Tying Up

 Tying Up or Azoturia 


Is a condition where certain muscle groups, in particular around loins and quarters, seize up and the horse experiences painful cramp-like symptoms.  Severity ranges from slight stiffness of gait to, in extreme cases, collapse and death occur. In nature the wild horse did not tend to have excess energy reserves which would make tye-up almost non-existent.In nature the wild horse did not tend to have excess energy reserves which would make tye-up almost non-existent.

 CAUTION:  Whenever tying up is suspected always consult your vet first. THis is a potentially life threatening condition


These may include:

  • Carbohydrate overloading. A resting horse on full rations builds up a high concentration of muscle glycogen. When the horse commences fast work, a rapid build up of lactic acid damages the muscle fibres. A pigment called myoglobin released from the damaged fibres is responsible for the discoloured urine. (Note: the true metabolic processes are more complex than described here)
  • Insufficient fibre in the diet
  • Vitamin E and selenium deficiencies may cause muscle problems. Evidence on how this affects tying up is still inconclusive
  • Electrolyte imbalance in sodium, calcium and potassium can affect the normal function of nerves and muscles.
  • Phosphorous/ calcium imbalance caused by incorrect bran to grain ratios.
  • Inadequate blood supply to the muscle fibre.
  • Temperament. Nervous, highly strung horses seem to be more prone to tying up.
  • Gender mare s tend to be more prone to this than geldings
  • Genetic Factors. There is some evidence that a predisposition to this condition runs in families

 Clinical signs: 

  • Excessive sweating
  • Hard hind quarter muscles, stiff hind legs. Body stretched out. Rolling gait with fetlocks and hocks becoming increasingly flexed.
  • A worried expression with reluctance to move forward.
  • Horse starts to blow.
  • Increased heart rate with slight increase in temperature.
  • Horse resents pressure applied to rump which will appear swollen and hard to touch.
  • Laboratory blood test will indicate levels of creatine kinase (CK) and aspartate aminotransferase(AST) leak from damaged cells in to the blood stream
  • Dark urine indicating levels of the toxic pigment, myoglobin

Immediate Action 

  • STOP THE HORSE AS SOONS AS TYING UP IS SUSPECTED. Any further movement may cause irreversible muscle damage.
  • Put rugs over the back to keep it warm.
  • Arrange to transport horse home.


Aims of treatment will include

  • Minimise pain and anxiety
  • Prevent further muscle damage
  • Restore fluid and electrolyte damage.
  • Maintain adequate kidney performance to minimise myoglobin build up in kidneys
  • Veterinary action may include analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs, a tranquillizer and fluid therapy.

 Care of the Patient 

  • At the acute stage horse must be stabled with no exercise.
  • Keep warm and dry with a thick dry bed.
  • Feed to be reduced to hay, water, a herbal chaff which will consist of blood purifying and mildly diuretic herbs.
  • Length of box rest will depend on severity of muscle damage which will be monitored with blood tests.
  • Highly-strung horses should not be turned out until muscle enzymes have returned to normal. Therapeutic doses of valerian given at the sub-acute  stage will relax muscle tissues as well as dilating blood vessels.

 Alternative Preventative and Herbal Treatment .

  • Diet  Ensure that the energy input equals output particularly while the horse is in strenuous work. Do not increase rations if a strenuous day is planned. Do not feed large quantities of bran which increases the phosphorous content in rations which in turn will make calcium unavailable.
  • Non herbal dietary additives may include: correcting acidosis with the use of alkaline salts like the controversial sodium bicarbonate which, in mild cases, may reduce lactic acid build-up. Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate, nearly neutral). Electrolyte supplementation and if necessary selenium supplementation.
  • Sodium bicarbonate has been known to help address acidosis.
  • Cider vinegar or any product with this in it (40 ml daily) will help adjust the body’s pH to raise it systemically.
  • Chemical energy balance. Take care not to overload horse on high-energy feeds. High sugar grasses can do this too.
  • Detox system by Feeding Liver stimulating and digestive herbs as a dietary additive will improve carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Improve Blood supply to muscle fibre. Herbs like  gingko given prior t and after exercise will address muscle glycogen as well as improving carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Provision of a range of herbs during the show or race season. Pasture leys on your property will go a long way to preventing the condition entirely. These will include herbs that will address muscle and blood vessel integrity, strengthen the heart muscle, blood cleansing herbs that will assist in kidney function and a range of antioxidants that will prevent muscle damage.
  • Addressing acidity, potassium levels   by providing sodium chloride will help. Himalayan rock salt is good for this.
  • Muscle spasms may be eased with valerian extract. This must not be attempted at the acute stage. Your vet is the only one qualified to deal with this crucial stage.




DISCLAIMER: Hira Laboratories will not be held responsible for the use or misuse of any products listed. We recommend that either a qualified herbalist or your animal professional carry out diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Herbal remedies must not be given not be taken in conjunction with other medication with out consulting a medical professional.




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