Muscle Problems Can Cause Poor Equine Performance

Muscular causes of poor performance, such as tying up and back pain, are relatively common in equine athletes.
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Editor’s note: This article is part of’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 – June 2 in New Orleans, La.

Many equestrians, at one time or another, have dismounted after a long or strenuous ride and thought, "Boy, are my legs are going to be sore tomorrow!" Your horse has probably experienced a similar sensation, and as one researcher recently explained, a variety of muscle problems can cause a decrease in athletic performance in horses.

At the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 – June 2 in New Orleans, La., Erica C. McKenzie, BSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVSMR, associate professor of large animal medicine at Oregon State University, gave an overview of some common muscle problems that affect equine athletic performance.

"Equine athletes have proportionally greater muscle mass than comparably athletic species, with muscle tissue comprising approximately 45% of body weight in most equine breeds, and up to 55% of body weight in the Thoroughbred," she explained. Thus, muscle problems can have a profound impact on performance quality

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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