Should I give electrolytes to my horse?

When horses sweat a lot either outdoors in hot climates or during exercise, they lose water and electrolytes. The same phenomenon happens to you as a rider, when you sweat. For instance, have you ever had a very had training session after which you really wanted to eat and drink? That’s because your body got dehydrated and required more water and salts.

A horse’s body, just like ours, is a complex system that requires water and electrolytes to survive. Electrolytes are essential for maintaining your horse’s health and well-being.

What are electrolytes and why are they important?

The main electrolytes in a horse’s body are sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate. When these electrolytes are dissolved in water, for instance, they form electronically charged particles, or ions.

As a normal, average horse is about a 1000 pounds and is made of 65% water, it makes the horse’s body the perfect environment for electrolytes to perform their duties.

Electrolytes have multiple important functions, which include, for instance, the following:

  • Temperature control
  • Fluid transport across cell membranes
  • Muscle and heart contraction
  • Respiration
  • Digestion
  • Ion transport
  • Neurological function
  • Energy production

and much, much more.

How do I know if my horse needs electrolytes?

Electrolytes are naturally lost every day through sweating, manure and urine. If you think your horse may not be getting enough electrolytes, look for the following signs:

  • Dull hair and coat
  • Depression
  • Poor performance
  • Sunken eyes
  • Eating dirt
  • Tying up
  • Weight loss
  • Ulcers

Usually, horses get enough electrolytes from their well balanced food, such as hay and grain. However, performance horses and horses who have suffered from illness, for instance from diarrhea, may need some extra electrolytes.

When should my performance horse get electrolytes?

Performance horses are in great need of electrolytes on days when they train very hard. Especially showjumpers and eventers often perform at highest levels and thus sweat a lot and need tome replenishment.

You can give electrolytes for your horse after exercise as an addition to their food. Electrolytes will help your horse to recover faster and drink more water (salt helps horses drink more), which helps their recovery rate and decreases soreness in their muscles.

There are also specially made pastes that you can give your horse anywhere, any time. It may be a good idea to pack a tube of electrolytes with you when you go out for a weekend-long show! So, double check that in addition to your safety stirrups, girth and bell boots, you also have a tube of electrolytes with you.

Conclusion

Electrolytes are a very important part of a horse’s well-being. Especially, if your horse sweats a lot during training, extra electrolytes might be a great idea.

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