Horse muscle building – feed selection and targeted training

600 form different muscles over 51 % of your horse’s total weight – nothing works without muscles. But how can you support your horse, build muscle in a targeted manner and how do nutrition, exercise and training combine to build muscle?

Muscles – that’s what they’re responsible for

Without muscle power there would be no step forward, no jump over obstacles, no dressage lesson and no ride over Meadows and fields.

A well-developed musculature is important for your joint training, but above all for the health of your four-legged friend. Without the right muscle building, no problem-free movements. In the worst case, your horse will walk stiffly or injure itself if there is not enough muscle. Therefore, the right muscle build-up is an absolute must for every horse.

Musculature of the horse Your horse is tight 520 different muscles. They are divided into different muscle groups: cardiac muscle, smooth muscle and skeletal muscle. The heart musculature is responsible for the horse’s entire circulatory system and pumps up to 180 liters of blood per minute through the horse’s body. Smooth muscle is also called visceral muscle and is found on the internal organs or blood vessels. The skeletal muscles are responsible for motor functions. So when we talk about muscle building in horses, we are looking at the skeletal muscles.

Muscle building – what do you have to pay attention to?

For a horse’s muscles, it needs exercise, properly balanced feed and a good training plan.

Three building blocks are crucial when it comes to healthy muscle building in horses: targeted exercise training and an appropriate diet. However, the most important factor here is time. We know that ourselves, just because we do sit-ups and drink protein shakes for two weeks doesn’t mean we have a six-pack. Muscle building takes time and should not be done too quickly, because that can also be harmful. In addition to muscles, tendons and ligaments must also be involved in development. If you plan little time and quick successes, you harm your horse. If you adjust the individual building blocks to the individual needs of your horse, nothing stands in the way of long-term and healthy muscle building. Does your horse have certain previous illnesses or injuries, or are you unsure about the composition of the feed or training plan? Please get your veterinarian and trainer on board!

Nutrition for Muscle Building

In order for your horse’s muscles to grow, you need the right feed and optional additives. A combination of roughage, concentrated feed and additional feed helps your horse develop its muscles. We have summarized the essential components of horse nutrition for muscle building for you.

Roughage, concentrated feed, additional feed The basis for a balanced diet is roughage. This should ideally be available all day or be fed throughout the day. With high-quality roughage, your horse absorbs valuable raw fibers that ensure good digestion. The right quality is really an absolute must here! Without power there are no muscles. Especially in training, the energy balance can be covered very well by so-called concentrated feed. In addition to roughage and concentrated feed, your horse naturally also needs vitamins, trace elements and minerals. While salts and minerals are useful for all horses, a horse needs additional vital substances to build muscle. This is contained in special supplementary feed. With our Biotin Liquid you can support your darling with all the necessary vitamins and minerals in muscle building.

Carbohydrates In order for your horse’s muscles to be able to work at all, they need carbohydrates. A large part is already covered by the roughage. Depending on the intensity of the training, a carbohydrate supplement is necessary and useful.

Protein and amino acids A sufficient protein content in the feed is an important building block for building muscles. Proteins should therefore also be sufficiently taken into account in your horse’s nutrition plan – on a daily basis, since proteins cannot be stored, but must always be available. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are necessary to build muscle. Essential amino acids in particular belong in a good supplementary feed, as they

cannot be produced by horses themselves. Examples of essential amino acids include leucine, lysine, methionine, valine, isoleucine and histidine.

Endurance Oil The type of energy sources fed also depends on the form in which horses need to retrieve their energy. In endurance sports, energy must be available over a longer period of time, and oil is a suitable additive here. Since horses do not have a gallbladder, the oil must be easily digestible and fed in small amounts throughout the day. This way your four-legged friend can digest the oil well and use the energy in the best possible way. Only use high-quality oils such as linseed oil, sunflower oil or corn oil. In the long term you should not exceed 500 ml per day feed, otherwise damage to the liver and intestines may occur.

