Healthy muscles are essential for overall horse health and performance. Horses need appropriate muscle mass to maintain athleticism, support the rider and to protect joints and other soft tissues (liagments/tendons etc). Read on to find out how best to support your horse’s muscles in a safe and healthy way.
When do you know it is time to focus on building and supporting your horse’s muscles? Follow this plan in order to get support and encourage healthy muscles in your horse.
Body Condition Scoring
The first thing to do when evaluating your horse’s condition, and subsequent need for muscle building, is to assess your horse’s body condition. There are various scales to help you do this, with the Henneke Body Condition Scale being the most popular. Using a body condition scoring system is a well-known and trusted way of assessing overall horse health. Be mindful of variables such as age and breed doing a body condition scoring assessment – this will help ascertain whether focusing on building muscle is a requirement for your horse.
Next is 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, and the remainder they can make on their own. However, feeding to build muscle should never mean overloading excessive protein to flood your horse’s system in an attempt to maximize muscle building.
Consult an equine nutritional advisor who will 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 make up a plan that 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.
Protein supplementation should only be considered if there is a performance demand on your horse. Supplementation requires balance, especially when it comes to protein. 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.