how old they are, are always in pretty 'ideal' condition coverage-wise and also the fact that it's really easy to keep their weight stable.

Initially we only feed weight lifter and oaten chaff and/or hay, and we gradually work up to giving them around the maximum amount of weight lifter advised for their size and bone (I rang the weight lifter 'advice line' and talked to the guys there when we first started feeding it, to get a better idea about maximum amounts that we should feed for each horse, and they were really helpful). Then, once we're feeding them the maximum adviseable amount of weight lifter for their size/bone, we keep feeding them at that rate till they're in the condition we want, which with ours is well covered everywhere but not at all 'blubbery' anywhere. Then once they're at that point we cut the weight lifter back by about half a scoop morning and night, and keep gradually reducing the size of their feed by another half a scoop or so until they largely 'level out' condition-wise.

Then we start gradually replacing some of the weight lifter with coprice m until with most of our horses they get about 50/50 of each (weight lifter and coprice m) as well as their chaff/hay. And if we see them dropping back at all after that point we'll up the weight lifter ratio a bit compared to the coprice m or if we see them putting a bit of weight on we'll cut the weight lifter back a bit and up the coprice m component. It's a really easy feed regime because with the weight lifter we only need to add plain water to the feed, and because they really seem to 'glow' on weight lifter about the only other 'additives' we ever feed are maybe a bit of oil and a bit of salt.

I know some people give weight lifter a bad rap and say it's only fattening, not healthy, so when we first started feeding it I was prepared to switch to something else at the first sign of any worries, but our horses have all been eating it for between two and three years now and even our vets constantly comment on how glowing and healthy they all are, plus they condition really easily whenever we bring them into work and they all stay nice and calm on their feeds too, so apart from the fact that weight lifter shouldn't be fed to horses who are founder-prone and it shouldn't be fed with lucerne (excess protein) I still swear by it.

One other thing I want to mention, we haven't had any horses under 4yo on weight lifter so I can't advise you re feeding the youngsters on it. But they did release a 'breeding' mix a couple of years ago which from memory was for youngsters as well, so maybe you could call the 'advice' line to get more info on that for your fillies? And obviously watch your youngsters with it, too, because if it's anything like the 'traditional' weight lifter it could make your youngsters over-fat really easily.


15-03-08, 10:00 AM
I've never used ##### but I totally agree in regards to providing a generous feed with plenty of balanced calories. I use a mix of Coolmax, whole oats, lucerne chaff, flaky bran, tic beans (soaked) and add a couple of cups of a mix of livamol, groom, vitamin mix, vitamin E supplement, soya meal and salt. This is on top of ad-lib oaten hay rolls.

15-03-08, 11:30 AM
I know that in some respects I am lucky to have horses that are good doers but when I read everyone else's threads about what they feed their horses I can't believe it, My two would just pop if they were fed anywhere near as much as other people's. They have no grazing at all at the moment so they have a round roll of meadow hay and every second night get a half scoop of chaff with minerals in it. They have free access to a salt lick. I yard them at night because if I didn't they would just keep eating the hay and look like they are about to pop.

They are both worked a couple of times a week (especially the pony who does regular lessons and PC and jumping). I obviously need to up the exercise - they both look pregnant - because I can't cut their feed down anymore without worrying about insufficient roughage etc.

Oh and the pony is really cresty but has no muscular topline and my horse (QH) doesn't have anything vaguely resembling a topline - very skinny neck (neither muscle nor fat). I am obviously not working him correctly because we do quite a bit of hill work and I thought that would help but nada.

15-03-08, 11:41 AM
I'm genuinely curious here, but I was taught that you needed to get the 'weight' on your horse while working it to turn the fat into muscle.

Without the food to gain the fat there's nothing to turn to muscle with the correct work. (Not much anyway). Is that correct??

You can tell the difference with horses that have fat topline and muscle topline. Muscle topline doesn't wobble! :P

15-03-08, 12:01 PM
I agree and disagree. Without sufficient protein, fat and calorie intake, no horse regardless of the amount and quality of the work will lay down muscle on the top line. A horse who's feed intake is not adequately balanced will just burn fat and then muscle off with work, so, getting the feed right is the first step to getting that good top line. What you put in the front really does come out the back !

15-03-08, 12:13 PM
My understanding is that you can't turn fat into muscle...two entirely different things...you can have the best eight-pack in the world but it will be your little secret if there if fat over the top.

Without wanting to get into a semantic debate about what the term "topline" means It seems to me that you feed for condition (possibly crest depending on what you like in your horse/pony) but work and gymnastics develops the underlying muscle structure that gives the beautiful outline.


15-03-08, 12:13 PM
our tb's have lost there top line but have a grass belly, i was told that when they go back to work it will bring up the topline
the clydes have lost a bit of there topline the mare still has fat tops of legs/shoulder hind quater it stops shaking after she stops walking the stallion looks pregnant, should i toss a donkey in with them to keep them moving
cheers jkis

for the love of the horse
Just Keep It Simple

15-03-08, 12:56 PM
My understanding is that you can't turn air into muscle either. Case in point, racehorses have high calorie diets, they have a lot of energy and muscle, but they do not have a lot of fat.

