Tying up

Did you know that you are always at risk that your horse gets a Tying up? Use the IPOS App and try to prevent it! IPOS helps you to take enough time for a warming up and cooling down which prevents that your horse gets tied up. Furthermore, the app shows you how intense the training was for your horse, so you can adapt the concentration feed to your daily training. Your horse only gets what he really needs, So with less work, less concentrates. This prevents Tying up.

Horse with a light Tying up

The IPOS App monitors your daily training and calculate how intensive it was for your horse and give the advise that the following day should not train so hard if the present-training was with a high intensity. But this does not mean that your horse has to stand in the stable. It means that you should move your horse but with a lower intensity to prevent e.g. a Tying up. In this blog we write about what is a Tying up, where it comes from, what the symptoms are, how long your horse will need for a recovery, how you can prevent it and a short list how to behave in a case of a horse has a Tying up.


Tying up is nowadays to seen in different horse breeds. Most frequent it is seen in race horses (6% higher risk) and polo horses (13% higher risk) than other horses. Worldwide there are between 5 and 7% of Thoroughbreds affected every year. 2- and 3-year-old horses in training are most often being affected. Moreover, mares and nervous horses are more severely affected than stallions and horses which are more relaxed. In general, horses with Tying up lose 6 days of training per disease episode.

What is Tying up?

Known under various names, equine rhabdomyolysis syndrome (ERS), exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), exertional myopathy, Monday morning disease, tying-up or set fast, are all names of common muscle metabolism problems. In the past the horses had to work hard on the field during the week and get rest at the weekend. But at the weekend they still get the same ration of grain. The horse gets a metabolism problem because there is now a different proportion between movement and food. The energy that a horse receives is used by muscles. A horse that moves a lot will need more energy than a horse that doesn´t move much (e.g. stands a lot in the stable). The energy that a horse consumes must be in proportion to the energy that the horse receives. When a horse consumes energy but receives a surplus, it will not be used and burned how it normally should. Sufficient oxygen cannot be supplied to properly burn all (surplus) energy. This interrupts the homeostasis of the cytoplasmic calcium (calcium inside the cells). The calcium will be needed to get muscle contraction. If the calcium cannot be filtered back, the muscle cannot relax. The consequence is mechanic stress and damage at the muscle fibers. Moreover, other substances get released. And all this leads to ´Tying up´.

Where does it come from?

There are several causes for a Tying up but the results are the same; The horse muscles cramping. The possible causes get listed below:

1. An undershoot electrolyte through massive sweating

- can occur because the horse is in too much strain (could be congenital)

- the training was quite hard conditional by a bad condition of illness of the horse

2. cold due to wind and/ or rain (horse cool down too fast after training and muscle can cramp)

3. metabolic disease

4. undershot in vitamin E or selenium

5. mostly common cause is that the horse has get too much concentrated feed/grain

- get too much carbohydrate in relation to movement the horse gets

6. congenital factors

- PSSM1 (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy) mostly detected by Quarters, Paints, Appaloosa’s, Tinkers, Haflingers and draft horses

o Horses with PSSM1 have problems with the stores of sugar

o Sugar is absorbed from the blood much faster and transported into the muscle

o also, they build up a lot of glycogen in the muscles which disrupts energy management during exercise and makes them gain faster tied up than other horses

- PSSM2 (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy) is a dominant, progressive muscle breakdown disease caused by an error in build-up of the amino acid chain in the muscle cells.

o Have a chronic protein uptake/ production problem resulting in muscle breakdown

o Horses with PSSM2 are extremely sensitive to negative nitrogen balance which could cause by inflammation, severe stress, vaccinations, injuries, virus and sometimes even by chemical deworming.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a Tying up will be split of in light, moderate and heavy. Moreover, is there a difference in acute and chronic.

