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Ask Dr. Dave

Heather from Nevada, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

Have you ever heard of Spring pasture causing a horse to "tie-up?" Thank you for your insight.

Hello Heather,

Thank you for your great question about "tying-up" and Spring pasture.

In my experience the answer is "No."

Now, for a little more detail. Tying-up, also known as myositis (myo = muscles, -itis = inflammation) is a muscle condition that causes severe cramping, usually in the hind quarters. It is typically seen in the bulker muscled horses who have a higher concentration of "fast twitch" muscles, and less often in the thoroughbred styled horses who have more "slow twitch muscles." Slow twitch and fast twitch are terms relating to the biological features of the individual muscle fibers. Barrel and rope horses are known for their quick speed and characteristically have a higher percentage of fast twitch muscles. The metabolism of the fast twitch muscles produces more lactic acid than slow twitch muscles, and it is the lactic acid that brings on muscle cramping and tying up.

There have been many theories and cures for tying-up throughout the ages, and much research is still in progress. Hopefully we will learn more about this condition in the near future.

I was once told that if there is more than one or two treatments for a specific problem, then probably none of them work very well!

Spring pasture is something we all look forward to. It's exciting. It means the end of the dreary winter and the beginning of a bright new year. It means longer days, warm sunshine, blue skies, and green grass. It means getting the horses out of the barn or corrals and into the lush pastures. It means riding, practice and competitions. Life is once again in full gear.

However, the lush green grass also brings some concerns. Research has shown that the initial spring grass contains a higher content of a substance that potentiates laminitis. So if you have an overweight horse, or one that has been diagnosed with Insulin Resistence, you need to use caution when turning your horse out to pasture. If you have any concerns or questions about your horse regarding his susceptibility to laminitis, consult your veterinarian.

Heather, once again, thank you for your great question.

Happy Trails, Good Ground and Fast Times,

Dr. Dave