Building Muscle in Horses

Many horse owners admire the rippling muscles of those often seen on breeds like the foundation-bred Quarter Horses. How can you get your horse to look like that? Well, in all honesty, genetics play an important role. Your horse may never look like Arnold Schwarzenpony, but there are ways to increase your horse’s lean muscle mass and to get the animal in better physical condition.

  • Make sure your horse is receiving a high-quality diet and plenty of clean drinking water. You can enhance the diet with supplements like calcium b-hydroxy b- methyl butyrate monohydrate (HMB), leucine, L-Glutamine, pine bark, and vitamins C and E. These help build lean muscle and offer protection against muscle cell breakdown after exercise. Ask your veterinarian about safe supplements on the market.
  • Before any strenuous exercise, always warm up with a walk. After completing an exercise routine, always cool down with a walk. Remember: walk, exercise, walk.
  • Take into consideration the terrain of the area you’ll be using. Softer ground is much easier on your animal’s joints and bone structure.
  • Use a 20-foot longeline to exercise your horse. Transition frequently from walk to trot to canter.
  • Add cavaletti  to your longe routine.
  • Longe or ride your horse in a plowed field. Think about how much muscle you have to use when walking through deep sand at the beach. Your horse will experience the same thing when walking, trotting, or cantering in a plowed field. The soft ground is also easy on joints and bones.
  • Water therapy is also an excellent conditioning tool. If you have access to an equine swim tank, take advantage of it. Most horse owners don’t have this luxury; however, you can get similar results from using a lake or pond.
  • Ride or lead your horse up and down inclines to add muscle mass. If you’re leading it, do not stand directly in front of the horse.
  • Do not overdo it! Begin with just a few minutes a day. GRADUALLY increase the time of your sessions.
  • Always allow your horse to cool down completely before offering it food or water.
  • Watch your horse closely for muscle soreness or injuries.
  • Be consistent. Ten minutes of an exercise routine a day is far better than one hour a week.

If you’re considering using anabolic steroids for your horse, do some research first! While some profession trainers, especially racehorse trainers, use steroids like stanozolol, there is no clear evidence that the drug increases muscle mass or performance in equines. As for the dangers of steroid use in horses, the jury is still out. Many vets do agree, however, that their use could certainly mask injuries, leading to bigger problems later. Most vets also agree that the use of anabolic steroids could create a “brittle” horse.steroids have also been linked to unusual aggression in horses, along with a decrease in fertility Be safe and smart – build muscle the old-fashioned way!


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Jean Marie Webster

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