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Quick Healing for A Horse With Muscle Soreness and Laminitis: 2 Tricks Using Transdermal Magnesium For Horses

epsom salt for horses benefits - transdermal magnesium for sore muscles, PSSM

Epsom Salt for a Horse With Sore Muscles

Helping a horse with muscle soreness and laminitis: Jax is a PSSM horse (n/P1, n/P2, n/Px), and for the 9 years I’ve had him is prone to low grade laminitis and tight, sore muscles.  I have a couple tricks I use for both, and both tricks include epsom salt – or transdermal application of magnesium.  We’ll start with helping tight muscles, as that’s a huge issue with PSSM (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy) horses:

Transdermal magnesium for horses: Jax having an epsom salt soak on his back muscles, shoulders, and hips. To get the shoulder/hip muscles I turn the epsom/water soaked towel sideways to get as many muscles in those areas as possible, and in the shoulder area drape it slightly in front of withers to get the neck/shoulder connection.

Epsom Salt Body Soak recipe:  fill a 1 gallon bucket halfway with very warm water, and add 1/4-1/2 cup of epsom salt (1/2 cup is very strong and will leave salt residue, but works amazing!). After the epsom salt dissolves take a large towel and soak it in the warm epsom salt water, then drape over back long wise for 15 minutes – I let mine relax in the sun and eat grass during this time so he can relax mentally while the soak works on relaxing him physically – also the sun warms the water soaked towel to give a warming relaxation on top of the soak.

I re-soak the towel then drape over his shoulders 15 minutes, next his hindquarters, and usually I get a 4th soak for his long back muscles again before running out of water. This is AMAZING for his muscles and makes him super loose! Here’s a pic of my boy with the towel draped over his long back muscles:

Transdermal magnesium for horses: using epsom salts to get the long back muscles, I drape the towel long-wise.  His lumbar is his sorest area, so this one I try to do twice.

This trick only works if it’s really warm out, as mine barely handles being wet even on very hot days.  I only do this soak if the weather is 85*F or higher.  If the weather is below 70*F, I use a Back On Track blanket or similar infrared to help his muscles.

Transdermal magnesium for horses benefits: after starting Epsom Salt soaks!  Before starting soaks and higher protein (I use Pea Protein Powder from Bulk Supplements), his back muscles were so stiff and tense that you could barely depress your finger into them.  You can see that he still has some tightness near his shoulders and withers in this video.  As of mid-2020 even these areas are nice and loose now!

Laminitis Treatment for Horses: Hoof Pain and Low Grade Laminitis

Jax is prone to low grade laminitis, so I have a protocol for that as well – interestingly it also revolves around transdermal magnesium application.  He’s barefoot and has boots which makes this much easier. I trim hoof walls down so there’s no torque on extra length, pull back toes to whiteline, put epsom salt poultice on his soles and around his laminae, and boot him up for 1-3 days (removing boots for about an hour a day and reapplying the poultice daily).  I use his Renegade boots for this.

By the time I pull boots there’s hardly any lameness left. Magnesium can soak up through the sole and into the laminae, and I’ve read experiences on Dr. Deb Bennet’s forum where people have done this and claim that magnesium helps the laminae stop destroying itself (may even help it reattach, which I didn’t think was possible?) – my impression from trying it is they’re right. Even if yours is wearing shoes, the poultice may stay up in the hoof as long as the sole isn’t touching the ground.

The Epsom Salt Poultice I use for Jax’s hooves when he has a laminitis bout.

Because both my muscle fix and low grade laminitis treatment contain epsom salt, I think there’s a systemic issue with magnesium uptake that affects both muscles and hooves – either PSSM muscles overuse this mineral for healing, the diet is deficient, or the gut isn’t absorbing as it should (or a combination of the 3?).  If you have any theories, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Another Note on Magnesium for Horses:

I’ve found that sustained, long term supplementation of oral magnesium doesn’t work for Jax (leads to head shaking). Since putting him on chelated calcium, we’ve not had any low grade laminitis issues or muscle soreness issues, despite him having a muscle disorder. Since putting him on chelated calcium we haven’t needed these transdermal magnesium applications, but I’ll happily test them out again if we need them!

Another note is that if there’s a trigger in the diet, this trick won’t fix an actively triggered case of acute laminitis – it only works if the trigger has been removed. A while back I triggered an acute case of low grade laminitis with milk thistle (do strong a liver detox for a horse struggling with PSSM?), and epsom salt didn’t help until I realized milk thistle was the trigger and removed it from the diet.

In short, I encourage anyone who’s having recurrent issues with a horse with muscle soreness or laminitis to look into some potential management changes – even things that seem harmless can be a trigger for really sensitive horses!

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