Research Journal

Fitness Affects Tying-Up In Polo Horses

Researchers from the United Kingdom measured the seasonal incidence of tying-up (exertional rhabdomyolysis) in polo horses in the United States and England and tried to identify factors related to the disease.

Thirty-one horses were affected among the 423 polo horses (7.3 %). Nine of 11 stables (82 %) had at least one case and six horses had recurrent episodes. Unwillingness to walk was the most common clinical sign followed by stiffness, sweating and rapid respiration.

The amount of turnout, age, gender and feeding practices did not seem to affect the risk of tying-up. Most (71 %) of the 31 cases were described as having a more excitable temperament than their stable mates. In 25 cases (81 %) the episode of tying-up followed a higher than normal work load and all but one case occurred during a competition rather than training. Horses lost an average of 7 days training and one died from complications related to an attack.

In contrast to what has been reported for Thoroughbreds (mostly racehorses), tying-up in polo horses does not seem to be related to age, gender, diet or amount of turnout. Fitness and temperament, however, do appear to affect the risk of an attack.

—McGowan CM, Posner RE, Christley RM. Incidence Of Exertional Rhabdomyolysis In Polo Horses In The USA And The United Kingdom In The 1999/2000 Season. Veterinary Record 2002;150:535-537.

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