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Tying up (muscle tension/spasm) involves chronic tension in the horse’s muscles due to overwork. When the muscles are active, they produce lactate as part of their normal metabolism. Too much lactate causes lactic acidosis, a lowering of the pH in the muscles and the body in general. This impacts the efficiency of metabolism, giving rise to fatigue. The excess lactate prevents the muscles from relaxing properly following contraction. As a result, large muscle groups tend to seize up, remaining in a state of contraction. In mild tying up, the horse’s muscles are extremely sore and stiff. In full blown tying up, the horse is unable to move.

The areas typically affected by tying up include the neck, back, shoulders, zones of previous trauma and areas where other muscles have attempted to compensate for those already affected.


  • Usually after increased exertion of energy or exercise
  • Reluctance to move
  • Back and rump muscles feel very hard
  • Sweating
  • Usually agitated, pawing, throwing the head around
  • Dark red/brown urine


  • Get the horse to the closest stall; do not walk more than what is necessary
  • Assess your horse’s temperature, heart rate, and respiration
  • If it is cold outside, throw a cooler or blanket on your horse
  • Offer small amounts of water
  • Call your veterinarian


  • To determine the best course of action for your horse.
  • Your veterinarian may have you give some Banamine or Acepromazine (Ace) and BC2A.
  • Be able to tell your veterinarian if your horse has done this before, if your horse has not been in regular work, and what food your horse gets.