Tying up or Monday morning disease has been affecting horses as early as 1840, it is one of the most talked about symptoms of PSSM but what exactly is Tying up?

What Is Tying Up?

Tying up also known as Monday Morning Disease, Azoturia, or Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is when a horse experiences uncontrollable, and painful muscle contractions/spasms, during a Tying up episode a horse experiences muscle damage. Tying up is the equivalent to when humans experience severe muscle cramps and we all know how painful that is!

How Long Have Horses Been Tying Up?

Tying up has been affecting horses as early as 1840. When horses were working animals, pulling ploughs, and carts they would be worked all week then given the Sunday off; the horses would be left in stables all day on Sunday and fed lots of grains and sweetfeed- but come Monday morning when it was time to work again the horses couldn’t move as they had completely frozen up hence the terminology “Monday Morning disease.”
People knew that tying up existed but they didn’t know what caused it or how to treat it, they were dealing with an invisible enemy.

Tying Up
Horse & Victorian Omnibus In The 1800’s

What Causes A Horse To Tye Up?

Tying up is caused by abnormal alterations in the makeup of muscles. PSSM causes abnormal alterations because its a genetic mutation, a flaw in what makes up the horse, just like an uninvited guest that ruins a party that gene mutation isn’t meant to be there and the muscle cannot function normally like it should.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Horse Who Is Tying Up?

When a horse is starting to Tye up they will:

Stiffen Up
The horse will walk Robotic behind with a shorter locked stride almost like they are shuffling.
Look Tucked Up
The horse will resemble a tucked up appearance their muscles will look sucked up to their body
Get Muscle Twitches
The horse may get muscle twitches, quivers, or shakes
Reluctance To Move
The horse may become reluctant to even walk
Camping Out
The horse may stand camped out, even if the horse is a mare they will stand like a gelding going to pee
Freeze Up
The horses muscles will begin to get tighter and tighter like a pulled elastic band, especially if they are moving. If a Tye up is severe enough the horses muscles could lock completely leaving them unable to move and immobile.
Colic/Laminitis Symptoms
Tying up is extremely painful for the horse they will often have an elevated heart rate, paw the ground, try to lay down, look to their stomach or even roll. Horses who Tye up are more often than not misdiagnosed with Colic or even laminitis as the symptoms are very similar.

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A Quarter Horse Mare affected with PSSM2 (N/P2) Camping Out While Experiencing A Tying Up Episode

My Horse Displayed All The Symptoms Of A Tye Up But Didn’t Freeze Up?

People often assume every horse who is tying up completely freezes and cannot move at all. But it depends on the severity of the Tye up and the horse, some horses can suffer a bad Tye up and not freeze up at all, yet they will get all the other symptoms like muscle twitches and tightness but they can still move.

What can trigger tying up in a PSSM horse?

-Undiagnosis where the horse isn’t diagnosed with PSSM or managed yet
-Feeding to much sugar or starch in the horses diet like with the working horses in the 1840’s, PSSM1 horses especially need to be fed a diet of the lowest sugar and starch as possible.
-Feeding to much protein in PSSM2 horses which can turn into sugar
-Exercise this can be when ridden or running around the field and it doesn’t need to be strenuous.
-After a period of rest like being stabled for a long time, or travelling in a horsebox for a long distance
-Stress & excitability
-Wet, cold and windy weather conditions where the muscles start to get cold.
-A Vitamin E or Selenium deficiency

Tying Up
To much sugar & starch in a PSSM horses diet like that in lush spring grass can cause tying up

What Do I Do If My Horse Tyes Up?

-If a Tye up occurs when exercising your horse cease all activity immediately pushing a horse that is starting to Tye up will only make them worse and could cause more muscle damage or worst case scenario a heart attack because the heart is a muscle to.
-If your horse is able to move take your horse to it’s stable as soon as possible if your horse has locked up and cannot move DO NOT try to move them call your vet as soon as possible instead.
-If you are able to get your horse into a stable remove all hay or food until the tying up episode subsides as tying up can affect a horses throat muscles causing them to choke.
-Rug your horse this can warm a PSSM horses muscles up and help relieve some symptoms of tying up

How Long Does A Tying Up Episode Last?

Tying up can last anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour or more, if your horse is having mild symptoms as long as you stop exercising you should be able to get them back under control, but if your horse does go into a severe Tye up where they are unable to move and are really distressed, a vet must be called as severe tying up can cause a heart attack, a vet can then provide pain relief and muscle relaxants to help.

What Do I Do After The Tye Up Passes

-Provide plenty of water as tying up can cause horses to become dehydrated
-Give your horse back their hay or feed
-Ensure your horse is rugged enough so their not cold
-Watch for dark urine as this will indicate muscle damage
-Give bute for pain relief
-Box rest the rest of the day

What Do I Do The Following Day?

After a horse has suffered a Tying Up episode they will of suffered muscle damage, just like us after severe cramp they will be sore and it is common for them to be stiff the next day. In order to relieve stiffness it’s key for them to move around to loosen up, but they need to take it easy.
You wouldn’t want to go out for a marathon jog after severe cramp and you don’t want your horse doing this either so it is best to do the following:

-If your horse is sensible and not likely to run around they can be put out onto a small sand paddock, or concrete area where they can move around naturally, to aid movement hay piles can be dotted around their turnout area.
-If your horse is likely to run around then hand walking sessions of 5-10 minutes 2-3 times a day is sufficient.

Rehabbing A Horse Back To Work Who Has Tyed Up

After a horse has Tyed up it’s important to try and determine the cause of the Tye up as if it’s a trigger like high sugar levels for example any return to exercise could take you straight back to square one, so if you think the cause is diet related then get your vet to do a blood test to check their sugar levels within the blood. Once the Tye up cause has been determined you can liaise with your vet if they are involved to determine a rehab plan.
If a vet isn’t involved then start with hand walking sessions increasing the duration weekly before reintroducing ridden work slowly building it up day by day, rehabbing a horse who has Tyed up is similar to bringing a horse back into work who has done an injury it is important to take things extremely slowly one day at a time.

For more information on Tying Up check out our video by clicking this link