Sugar and starch for racehorses Especially for the athletes among the horses, sugar and starch are also suitable sources of energy. If energy has to be called up very quickly, as with racehorses, energy in the form of sugar and starch is very well suited. This form of carbohydrates is directly available and gives your four-legged friend a full carrot boost.

Normal exercise is important for the muscles

In addition to targeted training exercises, your horse should get enough normal exercise. Ordinary movements are also necessary if muscles are to grow in a healthy way. Always full power in training leads to overload and tension. Depending on the type of housing, everyday movement is also necessary for planning your feeding. If your horse has already picked up fresh grass in the pasture or has been moving a lot in the open stable, you should take this into account in the feeding plan.

Training – variety and many breaks Targeted training is required for muscles to grow. In addition to sufficient exercise, transitions, pole work, sideways walks and stretching exercises are well suited to building muscles and, above all, strengthening the back muscles.

Muscle building in horses – how long does it take? How long do you need to build it up the muscles need depends on your horse, the current level of training and your goals. If your horse has just come back from an injury break, it will take you a few months to get back to the level of training before the break. If your horse is already well trained and you want to work on specific muscle groups, you will see results faster. How quickly the horse builds muscle also depends on the general state of health and age of the horse. It is better to rely on long-term and healthy muscle building than on quick success! This is more sustainable and healthier for your friend on four hooves.

Training, training, training – push it to the muscle limit

Targeted training is required for muscles to grow. In addition to sufficient exercise, transitions and pole work are well suited to building muscles and, above all, strengthening the back muscles. Always plan a unit with stretching exercises. Just like with us humans, healthy muscle building only works with sufficient stretching before and after training.

Special case: injury break

Should your horse start building muscle again due to an injury, please get your vet on board. Depending on the type of injury and the duration of the break, a specific training plan should be followed. This also includes a special feeding schedule. If your horse has been prescribed absolute box rest and the musculature has been severely reduced, you cannot work directly with transitions or cavaletti. In the worst case, you overtax your horse and damage the muscles that are already broken down. It’s best to talk to your vet here before you simply start training or any feeding.

Muscle growth during training For muscles to grow, it takes it a training stimulus. This signals to the muscle that it needs to grow. A training stimulus is reached when the performance limit of a muscle is reached or slightly exceeded. Small stimuli in different exercises stimulate muscle growth. But: Breaks between the individual training sessions are mandatory. Always plan a unit with stretching exercises. Just like with us humans, healthy muscle building only works with sufficient stretching before and after training and time for regeneration. Here are our tips on what to look out for during training:

Bring variety into your training In order for the muscles to have time to grow, the individual muscle groups need breaks between targeted training sessions. During these breaks, however, you can train other muscle groups or work on your horse’s condition. Schedule horseback rides, walks, or lunge work between workouts. Do not train a single muscle group for too long and too often in a row. The horse’s body needs breaks from time to time so that the muscles can grow. It’s better to train in smaller units more often than twice a week for three hours. Treat your four-legged friend to regular breaks in the paddock.

Pay attention to your horse’s signals Also with a great training plan with variety and easy walks, you should always listen to your horse. Just like humans, horses can get sore muscles. Is it stiff, doesn’t want to be touched in certain places, or behaves strangely when preparing for a training session? All of these can be signs of severe muscle soreness. For some horses, a suddenly introduced training plan also leads to stress – training is not only a question of physical but also mental fitness. If you have the feeling that your horse could somehow reach its limits, plan a rest day or a relaxed walk.

Don’t underestimate the walk When you build muscle, you probably immediately think of trot-canter transitions and difficult lessons with bars and cavalettis. First and foremost, however, muscle building begins with the walk gait. Without transitions, without bends, straight ahead, forwards and downwards. In this way you strengthen the condition of your horse and ensure that all muscle groups are used and warmed up in the step. A warm-up phase in the walk forms the basis for every(!) training session anyway.

