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Tying Up / Monday Morning Disease (Azoturia)
“Monday morning disease” – on account of the fact that it frequently occurs the day after a day off, is a painful condition affecting horses’ muscle tissue. Horses develop lameness, stiffness, very reluctant to move or even walk and are often in severe distress.

When a muscle is being used it produces a by-product called lactic acid (this is what causes that burning sensation in muscles when you’re over exercising). If too much lactic acid builds up in the muscles, this lowers the pH in the muscles and body in general. This build up in lactic acid can prevent muscles relaxing properly thus causing tension and spasms in the muscles, but also effects the metabolism thus causing fatigue. Therefore, overworking your horse resulting in the above, can cause muscle groups to spasm and remain tight and contracted. This results in the horse becoming extremely sore and still; in extreme cases the horse is unable to move. Research suggests the most common cause of tying up is over feeding your horse during rest periods, i.e. feeding it the same amount of food on days it is stalled rather than reduce its intake to accommodate the decrease in activity.
Typical areas that get affected are areas of previous trauma or areas already compensating for other issues or injuries. Also, areas such as the neck, back and shoulders are commonly affected with tying up.

  • Unwillingness to move
  • Muscle spasms in the back and rear
  • Perspiration/sweating
  • Agitated, pawing, throwing the head around
  • Dark red/brown urine (due to dehydration, if your horse has this contact your Vet immediately)

First Aid
  • Try not to excessively move them, if you’re out, try and get transport to pick you up. Don’t try to get them out and walk them.
  • Keep the horse warm, especially if cold. Blanket them, especially over the areas in spasm (neck, shoulder, back etc)
  • Look at your horse’s breathing, are they breathing quicker than normal
  • Give them water, but in small amounts
  • Call your vet

Will consist of a review of their diet, your vet may give anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers and rest. You may also consider getting treatment for your horse with an equine osteopath who can massage the areas to help relieve the muscle tension and look for areas of compensation to help alleviate the symptoms.

Recovery Time

This can be up to 6-8 weeks depending on severity. But reviewing their diet and feeding habits, slowly introducing an exercise recovery plan and getting hands on treatment such as an osteopath will help.
Tips to avoid tying up / azoturia
  1. Warm up and cool down properly after exercise (An osteopath can help give exercises and advice in regards this)
  2. Monitor your horse’s weight, try and match their intake with their output, reduce or increase their diet accordingly.
  3. Keep carbs low, avoid using sugar beat
  4. Use supplements such as Vitamin E and Selenium. Also consider giving a good quality electrolyte after exercising (human athletes do, so why wouldn’t that be the same for horses?)
  5. Keep stress in a minimum. Stressed horses are more prone to developing Azoturia.
  6. Getting regular treatment by an osteopath, to help the horse compensate from any aches or pains that it may be experiencing.

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Author Ben Calvert-Painter