Summer Electrolyte Guide
As the summer months arrive, most of us are much more active with our horses which means time for an electrolyte. Whether we are participating in shows, contesting, pleasure classes, jumping, dressage, or out on the trail, we need to pay extra attention to hydration levels in our horses during these next several months.
Horses sweat profusely. They sweat more than people, about 3 times more, and lose more electrolytes through their sweat than we do. In fact, horses dissipate about 85% of excess heat through sweating, and the remainder through respiration. Additionally, horse sweat is saltier than human sweat; it contains high levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. These macromineral electrolytes are essential for conducting electricity, and keeping muscles firing correctly. Skeletal muscles, muscles in the digestive tract, and heart muscles are all negatively impacted by electrolyte imbalance. As is proper absorption of feed nutrients.
Effects of Imbalances
Conditions such as Thumps and Tying Up can both be linked to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. If you plan on trail riding, eventing, showing, fox hunting, certainly racing, or even trailering your horse this summer, consider using electrolytes to restore that balance and improve recovery times for your horse.
There are many commercial electrolytes available these days. Some of them contain high levels of sugars, while others do not. I tend to look for those that are higher in chloride and low in sugar. Dr. Clair Thunes of Summit Equine Nutrition recommends looking for one with a sodium : potassium : chloride ratio that is similar to that found in sweat, 2:1:3.8. Perfect Balance by Peak Performace is one such electrolyte.
How To Feed Electrolytes
One of the best ways to feed electrolytes is to mix them in with your horse’s water. Be sure to read the feeding guidelines on your electrolyte container, as the ratio may vary depending on how heavily your horse has worked. When offering electrolytes in water, ALWAYS be sure to offer plain water as well. Sometimes horses will not drink the electrolyte water, and if that is all that is available, their electrolyte imbalance and dehydration will only worsen.
Another method is to top dress the electrolyte on their feed. I have found this method to be more palatable for one of my horses, however, be sure to monitor water consumption when feeding the electrolyte. If your horse is not drinking after ingesting electrolytes top dressed on its feed, it may urinate more frequently to restore sodium balance, resulting in increased dehydration.
Whatever activities you have planned for your horse this summer, don’t forget to include electrolytes as a staple of your horse’s recovery. They can be used before and after work to ensure that your horse remains healthy and happy.