Tying Up Tips... That Work!

By Gail Sramek BApplSc Agr – Consulting Nutritionist to Mitavite


Tying Up is a muscle disorder that can contribute to poor performance in horses. It is also known as exertional rhabdomyolysis, azoturia, paralytic myoglobinurina and Monday morning disease. The disorder is complex and can affect horses in varying degrees with variable contributing factors that can ‘trigger’ an episode.


There are many reasons why a horse can tie up. Suggestions of genetic muscle disorders, excitement, too much stall rest, electrolyte imbalance, abnormal muscle calcium levels, hormonal disturbances, vitamin E and/or Selenium deficiency, incorrect balance of exercise and nutrition and feeding diets high in raw grains have been given as causes of tying up.


Tying Up presents itself as cramping and a stiffening of the horse’s gait, generally affecting the hind limbs. Profuse sweating, a high respiratory rate, anxious in appearance and a reluctance to move are all symptoms of tying up. If your horse is showing any of these signs we would suggest contacting your equine veterinarian for assistance. Blood tests can be taken by your equine veterinarian to look at enzymes levels such as Creatine Kinase (CK), Aspartate Amino Transferase (AST) and Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH) to determine the severity of the damage and the recovery of the horse.


Generally there are a few types of tying up:

(i) Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) – This condition involves an accumulation of glycogen in the muscle tissue of the horse. The structure of the glycogen is not normal and stops the horse from accessing the glycogen from the muscle during exercise. This type of tying up is genetic and can affect breeds such as Quarter Horses.


(ii) Recurrent Extertional Rabdomyolysis (RER) – These affected horses display abnormally high levels of calcium that is trapped inside the muscle cells. A role of calcium is to contract the muscles, when it is trapped in the muscle cells they are unable to relax, remaining partially contracted, contributing to pain and muscle damage.


(iii) An imbalance between the glycogen and mitochondria in the muscles in the fast twitch muscles. The fast twitch muscles are recruited as workload becomes more strenuous and need to be trained to store glycogen and generate mitochondria (the power house of the muscle cells). If the work rate gets too far ahead of Mitochondria production the muscles can lose suppleness which may lead to tying up Understanding your horse and his feeding and working regime can help you in detecting the cause of the tying up episode. Tying up has management and nutritional components and we would suggest trying the following:

Feed a base ration of Formula 3 – Substituting raw grains with steam-extruded and rolled and roasted grains with a formulation that is balanced for all nutrients, including Vitamin E and Selenium, with an oil-enriched blend provides an ideal base ration for horses prone to tying up.

Remove Lucerne and oats from the diet – Lucerne and oats can contribute to tying up in some horses and we suggest taking these out of the diet.

Feed Fast Twitch Formula - Fast Twitch Formula contains a potent blend of nutrients and anti-oxidants to maintain glycogen storage and mitochondria generation of the fast twitch oxidative fibres of horses. Vitamite Fast Twitch Formula provides specific nutrients to assist mitochondrial formation,  anti-oxidant vitamins, selenium to enable glutathione peroxidase production and magnesium  to address the metabolism imbalance caused by the calcium flux on the muscle cell wall.  Vitamite Fast Twitch Formula is fed at 400gms per day over a 30 day period in conjunction  with a simple exercise program which is detailed on the label.

Feed an Omega 3 supplement – Omega 3 oils such as Performa 3 Oil, may be beneficial in reducing inflammation, enhancing red blood cell flexibility and oxygen transport. Oils are an excellent substitute for grains in minimising the sugar and starch level of a ration, that can be beneficial in minimising tying up.

Ensure adequate electrolytes are fed - Electrolyte deficiencies have been linked to some horses that tie up. Feeding a well profiled feed such as Formula 3 will ensure the electrolyte intake of your horse is met, under normal conditions.




Incorporate additional management techniques into your regime:

  • Work the horse everyday. Some horses that tie up benefit from being worked every day.
  • Match the energy level of the ration with the workload of the horse.
  • Don’t over exert an unfit horse.
  • Provide free paddock exercise.
  • Grading the level of exercise with a slow increase in intensity as fitness develops.
  • Hard work should be followed with a slow trot or canter to stimulate delivery of oxygen to the muscles andremoval of lactic acid to the liver.
  • Swimming prior to work can be beneficial.
  • Every second day for 5 times, walk the horse to the track/work area and work him/her for 45 seconds over 600 metres i.e ¾ pace. Then warm the horse down.

The following has been given as a broad guideline for horses in work. The diets are a broad suggestion and you willneed to tailor the ration depending on the response of the horse to the ration and your assessment of the horse.


Working Racehorses - Tying Up Ration

Feed400kg Horse500kg Horse
WorkLight to medium workMedium to hard workLight to medium workMedium to hard work
Mitavite Formula 33-4kg4-5kg3.5-4.5kg4.5-5.5kg
Vitamite Fast Twitch Formula400g400kg400g400g
Vitamite Performa 3100-150mls100-150mls100-150mls100-150mls
Oaten ChaffApprox 1kgApprox 1kgApprox 1kgApprox 1kg
Grass / Oaten / Meadow HayApprox 5kgApprox 5kgApprox 6kgApprox 6kg

By understanding tying up and how it can be ‘triggered’ in your horse, and incorporating feeding and management regimes into your daily routine, tying up can be kept to a minimum in your stable.


Further information on feeding horses prone to tying up can be obtained by contacting Mitavite here or calling our toll free number on 1800 025 487.