15-03-08, 01:22 PM
oil is fat
we feed oil to our racehorses
oil is the cheapest form of high energy feed
we also want them to build muscle so we feed lots of protein
one of the feeds i use has 29% protein
protein is for muscle developement

Energy is requiered to fuel muscle contraction among other things
you cannot feed lots of protein without feeding lysine

protein adheres to lysine and gives you building blocks for muscles unlike engergy (fat even) the body cannot store protein

too much energy can make a horse very energetic or fizzy or be converted to body fat

to little protein in the diet and your horse will utilise the protein in his muscles causing tissue degridation

i feed my horses mostly hay only ... i certainly feed less than anyone else on my agistment (i dont feed all the fancy feeds and mixes etc that are popular to atm)
my horses also get a mineral block which they litereally devour at will... my horses are not bluber fat but are in good condition i beleive mainly due to the mineral block
one mineral block per paddock of eight horses lasts me about a month one round bale lasts about a week

15-03-08, 10:15 PM
Anubis, that's what my understanding is too, that you can't actually turn fat into muscle....that body fat levels increase if MORE calories are intaken than the body utilises and decrease if LESS calories are intaken than the body utilises, but that, regardless of whether more or less calories are intaken than the body utilises, muscle continues to develop underneath the outer layer of fat as fitness increases? I do remember though that for years it was always touted that fat was actually 'converted' into muscle as fitness increased.


15-03-08, 10:21 PM
Fat can only be used as energy.
Fat does not turn into muscle.
Fat levels will reduce when energy output increases enough.
Muscles develop in size with work/exercise.

A horse needs to be in a healthy condition to begin work in order to develop/increase musculature.

15-03-08, 11:27 PM
So to create a muscle topline instead of fat topline you need to have your horse in full work and use the energy (ie: food) to help build muscle before it becomes fat?

I suppose the reason I thought fat became muscle is because as with humans, when you become fitter, you burn off the fat and build up the muscle. So technically, no, your not converting the fat, you're using it to create energy and at the same time building the muscle up. Does that sound somewhere near the truth?

15-03-08, 11:40 PM
You are exactly right and it is the same with horses.

Apologies for sounding so abrupt.

16-03-08, 01:54 AM
Guess it depends on the discipline as to acceptable topline. e.g. show horses tend to be more "round" while dressage horse more muscle.

I found to condition a horse without using every powder developed under the sun one of the best is Equijewel pellets (bit $$$) but it will help most horses put some decent coverage on their backs to be able to turn to muscled topline.

The only true way to get topline is correct work and muscle development and there really arent any shortcuts. Just correct feeding and gymnastic exercise.

Sounds a bit like all these diet pills out there, promise the world but its the age old proven forumla that works best.

16-03-08, 07:56 AM
Huge thankyou to Anubis, Anarabis and Syzygy ( ah sp?) as well as everyong else for this debate, it's great to see some science behind the mythology of horses and feeds. It has made my jaded opinion of the horse world abate slightly.

I guess a sleep helped too.

Ta again :)

17-03-08, 01:11 AM
.......So to create a muscle topline instead of fat topline you need to have your horse in full work and use the energy (ie: food) to help build muscle before it becomes fat?......

this doesnt read right to me

how about

So to create a muscled topline instead of fat topline you need to have your horse in full work with his energy requirements met and make sure the diet has enough protein and lysine to build mucsles

17-03-08, 01:18 AM
Let's just say it is a given that the horse is well nourished on a balanced diet. Not fat but 'paddock' condition.
To increase muscle bulk there must be appropriate work/exercise.

17-03-08, 07:44 AM
Oh dear

17-03-08, 08:53 AM
I'm with you 100%

topline in my books is muscular development of the neck, back and hindquarters. which no feed will gove without excercise!!!!
to me feeding the horse to make it look fatter over those areas is juts adding 'condition' whihc i differentiate from topline.

muscle needs good quality amino acids from feed + CORRECT EXCERCISE

17-03-08, 04:05 PM
Ol Queen V put me onto these last time this subject came up ...


So it appears I have been WRONG for years ... topline DOES come in a 'bag' ??? ... *ROTFLMAO* ...

I really DO wonder just how many people over the years have bought THIS very product on the assumption that as the name implies, topline IS made from feeding ???

17-03-08, 11:46 PM
..And therein lies the problem.

18-03-08, 03:08 AM
And as long as the wrong terminology is being used to describe what is actually being discussed the 'problem' will continue. The word topline merely describes the 'top line' of said horse, dog, cow, cat, monkey, and as such the 'topline' can be 'built up' either via increasing the amount of fat along that region OR increasing the amount of muscle along that region OR a combination of the two. And 'building topline' is, like it or not, a perfectly appropriate way to describe either method accurately.

A more accurate and far easier to understand way of wording what the issue appears to be here is that the ONLY way to 'MUSCLE' a topline is through a combination of correct feed and regular appropriate exercise. Whereas a topline can be built up (ie, rounded, padded, improved aesthetically to a degree) via fat alone regardless of whether the horse, cat, monkey is getting regular exercise or not. Of course, the degree to which a topline can actually be 'built up' via fat alone will always depend on the age and body type of the 'animal' concerned.

So, while anyone has the right to describe 'topline' as 'what is achieved through the building of muscle in that area' rather than what is acheived through the building of fat in the same area, it's a bit much to decide that anyone who preceives the building of topline any differently is naive when the dictionary meaning of the word 'topline' is simply that, the top line, and as such descriptions of what constitutes 'building it' are automatically going to be open to interpretation.