Pop Quiz: Make a Muscle

How much do you know about Equine Muscle Health and Muscle Disorders? Put your knowledge to the test!

Muscle Health
Which of these does a horse need to develop strong, healthy muscle tissue?

  1. Amino acids
  2. Exercise
  3. A diet high in sugar
  4. a and b
  5. All of the above

Answer: 4
In order to build muscle, your horse needs a combination of both amino acids and stimulus, or exercise.

A diet high in which of these is most likely to make your horse “hot”?

  1. Sugars and starches
  2. Fat
  3. Protein

Answer: 1
All three of these nutrients are potential energy sources for your horse, but they each have very different impacts on energy and attitude. Non-structural carbohydrates, like sugars, provide a highly concentrated energy source that is rapidly digested and utilized, causing spikes in blood sugar that can make your horse more excitable. Interestingly, pound for pound, fat supplies more than twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein, but because it doesn’t cause the same blood sugar spikes, it’s considered a “cooler” energy source. That’s why feeding fat is a smart choice for hard keepers. Protein is not very easily converted into energy, and instead benefits the horse by supplying amino acids, which are critical for the formation of muscle tissues, for intestinal tissue repair, and for many metabolic processes.

Which of these can help your horse recover from a strenuous workout?

  1. A drink with a tiny umbrella
  2. A nap in a hammock
  3. Branched-chain amino acids
  4. Retail therapy

Answer: 3
Branched-Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Limited research in horses suggests these specific amino acids are mobilized during exercise and used by the body for energy. This preserves muscle glycogen and other, structural amino acids. BCAAs are therefore believed to delay the onset of fatigue during aerobic activities, and aid in the repair of muscle tissues after exercise.

Which of these supplement ingredients is often recommended to support muscle health?

  1. Chondroitin sulfate
  2. Vitamin E
  3. Valerian
  4. Potassium

Answer: 2
Vitamin E is most recognized as an antioxidant that works to protect the body from the oxidative stress of exercise, illness, and certain medical conditions. Found in high amounts in fresh pasture, levels begin to decay the moment pasture is cut for hay. That is why any horse that does not have access to grass — regardless of his activity level or health — should receive Vitamin E supplementation. That’s why both SmartMuscle formulas contain a healthy serving of Vitamin E.

Muscle Disorders
What does PSSM stand for?

  1. Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy
  2. Persistent Starch Storage Malfunction
  3. Ponies Sure Seem Merry
  4. Polysaccharide Systemic Storage Mitochondria

Answer:  1
Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM), also called Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM or EPSSM), is likely an inherited condition, occurring most commonly in Quarter Horses, draft horses, and warmbloods, but also showing up in other breeds. The muscles of a horse with PSSM are unable to properly store glucose (sugar), so it is unavailable when needed for energy. Two forms have now been identified: Type 1, which is caused by a genetic mutation, and Type 2, the cause of which has yet to be determined.

What does HYPP stand for?

  1. High Yield Potassium Process
  2. Hyper Potassium Protein Synthesis
  3. Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis
  4. Hey You Pretty Pony

Answer: 3
Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP) is a muscle disorder caused by a dysfunction in how the electrolytes sodium and potassium move in and out of muscle cells, due to an inability to regulate potassium. HYPP is found only in horses that are descendants of the famous Quarter Horse stallion Impressive. Horses can have one or two genes for HYPP, and thus can show a varying degree of signs, from mild to severe. Mild signs generally include sweating and twitching in the neck, shoulders, and flank, while more severe signs may consist of muscle trembling and cramping, which can cause the horse to sway, sit, or even go down. The entire event lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes, and horses can actually die during episodes due to cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Horses with muscle disorders such as HYPP and PSSM should have limited turnout and exercise.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer: 2
Ample turnout time and a consistent exercise program with controlled activity are essential for horses with HYPP or PSSM. Paired with a diet that’s low in nonstructural carbohydrates, activities such as hand walking, lunging, riding, or driving can be very beneficial for these horses.

Which of the following are signs of tying up?

  1. Firm and painful muscles over the loin and croup
  2. Excessive sweating
  3. Muscle tremors
  4. Reluctance or refusal to move
  5. Lying down/inability to rise
  6. a, c, and d
  7. All of the above

Answer: 7
“Tying up” refers to muscle stiffness and pain after exercise. Its signs — which include firm, painful muscles over the loin and croup, excessive sweating, muscle tremors, a reluctance or refusal to move, and lying down or the inability to rise — can range from mild to severe. In addition to those already listed, other signs to look for are quick and shallow breathing, an increased heart rate, and reddish brown colored urine.

How does your score stack up?

Muscle Maniac!
6 or more correct: We hope your horse knows how lucky he is to have such a smart owner! And if you’re ever looking for a job, we know a place…

Genius in Training
4 or 5 correct: Great job! Keep it up and you’ll be a muscle health expert before you know it!

Just Warming Up
Less than 4 correct: The best riders never stop learning. Keep reading and you’ll be flexing your muscle smarts in no time.