Sales Prep Part 2: Conditioning Muscle & Topline

Lorraine Fradl B.Agr.Sc,
Connolly’s RED MILLS – Senior Equine Nutritionist 

A well-developed topline and healthy muscle tone in young horses will not only have a positive impact in the sales ring, but also on a horse’s soundness and athletic ability. Research has shown that low intensity exercise during the first year of a thoroughbred yearling’s life induces muscle adaptations, which positively influences athletic performance in later life.

Topline is the muscle structure, which runs from the poll, down the neck, over the back and into the hindquarters. Equine muscle contains more than 70% protein so feeding this requirement during this intense period is essential for sound development.

Amino acids, which make up proteins, are the basic building blocks of muscle. Horses must consume all ten essential amino acids in their diets, and the remainder they can synthesise on their own. Protein is not only an important nutrient to develop the horse’s topline, it also plays a part in other key structures such as the skin, hair, hooves, connective tissue, nervous system and skeleton. A deficient intake of essential amino acids will negatively influence growth, post-exercise recovery, hoof growth and coat health.

Exercise and nutrition work hand-in-hand to achieve a well-defined topline and ensure your yearling is sales ring ready. Exercise will activate muscle conditioning, while a balanced diet will provide amino acid building blocks to build and repair a healthy muscular system.

Exercising yearlings will have an increased protein requirement, which is unlikely to be met through forage alone. Connolly’s RED MILLS Prep Mix and Premier Yearling Cubes are specifically formulated to provide a source of high quality protein and essential amino acids, to meet the requirements of developing horses.  Weak individuals that are struggling to develop topline will benefit from the addition of a pre-digested protein supplement such as Foran Equine Pro-Am Prep.

The increase in exercise during sales preparation can often results in muscle stiffness and soreness, due to oxidative damage caused by an exercise-induced increase in free radical production. Antioxidants help to assist in muscle recovery by mopping up excess free radicals. Foran Equine Muscle Max combines powerful antioxidants vitamin E and selenium with lysine and B-vitamins to help reduce the cellular damage and support the recovery of tired muscles.

Additional articles:

Sales Prep Part 1: Skeletal Development

Sales Prep Part 3: Coat Condition

Sales Prep Part 4: Behaviour and Temperament


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Lorraine is an Equine Science graduate of University College Dublin. Lorraine began working with Connolly’s Red Mills in 2016 after spending a number ...

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