If you haven’t come across PSSM (polysaccharide storage myopathy) yet, it is likely that you will run into it eventually, especially if you work in the Quarter, Warmblood, or Draft horse communities. As we bred these horses over many generations for strength and size, PSSM was silently cultivating in many of the popular bloodlines.

Horses may present with symptoms as inconspicuous as general soreness and behavioral issues or as noticeable as symptomatic rhabdomyolysis or “tying up” – stemming from the build up and/or abnormal glucose storage in the muscle tissue. Although there are a few metabolic disorders that resemble each other in these ways, PSSM is among the most common. There are two types, one of which is genetically inherited and the other is thought to be induced by diet and environmental factors. 

PSSM horses often experience trouble with exercise and subsequently their ability to metabolize glucose into energy is disrupted. Type 1 PSSM has to do with glucose processing enzyme deficiency, and Type 2 is an issue with the storage of saccharides in the body. Both are symptomatically similar, which means telling the difference is often up to veterinary testing. 

Luckily, with proper management, horses diagnosed with PSSM can live relatively comfortable lives and may continue to pursue competitively fulfilling careers. Some common wellness regimen items for maintenance  may include frequent or 24/7 turnout, a low starch diet, and special attention to the physical sensitivities these horses experience. Working with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to decide on an ideal diet unique to the horse is recommended. A balance of quality protein and healthy fat with the addition of nerve conduction supplements such as Magnesium, Vitamin E, and sometimes Selenium are often used. 

It’s important to remember that PEMF does not treat, cure, or diagnose PSSM or any other equine disorder. Instead, PEMF addresses underlying cellular dysfunction by stimulating and exercising the cells[2]. This process supports the body’s natural healing abilities.[1]

Typically, horses with PSSM are known to be especially physically sensitive as they often are tense, sore, and rigid in movement. For this reason, pulsing at a lower intensity than normal is recommended. Pulse Certified Professional Joanna Horton has worked extensively with PSSM horses and notes, “If the horse has been struggling with symptoms, lighter MFS with a longer duration will likely be appreciated.” She also astutely observed that horses with PSSM are often tighter in the hind quarters and recommends giving the area extra attention. Horton has noticed that some PSSM horses tolerate PEMF better than massage therapy because of the lower intensity option available with PEMF. So, take advantage of your ability to work low and slow when working with these sensitive animals.

Unfortunately, these horses may experience “tying up” episodes of varying degrees and, during one, a Pulse Certified Professional needs to pay extra attention to a few details. First, these events are significant and certainly warrant veterinarian intervention and guidance. Pulsing during or near the event may cause undue stress on the kidneys as a build-up enzymatic byproduct from the muscles may be moved by PEMF, thereby flooding the kidneys with more than they can filtrate in a short timeframe. We recommend not taking a client horse during an active “tying up” episode for this reason. Instead, set up a Pulse PEMF maintenance plan with the client after acute symptoms subside and, again, always under the guidance of the attending veterinarian.

For maintenance on a PSSM horse, Pulse full body sessions at  lower than normal intensity are a great place to start. Since Pulsing supports the body’s natural healing abilities,[1] it may also support kidney function, nutrient intake, increased blood flow and relaxation for the horse.[4,5,7] It is always best to implement Pulse PEMF as a part of your horse’s general wellness regimen for maintenance and comfort rather than to respond to a particular event.

Happy Pulsing!


Contributions by Pulse Practitioner Joanna Horton of Gastonia, GA who has extensive experience Pulsing PSSM horses.

[1],[2],[4],[5],[7] To locate the citations referenced here, visit info.pulseequine.com/research.