Monday morning disease, or equine rhabdomyolysis syndrome, is a rapid-onset disease that is very painful for your horse and very frightening for you. But what is Monday morning disease and what can your equine vet do to help your horse? Read on to find out more.
What is Monday morning disease?
Monday morning disease is also colloquially known as tying-up, set-fast, and azoturia. The condition primarily affects horses that are usually in moderate to hard work, but have recently undergone enforced confinement, perhaps due to very wet weather, icy roads etc. Problems occur when the horse is returned to exercise and severe muscle cramp and spasm occur. The main symptoms that present in cases of Monday morning disease include:
- an unwillingness to move forward
- short, pottery steps and a stiff gait
- hardening and heat in the muscles of the hindquarters
- colic-like symptoms
- collapse and inability to rise
- increased heart rate
- problems urinating and dark, reddish brown urine
The condition was traditionally associated with horses that had hunted hard on Saturday and were then given Sunday as a rest day. On returning to exercise on Monday mornings, tying-up sometimes occurred, hence the name, Monday morning disease.
What action to take
- If you are riding your horse when Monday morning disease strikes, dismount immediately and call your equine vet out as an emergency.
- Put your horse in a stable with a nice, thick bed and offer him some water. Water intake is very important as it flushes the kidneys through, removing the broken down muscle tissue and preventing further damage.
- If your horse wants to lie down, allow him to do so. Keep the area around his stable quiet so that your horse can relax.
- If you're riding away from home, dismount and allow the horse to have a breather. You won't be able to ride him home as this would risk severe muscle damage. Try to arrange for someone to transport your horse home in a lorry or trailer; your equine vet will have an emergency transport number if you can't arrange transport yourself.
- You must try to keep the horse's muscles warm by placing rugs over his back. Use your own coat if you don't have anything else on hand.
- If it helps your horse to relax, offer him a small hay net to nibble on while you're waiting for the vet, but DO NOT offer concentrates.
Monday morning disease is usually caused by a combination of too much/too rich food and not enough exercise and can usually be prevented by good stable management practices.
- Always feed your horse just sufficient hard feed for the amount of work he is doing and no more.
- Always increase your horse's workload before you increase his feed.
- If your horse has a day off or is on box-rest, reduce the concentrate ration considerably and feed him plenty of forage instead. Pad out the hard feed ration with carrots or high-fibre, non-molassed chaff, or exchange his usual high-energy feed with a cool mix.
You can prevent Monday morning disease by always reducing your horse's concentrate feed ration if he is not in work. If your horse displays any of the symptoms of Monday morning disease, always call your equine vet for immediate attention and for advice on feeding and management of your horse.