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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

August 19, 2010

What's up with the Tye-ups?

I'm jumping off of "Boots & Saddles" blog (as I sometimes do) to ask the question, what is up with the tye-ups? Thinking that between Mel, Tamara (In the Night Farm), and I should perhaps compare notes and discuss our common ground. There is so much mystery involved in the process of what causes a tye-up episode. I know I personally live with that constant worrisome doubt, the cloud of potential doom every ride...wondering will this be the one. The common factors I can easily tick off in my head are endurance mare, very fit horse, and at least in the case of Mel and I the horse had a break from their normal work load prior to the incident. Breed? There we all differed. Arabian, Arabian / Saddlebred, Barb. So the breed does not seem to factor in all that much, but I must plead ignorance of the origins of the Barb horse. It would be interesting if someone would create a data base where you enter all the factors prior to the tye up episode on a broad sampling of horses, crunch the numbers and find the prominent pre-ride markers for an episode. I'm bummed for you Mel! ~E.G.


  1. In Mel's blog I said that I have owned horses for 26 years (to be exact) and mostly mares-and have never had a horse tie-up yet. ((I am only saying this because it's been brought up and I only want to help. I realize that there are a lot of factors to this that not even veteriniarians understand))I'm not better than anyone else. It could happen to me, for sure.

    I have owned an Appendex QH mare, a small half arab gelding, an appaloosa mare, a chestnut arab mare (not mine but I kept her for two years), a shagya mare, and now I have 2 arab mares, one arab two year old filly and one SE arab gelding. They were/are all fit horses, with the last several being endurance horses. I may not compete alot but I ride quite often. 2-3 times a week, each horse.

    I know what a tie-up episode is like because I experienced it with a QH gelding in IL. He was HYPP positive, with Impressive in his bloodlines. And was stalled almost 24/7 and fed only alfalfa hay. (not my horse, just one I took care of)

    There was a period of time when I was in college and then just graduated that I wanted to own a horse but didn't because I wanted my own horse to have pasture and be able to live outside of a stall 24/7 with access to a run in shelter obviously, and a stall if need be. So I didn't own another horse until I could make that happen. But that is when I took care of others horses' and rode other horses' and worked as a polo groom, worked at dressage clinics, etc.

    So during MY horse ownership, my horses were never fed alfalfa and I kept them out on a large pasture as much as possible. Never stalled unless there was some major reason, maybe once or twice a year at max. ((I have nothing against alfalfa... I always heard it was safer to just stick to grass hay so that's what I did))

    When the QH gelding tied-up it was usually after a light ride around the property. One really bad episode a friend of mine rode him while I rode another horse. We just walked and maybe trotted some. We started close to evening and it was almost dark when we got back. She never said anything seemed wrong with him while we were on the ride. But when we got back I quickly realized he wasn't right. He was stiff, his muscles seemed to pop out, he was sweating profusely (my horse wasn't sweating at all and it was a bit chilly out). He just seemed in pain. So I called the owners and the vet right away. I ended up staying up most of the night with him but I can't remember what all I was doing. It's been years ago. But I remember being scared for him. And I remember the vet being concered about their hay. They changed some things for him. Like a different brand of grain (truely he didn't even need grain but they wanted to give him some anyway). And they moved him to a daily dewormer but never took him off the alfalfa and never seemed quite as concerned about it as I was. I took care of three other horses in their barn who all had the same care/feed. One was a yearling-two year old and wasn't broke to ride. One was a mare and another gelding. Those two hardly ever got rode by the owner because they were a little more skittish. But I rode them some. And they never had a tie-up, while I was there anyway. So I'm sure it's not ONLY diet and stalling that causes it. Oh, if we only knew...


  2. The extreme fitness/time off work/back to work thing is the strongest correlation, I think - I've had one tie up in my history, and it was pretty scary, although (usually) they resolve with no permanent harm done.

  3. I think that there are many different "kinds" of tye ups. There's the kind that is associated with a very fit horse with time off (bonus points if it's a mare). Then there's the stalled horse on a high sugar/grain diet case. And of course, then there's the drafty/musclely type horses that are more prone to it as well.

    I've heard it said that thorughbred fillys are more prone than the geldings. They go into season and BAM! Tye up. so maybe in a less than ideal situation (stalled/high grain diet) the addition of one more factor (female hormones) may "push you over the edge".

    My current theory is that there are a number of risk factors for ANY horse. Some you can control, some you can't. I can't control the gender and breed of my horse. Everything else can be managed.

    In my case, I suspect that the hay that the boarding stable was feeding was high in sugar. So, on the heels of a very very hard race, she was put on light work for a few weeks and that was enough to cause a tye up.

    After doing some research, it looks like grass hays "on average" (looking at the Dairy One testing site) tend to be higher in NSC than the legumes, so I'll have to be careful. I think there are other reasons to not feed a 100% alfalfa diet inspite of the seemingly low NSC (such as concern over protein and Ca:Ph) but I'm fairly sure that the issue in my case was not the presence of alfalfa, but rather the total sugar content in one or both of the hay types being fed.

  4. When did Tamera have a tye up????? I follow her blog but I haven't seen anything. Am I missing something?

  5. I think it was just before Tevis? She took Consolation out for a training ride and had a tye up. Think she is rehabbing... don't that just big time suck? Some of us gals are not batting a good score on this issue :(