Tying Up in Horses: Part 2 - Management of the condition

This blog follows Part 1 - Symptoms and Causes which explains why RER is the most likely cause.

My recommendations for the Management of RER:

Feed: low starch feed, high protein, high fibre and high oil. Horses are much better at digesting polyunsaturated fats than humans. They can digest up to a cupful of oil a day. I feed ordinary vegetable oil (which is in fact rapeseed oil) and has the best ratio of omega3 : omega6. It is also the most cost effective and can be bought in any supermarket! High fibre and protein/low starch feeds are becoming easier to come by as feed companies have become more aware of the benefits to health, temperament and performance for horses. I feed a range of feeds that are high protein and low starch as I believe that is best for horse’s metabolisms.

Electrolytes: electrolytes are imperative to controlling RER episodes. The electrolyte I would recommend is TRM Isopro 2000. It is cost effective and it has a high quantity of Ca2+ ions (calcium carbonate) which are the most influential ion in controlling RER.

Regular exercise: this doesn’t just mean exercise every day but doing a similar level of exercise every day. Horses must be brought back into work steadily if they have been off and should not be left for several days and then worked hard. Horses are best turned out or put on a walker on days off. This prevents muscle glycogen levels becoming too high, as glycogen reserves are reduced by exercise (or even just walking in the field).

Do not let horses shiver: This runs alongside irregular exercise. Shivering causes increased activity in the muscles. Horses should be kept warm (but not allowed to sweat as when mammals sweat electrolytes are lost).

High stress levels: This is very horse dependant. It needs to be remembered that horses stress in different ways; some become more active while others draw into themselves. For some horses increased turnout can reduce stress whilst for others staying with their friends or being ridden by their preferred rider may be part of the solution. Remember every horse is an individual!

Vitamin E and Selenium: Although many believe that vitamin E and selenium deficiencies are a major cause of RER it has never been scientifically proved! Ask your vet to test your horse for vitamin E and selenium deficiency before supplementation as both can be harmful when horses are fed too much!

Annie and Casanova coming 4th in CIC1* July 2013: Back to peak performance after tying up in Under 18 National Championships October 2011. Casanova flourished on this regime.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM): CAUSES

PSSM also applies to Sports Horses, and is caused by a genetic mutation and episodes are not directly linked to any particular event. It cannot occur in thoroughbreds and has originated from draught horses.

PSSM is caused by the GYS-1 gene – a co-dominant allele (will show symptoms if inherited from one parent but symptoms are worse if inherited from both parents). Although this condition can be managed, it is much harder to control and horses may show symptoms with no apparent trigger from a very young age. Dietary management, i.e. reducing starch intake and increasing fibre and oil are imperative to managing this condition. Other genes such as the RYR-1 gene, that causes Malignant Hyperthermia, can worsen the clinical signs of PSSM. This condition is harder to manage than RER as the attacks do not appear to be stimulated by external factors but purely by the presence of the GYS-1 gene.

Conclusion re types of tying-up:

If a horse is descended from thoroughbreds on both sides it is most likely that the horse suffers from RER - even if the horse is largely Warmblood (which are descended from draught horses crossed with thoroughbreds) as PSSM is a rarer condition.

NOTE: It is advisable to always seek advice from your Vet.

Annie Forsyth gained a first class honours degree from the Royal Agricultural University Cirencester in 2014.

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