The symptoms of a light Tying up are: back flexion, slower movement and a stiff hindleg. Horses with a moderate Tying up find it harder to walk, the movements get more stiff and shorter and the muscle cramping is seen. The muscle cramp feels very much to the horse like muscle cramps to humans do. Horses which are in the final stage are not able to move, sweating heavily, temperature may elevate up to 40 – 40,5 degrees, heart and respiratory rate increase dramatically, and it is also possible that the urine has a dark red colour. This occurs if the cramping is severe enough then the myoglobin released from the damaged muscle goes from blood to kidney and then into the urine. This can cause severe problems with the kidney. The muscle groups along the back and rump of the horse have a massive contraction. The muscles contract and do not relax. The horse being in pain and if you press our hands along the muscles on either side of the spine, the muscles feel hard as a rock. In some cases Tying up can leads to death if kidney failure occur.

Difference between muscle soreness and cramping

Not each horse that has after exercise muscle pain or cramping has to have a ´tied-up´. In general, there is a difference in muscle soreness and cramping. Also is there difference in acute Tying up and a chronic Tying up.

1. Muscular soreness is an expect result of exercising and healthy and typically peaks 24-72 hours after activity. It is the result of small safe damage to muscle fibers and the muscle feel tight and achy. Movement may feel uncomfortable but moving and gently stretching from the muscles help to decrease soreness.

2. Muscular cramping is painful and a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or muscles. Cramps happens after long periods of exercises or physical labor and dehydration. A good stretching before and after exercise avoid cramps.

- Acute Tying up: this classification applies to horses which, on rare occasion, experience an episode of generalized tying-up. This will generally involve muscle stiffness and cramps

- Chronic Tying up: when a horse experiences repeated episodes of Tying ups with the first episode usually occurring at a young age. This can be quite a problem and may eventually over repeated bouts of Tying up cause irreversible muscle damage.

How long will it take for a recovery?

If the horse suffered a light of moderate episode of Tying up it is important to keep him warm and feed him only roughage. Prevent stress and draught and do not feed any concentrates until all metabolic waste products are released from the body. The horse should be kept in a box for 1 week and if the horse starts walking in the stable, you can walk him several times a day for at least 10-15min. To be safe it is better to do some blood samples to know how the recovering is really going and how much muscle enzymes are still in the blood. If this looks good the horse may trot a bit again. The recovery training is about building up slowly because a relapse is possible of course the concentrated feed has to be adapted to the work.

How can I prevent it?

The most important thing is that a horse get movement after days of heavy work and does not stand still in the stable. The best thing is to put the horse outside into the field, walker or at the paddock where it can move free. The muscles need rest to a recover, but this does not mean that your horse has to stand in the stable. A bit movement helps to recover. And the concentrated feed should be regulated for that day so that a surplus at nutrients will be prevented. In this way the metabolic waste product can be removed much better from the muscles and the chance of another Tying up attack is thus greatly reduced. Furthermore, there should always be enough time for a really good warming up and cooling down in each training session.

Walk on hand

Put your horse into the field

Paddock is also a good solution if the field is not an option.

Basic check list for Tying up?

· Stop exercising the horse and move it to a box stall. Do not force the horse to walk.

· Call your veterinarian.

· Rug the horse if weather is cool.

· Determine if the horse is dehydrated due to excessive sweating. When skin is pinched, it normally will spring back, and the horse’s saliva should be wet, not tacky.

· Provide fluids – small frequent sips of water. Electrolytes (potassium, sodium, and chloride) may be added to drinking water, if palatable to the horse. Plain water should always be available as an alternative. If the horse is dehydrated, your veterinarian might give intravenous fluids. Once cool, the horse can have free access to water.

· Relieve anxiety and pain. Drugs may be prescribed by your veterinarian.

· Remove grain and feed; provide only hay until signs subside.

· Hand walking or small paddock turnout is good once the horse walks freely, usually in 12-24 hour

· When blood creatine kinase (blood enzyme) is normal, slowly recondition the horse to the previous work level.

· If the problem reoccurs, have the horse evaluated for a specific cause of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis.

· Consider changing the diet, feed less grain and more fat, and make sure the mineral intake is balanced. Elevated levels of Vitamin E, C Selenium and Magnesium may also be useful (consult nutritionists).


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