Have you ever seen one of those horses that has a neck that looks like it was put on upside down, with little to no muscle along the back and top of the rump as well? Typically horses that are working properly and using their backs, are in good physical condition, and have properly fitting saddles, don’t look like this. Horses that are in good body condition, have properly fitting equipment, and are being worked in an appropriate frame (over their backs and not inverted) will naturally build up topline over time.
However, there’s a lot that you can do to help build your horse’s muscling, which will improve his balance, stamina and strength.
A few things to focus on when building your horse’s topline:
- Work “long and low”. Be sure you’re riding back to front, focusing on driving the hind legs under the horse. Then, allow the horse to stretch his neck down, so that the poll is either at the same height as the withers or lower. This can be done at the walk, trot and canter, with transitions within and between gaits.
- Hills. Hill work is wonderful for strengthening your horse’s whole body. Focus on an energetic but not rushed walk as you go up and down hills, keeping contact with the mouth so that the horse doesn’t become inverted. Be sure to incorporate hill work progressively as it can be tiring to horses that aren’t conditioned yet.
- Cavaletti. If you don’t have hills, break out the poles! Cavaletti done in that “long and low” frame is fantastic for the topline and for rhythm and engagement as well. Be sure to bend both directions equally between the poles.
For more topline tips, check out this video: