How to identify some of its early signs of development in the trapezius muscle.
Identify a properly developed trapezius
How fat can cover the trapezius
Recognizing the underdeveloped muscle
How to exercise your horse to develop the trapezius
An underdeveloped trapezius has a dip in front of the withers and two dips or holes on either side of the wither just in front of where the saddle would sit. Often times in the professional industry, people will use fat to “build” top-line. They will claim that the horse has top-line because the fat is covering the areas where the horse should show muscle. This is absolutely incorrect. When the horse has an excess of fat he has no strength to carry himself. It’s important to have the skill of identifying muscle that is truly developed.
I grew up showing halter horses and using fat to round up their bodies and make them look pretty was a very common practice to see. This is because its desirable that the horse has a beautiful outline and a quick way to do that is to give them fatty feeds. It ’s important, especially for our riding or driving horses to have the top line muscles built up properly so that the horse’s chances of injury are reduced.
Identifying the development of the trapezius can be difficult. In lighter built horses it’s quite easy to identify the dip at the withers. With heavier built horses, oftentimes their necks don’t show a dip because of their large body build, so in that case, we need to check other parts of the body when evaluating development. For example, you will note a downward angle to the back from the croup or a dip in the back. You may also observe dips or holes on the top sides of the haunches. These signs are likely visible in the lighter weight horses as well. So it’s important to understand the variances in terms of breed and body types.
To build the trapezius the horse needs to work over his back. The technique demonstrated in the video allows the horse freedom of his head while encouraging him to work actively from behind while lifting his back.
It’s a common misconception that the horse gets pulled onto his forehand when he puts his head down. However, a horse can be on the forehand whether he has his head down or up. Where the shifting of the weight comes into play is when he begins to use his haunches properly and push his back up. So it doesn’t matter where the head is per se, though it is desirable that he puts his head down because that is the result that he is using his top line muscles properly and it allows him to open his spinous processes.
When the horse begins to develop real top line we typically see the first change in either the trapezius or a lifted back. This doesn’t mean that this is the only muscle developing in your horse, it just means the muscles are getting stronger and more visible.