How to recognise and prevent tying-up

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    Even fit, well-managed horses can be prone to tying-up, but muscle problems can be successfully managed to enable them to have a competitive career:

    • Feed plenty of forage as this provides essential fibre. Any supplementary feed needs to be high in fibre and low in energy and fed in small amounts only. A gradual introduction of oil is often recommended as a substitute for large quantities of concentrate as this is an excellent energy source

    • Keep to a regular routine of daily exercise and avoid box-rest, if possible

    • Long, slow warm-ups and gradual cool-downs after exercise are beneficial for the horse’s muscles

    • Reduce work if there is evidence of any respiratory viral infections in the vicinity

    • Maintain a relaxed environment: some horses, particularly mares, are more prone to muscle disease when they are uptight, so minimise stress in any way you can

    • Medication can help prevent the disease in susceptible animals, but it cannot be given
    if competing as most medicines are likely to contain banned substances. Ask your vet for advice

    If your horse is prone to tying-up, keep an eye out for the following signs:

    • The horse may be stiff and reluctant to move. Sometimes he may seize up totally and in rare cases may collapse and become recumbent

    • Discoloured (red-brown) urine may be passed as a result of a muscle disorder

    • Sweating, pawing the ground, raised pulse and respiratory rates may be seen. There may also be local pain or muscle palpation, particularly around the powerful rump, thigh and back muscles. Can be confused with colic

    • Mild cases of tying-up may be misdiagnosed as a low-grade lameness. This may only be apparent as a reduced stride length, reluctance to canter or an abnormal hindlimb action

    For the full article on tying-up, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (29 April, ’10)

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