SafeChoice Horse Feeds: The Importance of Topline

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Changing Topline Through Horse Feeds

The Nutrena® brand changed the feed industry over 15 years ago with the debut of the original SafeChoice® Horse Feed, the first major controlled starch horse feed to hit the market.  More recently, we changed the game again through our Topline Balance® initiative, which focuses on amino acid content and balance to build muscle.  Ensuring amino acid balance in feed is critical for delivering great appearance, strong recovery from performance, and sound growth and development. With the technology incorporated in our Nutrena® products, you can build topline muscling on your horse through the feed you put in the bucket.

The Importance of Topline

The topline of the horse, or the muscles that run along the horses spine, can be a key indicator of overall health in the horse.  A survey of American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) found that seven out of 10 vets believe adequate muscling surrounding and supporting the horse’s spine – or the topline – is key to the horses’ well-being1.  Sixty-two percent of those same vets believe a healthy topline is key to fewer injuries1.  

The topline of the horses is crucial to performance as well.  For a horse to lift, collect, turn, jump or stop, the topline and abdominal muscles must all function properly and be in peak condition.  Exercise will condition and train the muscles present, but by itself does not build new muscle.  In order to actually build and maintain a topline, and the rest of the muscles in the body, the diet must provide amino acids in both the correct total amounts and the correct ratios to each other.

Amino Acids are Critical for Muscle and Topline

Many body structures are made of protein, and protein is made up of amino acids.  Hoof and hair are 95% protein, tendons are 92%, and muscle is 72%.  There are 10 essential amino acids that are required to be provided daily in the equine diet: Lysine, Methionine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Histidine and Arginine.  These amino acids are needed in specific amounts and ratios to each other, in order to properly maintain the structure of the body.  Thus, simply comparing the amount of Crude Protein on feed tags won’t tell the horse owner which feed will help their horse.

When we look specifically at building and maintaining the topline and muscle structure of the horse, amino acids are critical. If particular amino acids are deficient in the diet, topline and muscling will suffer.  

Topline Evaluation: How Does Your Horse Score?

The topline of a horse is comprised of three key areas: the withers and back, the loin, and the croup. Evaluating those three areas together provides a Topline Evaluation Score to horse owners, which can be tracked over time to measure effectiveness of feeding and exercise programs. 

Our ToplineBalance.com assessment tool allows horse owners to evaluate their horses topline, with scores ranging from A (ideal) to D (severely lacking), and then find feeding solutions to help improve that score.  More than 50,000 horses have been self-scored and evaluated via the assessment tool, with 23% of the horses scoring an “A” or ideal topline. 20% of horses score a “B”, 22% a “C”, and a whopping 34% have a “D” topline needing help in all 3 areas.  With 77% of horses not having an ideal topline, there is opportunity for many horse owners to help feed their horses into a better topline score.  

The SafeChoice® Difference

The SafeChoice® family of feeds all provide and guarantee three critical amino acids - Lysine, Methionine and Threonine - in levels and ratio’s designed to impact the topline and entire muscle structure of the horse.  In university testing SafeChoice® Perform was shown to increase loin muscle depth (topline muscles) by 9.3% on thin horses and 8% in horses with a 5-5.5 body condition score vs a control feed2.  In a second university trial, SafeChoice® Senior showed similar results with horses gaining significantly more (P=.09) loin muscle area when compared to a control diet with the same crude protein level (Figure 3)3.  

Percent Change in Loin Muscle Area

Every feed in the SafeChoice® family is designed with our propriety Topline Balance® amino acid profile.  You can not only trust SafeChoice® feeds to deliver tried and true controlled starch formulas, but also our industry leading Topline Balance® package to deliver winning topline and muscle.  

1AAEP equine veterinary study commissioned by Nutrena®. April 2016

2Cargill Animal Nutrition Internal Research Trial.  University of Minnesota, 2012.  

3Much, M. L., et al. "Influence of diet fortification on body composition and apparent digestion of mature horses consuming a low-quality forage." Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 76 (2019): 93.

 

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