Calming your Storm: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing PSSM in Horses

Shannon Wilkens

Chemist specializing in Cannabis

Calming your Storm: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing PSSM in Horses

For many horse owners, maintaining the health of horses suffering from Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. Are you scared your horse is suffering and not sure how to help them? This guide will help you understand PSSM in horses so that you can help diagnose and treat your horse. 

Please note: This article is not meant to replace the advice of a veterinarian. Brave Horse CBD is a powerful tool that can be part of your horse’s maintenance and recovery but we strongly encourage you to make decisions with the help of a trained medical professional.

PSSM is a disease characterized by an abnormal sugar accumulation in its long-chain form, glycogen, in muscle cells¹²³. This condition results in glycogen being stored in a form that cannot be used for energy, leading to a buildup of unusable sugar and the breakdown of muscle protein.

Do you suspect your horse might be struggling with this? Here are some common PSSM symptoms:

  • Poor performance
  • Muscle tremors also referred to as “tying up”
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, soreness
  • Gait asymmetry
  • Excessive sweating²

I keep hearing the term “tying-up” in horses, but what does it mean?

Tying-up is a condition that leads to painful muscle cramps in horses. These spasms result from abnormal physiological changes within the muscles, leading to severe, involuntary, and persistent muscle contractions.

Does it sound like your horse is going through this? We’re here to help you, here’s some information about diagnosing and treatment for horses with PSSM.

Understanding PSSM: The Two Types and Diagnosis

PSSM manifests in two different types:

PSSM1 involves a genetic mutation affecting the enzyme responsible for converting glucose to glycogen for storage in muscle cells¹²³.
PSSM2, on the other hand, is characterized by abnormal glycogen storage without a genetic mutation¹²³.

This disease is most prevalent in Quarter Horses and related breeds, though it has been observed in various others¹²⁴. Diagnosing PSSM1 can be accomplished through genetic testing, while PSSM2 requires a muscle biopsy¹²³. If you think your horse may have PSSM, please consult with your veterinarian to get the proper diagnosis. If you are wondering how PSSM happens, here’s a breakdown:

How PSSM Affects Your Horse | The Biochemistry

In healthy horses, sugars and starches consumed are converted into glucose, a fuel that muscle cells can immediately use for energy. When not needed, glucose is transformed into glycogen by the enzyme glycogen synthase 1 (GSY1). Glycogen serves as an organized and compact storage form of glucose, broken down back into glucose when energy is required³. However, in PSSM, when muscle cells run out of glucose, they resort to breaking down their own proteins, leading to a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, or “tying-up”³.

Managing PSSM: Diet and Exercise

While there is no cure for PSSM, management primarily involves dietary adjustments and regular exercise. A low-carbohydrate/high-fat diet helps prevent glycogen buildup in muscles and maintains low blood insulin levels¹³. However, following this regime requires careful planning to ensure the horse receives all necessary nutrients while maintaining an appropriate weight.

It’s important to replace electrolytes when the horse is sweating intensely and slow down if the horse is becoming dehydrated. Pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and NSAIDs may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms when “tying-up” occurs¹.

How CBD is Giving Life Back to Horses Suffering from PSSM

Seeing a veterinarian and seeking out conventional treatments are critical, but there’s also emerging research that shows evidence that supplements like CBD can give amazing benefits, transforming horses who have been suffering for far too long.

Here’s how CBD can help horses with PSSM:

  • CBD has been shown to help with treating symptoms like muscle spasms and “tying-up”.
  • Its analgesic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties may provide significant benefits for horses with PSSM, especially during stress-inducing situations like trailering or shows⁵⁶⁷.
  • At Brave Horse CBD we have sugar-free products, with minimal carbohydrates, specially formulated for medical conditions like PSSM, without aggravating the condition.
    Our supplements also include Vitamin E, known to support muscle cells in horses with PSSM³, ensuring an effective and targeted supplement to your horse’s care routine.
  • Lastly, by helping horses remain calm, CBD may also prevent the onset of PSSM-related symptoms³.

How you know your CBD is safely made with care and love.

CBD is a natural, non-invasive approach to supplement your horse’s PSSM condition management. Our CBD is grown in the USA, THC-free, and third-party tested with the highest standards to ensure safety and efficacy. Our handcrafted range of products are made in-house and in small batches for quality control.  Our OatBites are packed with 100mg of CBD and have (1) One carbohydrate per treat and are made by cannabis chemists and horse-lovers just like you! 

Understanding PSSM in horses and its management is essential for keeping your horse happy and healthy. With the addition of new emerging research on CBD, you can gain an innovative tool to help create a Calm, Brave, and Dependable horse. 


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Enjoy the benefits of CBD & CBG Sugar free! Crafted for picky eaters and horses with PSSM, laminitis, and cushings.


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(1) Young, A. Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM). School of Veterinary Medicine.

(2) Exertional Myopathies in Horses – Musculoskeletal System. Merck Veterinary Manual.

(3) Tying-Up in Horses | Equine Science Center.

(4) DBS Interactive. Diet Adjustments Provide Relief for PSSM Horses – Kentucky Equine Research. Kentucky Equine Research.

(5) Thomas, A.; Baillie, G. L.; Phillips, A. M.; Razdan, R. K.; Ross, R. A.; Pertwee, R. G. Cannabidiol Displays Unexpectedly High Potency as an Antagonist of CB1 and CB2 Receptor Agonists in Vitro.British Journal of Pharmacology 2009, 150 (5), 613–623.

(6) Karuppagounder, V.; Chung, J.; Abdeen, A.; Thompson, A.; Bouboukas, A.; Pinamont, W. J.; Yoshioka, N. K.; Sepulveda, D. E.; Raup-Konsavage, W. M.; Graziane, N. M.; Vrana, K. E.; Elbarbary, R. A.; Kamal, F. Distinctive Therapeutic Effects of Non-Euphorigenic Cannabis Extracts in Osteoarthritis. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2022.

(7) Liou, G. I.; Tang, Y.; Hanson, E.; Matragoon, S.; Liu, E. K.; Mian, S.; Zhu, G.; Khalifa, Y.; Caldwell, R. B.; El-Remessy, A. B. Neuroprotective Effect of Cannabidiol in Endotoxin-Induced Retinal Inflammation. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2007, 48 (13), 4954–4954.


About the author


Shannon holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Loyola University Chicago and began her journey in cannabis chemistry in 2018. Passionate about cannabis science, she developed protocols for in-house testing, established cannabis testing and research labs across the USA, and trained future chemists.

At Brave Horse, Shannon serves as a chemist, ensuring product quality and championing the benefits of cannabis through chemistry education. Outside of work, she cherishes moments with her family and her playful boxer, Chance.

If you have any burning questions, she loves to answer anything chemistry-related!


Shannon Wilkens

Chemist specializing in Cannabis

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