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Sore Muscles in Horses - What Causes Them and What To Do!

October 09, 2021

An Introduction to Sore Muscles in Horses

The staff at Ice Horse is well-versed in the kinds of injury and disease that a horse may have, yet little attention is paid in the broader community to the ailments of a horse's muscles. Just like humans, horses can have debilitating issues and situations that involve their muscles. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your Veterinarian to figure things out for the good of your horse.

Muscle Issues in Horses Typically Arise from 4 Scenarios:

- Secondary to an illness or sickness, such as neurological or metabolic disorders. For example, Cushing’s disease is a metabolic disorder that can reduce weight and muscle mass. Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a microbe infection that affects the nervous system and muscles.

- Tying up. This is commonly a metabolic condition that creates pain, excessive sweating, and the inability to move. Conditions such as polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) create tying up. Additionally, a horse that is dehydrated and has lost electrolytes can lead to tying up. This commonly occurs in unfit and overworked horses.

- Exercise and stress related exertions. Overwork, repetitive motions, and smaller muscle strains that happen repeatedly all take their toll on your horse’s muscles. This can also be secondary to skeletal issues, such as a horse with sore hind joints that compensates with a stiff and strained back. Poor saddle fit also falls into this category.

- Trauma. Just as bones and ligaments can be injured, muscles can as well. A deep laceration, a night spent cast in the stall, a fall, a kick from a herd mate and more can all damage the muscle. 

So How Do You Know?

Look for signs of soreness when you groom your horse. Flinching, tail wringing and pinning ears as you press and tack up are often signs. Your horse might also be reluctant to move forward to perform certain gaits. You might find a decrease in range of motion, lameness, tender skin, swelling, a dent in your horse or overall discomfort somewhere in the body. Of course there are many other signs, and all of these things could also be something else. Get the Vet on board and start doing some investigating.

What Can You Do?

Once you and your Vet narrow things down, the care plan might include rest, medications, a diet change, and even some therapeutic treatments like massage and cold or hot therapy. You might need to change saddles, create a new exercise routine, or give your horse some supplements. The most important part is noticing something is off in the first place.

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