Guide to Building Your Horse’s Muscles

Healthy muscles are essential for overall horse health and performance. Check out our useful guide to learn about when and how to build up your horse’s muscles.

NutriScience Equine Guide to Building Your Horse’s Muscles


Healthy muscles are essential for overall horse health and performance. Horses need appropriate muscle mass to maintain athleticism, support the rider as well as to protect joints and other soft tissues (such as tendons and ligaments). This guide is a useful tool for horse owners to help them on when and how to focus on building and supporting their horse’s muscles.


1. Body Condition Scoring

The first thing to do when evaluating your horse’s condition, and subsequent need for muscle building, is to assess body condition. The most popular scale for equine body condition scoring is the Henneke Body Condition Scale. Using a body condition scoring system is a well-known and trusted way of assessing overall horse health and the cornerstone for formulating an action plan. Be mindful of variables such as age and breed when doing a body condition scoring assessment – this will help ascertain whether focusing on building muscle is a requirement for your horse.


2. Dietary Requirements

Next on the list is the dietary requirement assessment. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of muscle. Horses need to consume at least nine essential amino acids in their diets. However, feeding to build muscle should never mean overloading excessive protein to flood your horse’s system to try to maximize muscle building.

It is vital to consult an equine nutritional advisor to evaluate your horse’s diet and nutritional needs. They will examine your horse’s current nutrient intake and see if that diet is appropriate or requires changing with a view to building muscle. They will assess both forage and concentrate sources of protein, as often the correct balance of the two is adequate to support muscle growth.

If your horse’s diet requires a change, your nutritional advisor will formulate a plan. It may include a change in feed to add more protein focused concentrates or adjusted forage sources to assist with amino acid intake. Bear in mind that your horse’s temperament is another factor that will require examination before recommendations are made as dietary changes can affect temperament.


3. Exercise Regime

As well as diet, exercise is crucial to building up your horse’s muscles. Always begin a exercise regime slowly and gradually increase the intensity. Gradual increments within a exercise regime assists in increasing stamina and muscle as well as helping to avoid pain and injury that can lead to training resistance. A good workout routine will include elements that encourage body-wide muscle development and may include:

  • Stretching
  • Lunging
  • Gymnastic exercises (such as trotting poles)
  • Hill work or terrain variation

In combination with a balanced, tailored diet, regular exercise and strength training will build your horse’s muscles as well as benefit their core muscles, which your horse needs to support their weight.


4. Nutritional Supplementation

as such supplementation requires balance. Again, consult your equine nutritional advisor if you feel your horse requires supplementation so holistic approach can be considered. This is very important for the competition horse as correct supplementation needs to be compliant with the rules of competition, such as Muscle Aid.

Remember if you are feeding to build muscle, it must be combined with an appropriate exercise regime. In this way, it will be effective in building muscle and developing your horse’s topline and overall health.

If you would like to speak to one of our equine nutritional advisors about how best to build up your horse’s muscles to assist in competition performance or health, please contact us here.