Tieing up in Thoroughbreds

Hi, I am looking at TB mare that retired from the track and apparently had an episode of tying up. After 2 years pasture rest and now being brought back to work,4 months there have been no recurring episodes.
I would use her primarily for dressage, with a healthy dose of trail, working equitation and low jumping.

Of course I am preparing to have a PPE done, so my question is if it was indeed tieing up isn’t it genetic, meaning it doesn’t go away? Is there any predicting if it will come back?
If whatever she had wasn’t tieing up any thoughts on what it may have been?
What should I be thinking about?
What should I ask for in a PPE re potential tieing up? Other than a different horse, lol
thank you,

Here is a good article to give you some background. There isn’t one underlying cause, or one treatment - tying up is a symptom with a few different causes.


There are so many things that can go into a horse “tying” up – and tying up is such a broad, inconsistently used term – that I don’t think you’ll get many meaningful answers in terms of whether it’ll inhibit her going forward.

There’s muscle disorders, like PSSM (PSSM1 being nonexistent in TBs), there’s things like management, there’s acute injuries or muscle damage, HYPP, shivers, that could look like “tying up episodes”.

Your best bet would be to go see the horse and ask the vet. If she’s been in work for four months with no issues, I’d chalk it up to a one-off and if I liked the horse, would assume it was probably a mixture of environment, race training, and management.

There is a genetic test, EquiSeq, that is gaining traction in the horse world – however, to date they have no clinical understanding of whether the variants present in the panel outside of PSSM1 and MFM have any clinical significance in the performance of the horse. So I wouldn’t waste your money there. When they start backing their panel and results with more clinical studies, they’ll probably be the go-to for testing for PSSM+variants for many people.

If this mare is for breeding, you may want to put her in a serious work program first and see how she fares. If the tying up is from something like MFM or PSSM2+variants, it’ll come out in a strenuous work program – and yes, those diseases have a genetic component.

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The two main things I would look for would be PSSM and reproductive issues. I personally wouldn’t buy or even take for free a horse with PSSM, just having seen what a hassle it is to manage. I’ve seen a handful of young TB mares that tied up mildly a few times and it seemed to be related to their cycle. In most cases it went away completely when they were put on Regumate.

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You’d want to try to find out the environment preceeding the tying up episode. It could be as simple as too much high sugar/starch feed

How old is the mare? PSSM issues tend to start showing up after they are mature (ish) in the 4-6yo range

Do you have a description of the episode?

While it’s not validated, the EquiSeq testing likely does have some value. I don’t know how long results currently take, but if you want to check (and know results may or may not be valid), you could send in hair


Tying up during race training, especially as a young horse (2 or 3 yr olds) is often related to bone density issues… usually called “bucked shins” when it gets bad/big enough to be noticeable. The bone density training is what HAS to be done, and done while bones are still immature, to drive development of both bone and joint surfaces in order to make the limbs strong enough to withstand the pressures of racing. It’s always a delicate “balancing act” to do just enough damage to the bone to gain the new bone growth, but not enough to actually “buck the shins”, which is painful, and can become a terminal injury if the damage results in an actual break. But the mild inflammation is what the trainer is looking for, like “shin splints” in human athletes- enough to build bone and drive development and strength and future soundness. But the problem is that while doing this, a “bucked shin” may occur in a single exercise session, just suddenly, and sometimes without much warning. Which is painful, and can cause short term lameness. When this happens, the horse should be turned out to rest and heal before returning to training. But, as the bone and joint development and inflammation develops, if the horse does have some pain and is kept in training, he can change the way he carries himself, shifting weight off what is sore (usually in the front legs- but can happen in ANY bone in front or hind limbs), and carry themselves differently, usually “getting off” the front end, and suddenly “over using” the hind end. This can “over use” and strain the muscles in the hind end, and the result is “tying up”, due to sore shins in front. If the trainer does not turn the horse out when the shins get tender, it is quite classic that the young horse starts to have issues with tying up. But for your purposes, all this is “ancient history”. The bone inflammation has healed (this usually takes 6 weeks). And the previously over strained hind end muscles have also healed and returned to full health and strength. Check the fronts of the cannon bones on the front legs, see if perhaps there is some slight bone development there, slightly convex in the front. It may or may not be there, but if it is, it tells a story. There are other possible soundness issues that may be more serious than just shins that can result in the same change in carriage, your vet should be able to discern if this has been the issue. So, if you like the horse, and your vet can find no serious issues with the horse, tying up during it’s abortive race career should/could be a sign of nothing serious long term. She has had lots of time to heal, and recover from that short term damage. The bonus for you is that that early training and bone density and joint surface development that race training provides makes for a sounder horse in later years and different sport disciplines, that non TBs not in race training can never attain.

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