Transitions When building muscle, transitions are real magic bullets. Make sure that your horse walks smoothly forwards and downwards and that the transitions come from the hindquarters. Your horse shouldn’t just continue traipsing along at a faster pace. With transitions from the hindquarters, you train your horse’s back and abdominal muscles. At the beginning, only use simple transitions, such as walk-trot or trot-canter transitions, in order to build up the muscles in a healthy and long-term way.

Backward, bending and standing To build muscle, you can also build your darling backwards and bends . Always pay attention to the correct position of your horse. If your horse jerks its head up when backing up or flinches over the shoulder when bending, you must first k correct.

Sideways steps If your horse crosses its legs when walking sideways, many muscle groups are active. In this way you also train the shoulder muscles and the croup muscles. You can incorporate sideways movements into your training. Make sure that your horse walks evenly sideways and does not run away with the forehand or hindquarters. If you haven’t practiced that many sideways movements yet, it’s best to start from the ground so you can control your forehand and hindhand even better. Start with correctly executed small, clean movements. Fast and messy sideways walking is useless and only leads to stress.

Use mountains or increases Do you have mountains in the terrain? Then you have a great opportunity here to do something for the muscles of your four-legged friend on a ride. Uphill or downhill, your horse has to use its muscles to make progress. This is how you train your back and hindquarters in particular.

Ground work In addition to intensive training under the saddle, you can also achieve a lot with ground work. With the ground work you also strengthen the bond with your horse and you refine the mutual communication. You are also welcome to test new exercises on the ground first, so you can give your horse even more security and try out exercises without the rider’s weight.

Pole work

Feet up – there lies What. When working with bars, your horse has to lift its hooves a little higher than normal to get over the bar. This is a great exercise for the back muscles and also trains your horse’s attention. Do not build in too many bars at the beginning and pay attention to the correct distances in the different gaits.

Work on the lunge

Lunging your horse is also very good for building muscle. The bend activates muscle groups and your horse can work without the rider’s weight. This is how it learns to balance itself. You can also use side reins or auxiliary reins to ensure that your horse is held correctly. If you haven’t had any experience with this yet: Let us help you! If the reins are set too tight, your horse will run with an incorrect neck position and you will damage the muscles. Also incorporate hand changes so that your horse is moved on both hands. You can also install bars when lunging.

Stretch, stretch, stretch So that the In order for muscles to be able to regenerate after training, they must be stretched and stretched. So be sure to plan stretching exercises. These should ideally be done before and after the training phases. You can also regularly incorporate individual exercises into your horse’s everyday life or during training. Here are two tips for easy stretching exercises:

Make your neck long: Let Slowly chew the reins out of your hand and move your hands forward. In this way, your horse can lengthen its neck during training and stretch and snort. This is also a great reward between exercises. 1639729139 Stretch horseback and neck: Grab a carrot and stand next to your horse. Slowly put your hand between your darling’s front legs and wait until the horse’s nose follows the carrot. Depending on how agile your horse is, you can go up to the pastern or even a little towards the belly. You can also hold the carrot at shoulder level so that your horse has to stretch its neck to the side. Your darling should already be a little warmed up with this exercise. Start with smaller stretches and don’t force yourself if your horse can’t complete a stretch. Of course, the carrot is then given as a reward anyway. 1639729139 1639729139 Muscle building – variety, stretching, breaks and the right food There are numerous training options for your horse’s muscles to grow. Give yourself enough time and rely above all on fitness, variety and stretching exercises. Don’t be overly ambitious with your training plan and pay attention to your horse. If you start a very intensive training session after a break, you should allow sufficient time for regeneration in between.

When choosing the food, only use high-quality food and make sure that there is an adequate supply of nutrients and vitamins. Especially when building muscle and during intensive training phases, your horse needs additional feed so that the muscles can grow.

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