So, in horsey circles, you will probably hear the term “topline” be thrown around alot… We tend to nod our heads and make a mental note to google that later.

First of all, what exactly is topline? 

Topline is the term used to describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump. So, every horse does have a topline.

Why is it so important?

A correctly developed topline will allow a horse to do it’s job better. It will help the horse to work in an “arched” outline that will help them to carry the rider with more ease.

Why do we want a horse to work in the correct arched outline?

Because their backs are much stronger when they are ridden this way. Think about the stability of a arched bridge over that of a suspension bridge. Which would you prefer to walk over? The one that is stable, or the one that sways?



arched bridge

Personally, I take the nice solid looking one!

I am not suggesting that all horse need to go around in an full dressage Grand Prix outline, but rather, they should always be encouraged to use themselves well as possible.

Will a correct topline just happen or does it require specific exercises?

Hmm, think of this this way… If I want 6 pack abs, then I will need to do some specific exercises to make that happen, along with general fitness.

If we want our horses to develop correct topline, we need to ride and work our horses in such a way that it can correctly form. We also need to make sure their diet lends itself to building muscle… so, this means making sure they are getting enough protein for the level of work that is expected of them.

First steps?

Here, we are going to look at the training pyramid, (it’s not just for dressage!!)


For a horse to work correctly (and hence build topline), they must be going forward in an even rhythm and to be supple.  This is often though of as “long and low” .

Basic things to look for when you are starting a “program” with your horse…

  • All steps are even.
  • The horse is relaxed and listening to the rider
  • The horse’s under neck is relaxed and not being used to steady the horse or the rider
  • The rear legs are “engaged”, basically the rear feet will fall in or in-front of the hoof prints of the front feet.


Basics that will help with this…

  • You are riding in a good position, with self balance and allowing your horse to swing underneath you.
  • HILL WORK!! 






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