Building muscle in horses

13. January 2021 / Guide / 3 Minutes
Building muscle in horses
The condition of the horse and the state of its musculature depend on various factors such as age, health condition and posture, as well as training stage and nutrient intake. Muscular development is considered to be complex and time-consuming and requires continuous training of the respective muscle parts.


What are the causes of poor muscle building and muscle loss?

  • Injury-related breaks during which the horse cannot be sufficiently exercised
  • Aging
  • Irregular or incorrect training
  • Insufficient exercise and poor posture
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Low nutrient intake due to poor feeding
Horse with muscles

How do I support the muscle building of the horse?

Muscle building through a movement-friendly husbandry

Sufficient exercise is an important basis for the development and maintenance of healthy muscles. Horses that are kept in open stalls or with daily outdoor access (paddock/ pasture access) automatically move significantly more than horses that spend most of the day in the box or suffer from lack of exercise. Exercise promoted by outdoor access ensures good blood circulation in the horse's muscles and improved mobility of the horse's joints.

Horse galloping

Muscle building through groundwork

Before a horse can specifically build up muscles in training with the rider's weight, the horse and its musculature should be trained from the ground for some time first. Ground work is important not only for muscle development but also for the horse's flexibility and balance.

Muscle building through work on the lunge line

Working on the lunge line is particularly beneficial for the horse's muscle development. A well-fitting Cavesson is particularly suitable for this. To help the horse achieve the desired forward and downward posture, you can use a side rein. Lunging also means the horse won't have to carry the rider's weight and won't be thrown off balance by a badly balanced rider.

In order to optimally promote the horse's muscle development, the rider should make sure the horse is as well balanced as possible.

Cavaletti work

Lunging over Cavalettis has a particularly positive effect on the back muscles. The interplay of normal steps and steps in which the horse has to lift its legs more, provides a particularly intensive strain on the back muscles. Different arrangements and combinations of poles can be used to diversify the training.

Regular stretching

Regular stretching and stretching of the muscles is also very important to regenerate the muscles after training phases, to relieve pain and to maintain and improve the horse's mobility and suppleness.

Horse stretching

Muscle building through Equikinetic

The lunging programme Equikinetic is another particularly effective way to build up the horse's muscles. In this programme, the rider lunges the horse through a square volte for a certain period of time. After each training phase and the following break, a hand change is performed. This intensive interval training is a popular method of training for building up muscles, supporting recovery processes or simply keeping the horse fit and healthy.

The advantages of Equikinetic are:

  • Strengthening of the deep muscles
  • Training of the surface muscles (relevant for the horse's movement)
  • Improvement of rideability
  • Supporting the alignment of the horse
  • Enhancement of concentration and attention
  • Correcting muscular imbalances

Riding to build up the horse's muscles

If a good basic musculature is already present, a horse can also build up neck and back muscles in particular under a rider.

The following exercises are suitable for this:

  • Increased training with inclines (mountains, hills), which serves to strengthen the back and hindquarters
  • Riding transitions
  • Increased lateral strides and bends
  • Poles and Cavaletti work

Supporting muscle building with suitable nutrients and adapted feeding

As with humans, in order for a horse to build up muscles, it is necessary to provide essential nutrients. Primarily, proteins are needed for the metabolism required for building up muscles. In order to avoid over-acidification or even damage to the muscles, antioxidants are also very important. Horses in the muscle building phase should therefore be supported with special feed for the muscles as well as supplementary feed. Besides high-quality hay as the main feed, muesli or pellets are suitable for this purpose. Supplements can be given by means of oils (rice germ oil for muscle building) or suitable powders containing the most important nutrients.

How long does it take to build muscle in a horse?

The amount of time it takes to build muscle in a horse will depend on various factors, such as the age, health and training condition of the horse, and cannot be determined as a general rule. It is important to remember that every horse needs a different amount of time to build up its muscles and that training sessions should always be followed by rest periods so that the muscles used can recover and regenerate sufficiently.

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