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Tying Up Research
WRITTEN BY: RIRDC Equine Research News   [January 1999]

Change in Diet May be the Solution for Horses that Suffer from "Tying Up"!

Rhabdomyolysis, commonly known as "tying up", is a muscular problem that affects all types of horses. In its mild form it may result in cramps but in severe cases it may lead to horses being unable to rise and even death. While the cause of the problem remains unknown, it appears that some of the affected horses have an inability to handle a diet with a high energy content. It has been observed that horses often 'tie up' after they have had a few days of rest while fed on grain and then recommence exercise.

A group of researchers at Cornell University investigated if changes in the diet from one of high energy content to one of low energy content reduced the chance of tying up reappearing (BA Valentine, HF Hintz, KM Freels, AJ Reynolds and KN Thompson Dietary Control of Exertional Rhabdomyolysis in Horses Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 1998 Vol. 212, No. 10, pg. 1588). 19 horses with histories of tying up were selected for this study. The research showed that with the change in diet, there was a significant reduction in two enzymes (CK and CPK) in the blood of these horses. These enzymes are abnormally increased in the blood when there is muscle damage. The changes took place within 3-6 months after the change in diet and coincided with the disappearance of signs of tying up following exercise.

With these results, it may be worth checking the energy content of the diet of horses that experience episodes of tying up, and gradually change this for one with a lower energy content (less grain and more oil).

Reprinted from the RIRDC Equine Research News with the permission of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

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