20 November 1998

Mares & muscle stiffness relief

EQUINE nutritionist Pamela Kinslow has looked into the idea that fillies and mares were more susceptible than males to tying up, an extreme form of muscle stiffness.

For her MSc she studied whether males and females used electrolytes differently, according to hormone levels. The thesis, which she carried out at the Equine Fertility Unit, Newmarket showed that the excretion of electrolytes could be influenced by fluctuating levels of the reproductive hormones progesterone and oestrogen.

This suggested that mares need extra electrolytes to compensate for an above normal loss during particular times in their cycle. As a result she produced a mix of sodium chloride, calcium, potassium and magnesium which is given to mares while in season. This treatment has achieved a 98% success rate among susceptible mares. She found that the mix helped geldings too.

Other research has suggested that tying up can also be related to an inability to store starches and carbohydrates normally. By putting this theory in to practise, she has found that in addition to providing balanced electrolytes, particular vitamins and antioxidants, switching to a diet high in fibre energy rather than starch energy is highly effective.

Another condition which may be affected by diet is bleeding in the lungs. Pamela has reduced incidences of this condition by 70% by using vitamin C, a precursor to collagen to strengthen capillary walls, and copper and vitamin E as an antioxidant. Some horses are also helped by a natural diuretic before work or a run.

Effectiveness is easy to assess on specific problems like tying up or bleeding, however, the cause of poor performance, possibly due to a lingering post viral compromise, remains difficult to assess and remedy.

"There have been a lot of these types of problems for trainers in recent years. Although blood tests look normal and the horse appears to be very well at home, it cannot finish well in a race. This causes a crisis of confidence all round," says Pamela.

"Keeping them healthy is probably the biggest challenge. Achieving complete success is almost impossible, but there are supplements which may help to boost the immune system. Human research suggests that these are iodine, zinc, copper and several antioxidants including vitamin E.

"We are hoping to do some organised trials of supplements designed to improve immune response, but need to find some funding for the laboratory work," says Pamela.

This highlights a problem for equine nutritionists. There is relatively little research done on fit horses, therefore theories have to be tested in the field. Having advised on hundreds of horses across Britain, and in countries as far as India, Pamela feels that fitness levels required by horses in training can be a significant factor in lowering immune response. "Other stresses must be minimised, and yard management is very influential," she adds.

Pamela will advise on how to balance an existing diet or suggest how the diet can be changed to incorporate feeds which may have a more suitable vitamin and mineral content to complement different training methods and different types of horses.

"Many compound feeds do not provide the levels of B-vitamins, vitamin E, copper and magnesium that I have consistently found to be beneficial for the horse in training," she says. Inquiries (01488-648046).

Tying-up syndrome and bleeding in the lungs, are two

disorders of competition horses that Pamela Kinslow has

researched. Unexpectedly poor performances by apparently

fit horses also concerns her. Tamara Farrant reports

Pamela Kinslows view of compound feeds has left her with few friends in the industry but plenty of happy clients.