Tying up is a metabolic malfunction that leads to cramping of the large muscle groups, particularly in the hindquarters. Signs of tying up, include profuse sweating, halting gait, refusal to move elevated pulse. Here’s what to do if your horse ties up:
1. Allow your horse to stand exactly where he stopped. He can’t “walk out of ” these muscle cramps. In fact, making him move would only compound the damage to his muscles. Your veterinarian will advise you later on how to move him if it’s absolutely necessary.
2. Warm or cool the affected muscles, depending on the season. If your horse ties up in cold weather, throw a blanket over his hindquarters to help ease the cramping. Likewise, if the episode occurs in hot conditions, sponge his cramped muscles with cold water. And don’t worry: Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that applying cold water to hot muscles causes or worsens cramping.
Watch for complications
3. Note the color of the horse’s urine. Muscle cramping causes cells to die, and the resulting debris is excreted in urine, tinting it reddish to a dark-coffee color. The color of urine is an indication not only of the extent of muscle damage but also of how hard the horse’s kidneys are working. If your horse urinates while you are waiting, note the color of what he produces or, better yet, catch some in a container to give to your veterinarian.
Hands off is best
Don’t do any massage. Manipulation of the horse’s muscles will be painful and may make the situation worse. The cramping will eventually dissipate, but the process cannot be sped up. Treatment can only contain the damage done by the event.
Do not give any injections. Given the horse’s discomfort, it may be tempting to administer an injection of Banamine or other pain reliever, but this is not advisable. It would be very difficult to inject anything into a horse’s cramped hindquarter muscles, and even if you managed to do so it would intensify the spasms.