What to do when your horse ties up

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price

Call your veterinarian if your horse experiences severe cramping. Keep him still until your vet arrives.

It is important to bring a horse back to health after a break. He must work hard to get fit, but too much exertion can lead to serious complications such as tying up.

Exercising can cause severe cramping, also known as exertional rhabdomyolysis. This refers to the tightening of large muscles in the back, hindquarters and shoulders. Sometimes, the kidneys can be stressed by the release of toxic substances from damaged or dying muscle cells. Extreme cases can lead to death.

What to do when your horse ties up

Horses with polysaccharide storage Myopathy (PSM) or recurrent exertional Rhabdomyolysis, which are two of the most common disorders that cause repeated tying up, will experience it more often. But, horses can be tied up by electrolyte or heat stress. Here are some suggestions.


* A horse may suddenly stop, often with severe muscle cramping. This is usually in the hindquarters. If he stiffens up, moves only slowly and sometimes stabs his hind toes into ground,

* He sweats profusely but less than the muscles affected.

* His expression is achingly “colicky”, with fast breathing and a rapid heartbeat.

* He develops muscle tremors.

* His urine has a discolored color, ranging from a reddish tint to a darker, more coffee-like hue.


* Do not move the horse. These cramps cannot be “walked off”, and forcing your horse to move could cause more injury to his muscles. Keep your horse standing until you get to the veterinarian. You may have to move your horse to ensure safety or for treatment. If this is the case, you can bring a trailer and only move him the minimum amount of steps.

* Remind him to remain calm. You can offer small bites of hay to him or have a friend help you. This condition can be made worse by stress, so make sure you do your best to make the environment as calm and peaceful as possible.

* Give water to your horse, perhaps with electrolytes. If your horse is willing to drink water with dissolved electrolytes, it may be beneficial. You can also give your horse plain water if he refuses to drink it.

* As per the season, heat or cool the affected muscles. On a hot summer day, cool your horse with some water. Contrary to popular belief, cold water will not cause cramping. To warm your horse up in cold weather, wrap a blanket around his hindquarters.

* Pay attention to urination. Your veterinarian will be able to identify the color of your urine by looking at it. You can take notes of your horse’s urine while she waits for you to get there, or better still, capture it in a clean container.

Keep an eye out for any other problems. Other issues can also be caused by fatigue-related metabolic imbalances. One possibility is synchronous diaphragmatic flapping, also known as “thumps”–look out for a distinct jerking or tic in your horse’s flank that matches his heartbeat. Hyperthermia, or overheating, can occur when horses can’t cool themselves by sweating. Look out for excessive sweating, agitation and skin that feels hot. Dehydration can be indicated by dark mucous membranes or skin that doesn’t snap back in place after being pinched. Anhidrosis is a condition in which a horse has lost the ability to sweat due to exhaustion of his fluid reserves. You should notify your veterinarian if you see any of these signs. She may determine that your horse is in critical condition.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!