Electrolytes and the Performance Horse: Part 1
Cameron Jensen - Monday, November 20, 2017
The heat is on! During Summer, extremes in temperature and humidity can be harmful to horses. For performance horses in particular, a demanding training and competition regime can result in rapid water and electrolyte loss.
In this new series, we discuss the essential electrolytes that power performance and the steps you can take to reduce the risk of dehydration, heat stress and heat exhaustion.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are imperative for heathy bodily function.
Of the electrolytes found in horse sweat, sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium are the most well known. However, following intense exercise, a number of other important trace minerals may also be lost, including phosphorus, manganese and copper.
While many horse owners understand that lost electrolytes must be replaced, it’s important to also understand the role of each major electrolyte within the body.
In Summer, electrolyte loss is only worsened by high heat and humidity. As such, rehydration will be paramount in protecting your horse’s health, wellbeing and performance this season.
Let’s begin with sodium and chloride.
Sodium and chloride
Sodium and chloride - the two components of salt - are easily lost in sweat. Along with potassium, horses will lose a higher percentage of sodium and chloride, as a result of sweating, than calcium and magnesium.
Within the horse’s body, sodium and chloride are imperative for hydration. Without them, your horse is at increased risk of dehydration, impaction, colic and tying up. However, insufficient sodium and chloride also affect:
- Body pH
- Hormone balance
- Blood sugar regulation
- The transmission of glucose
- Nerve and musculoskeletal function
- Hoof and coat health
For an animal that’s 60% water, the importance of sodium and chloride can’t be underestimated. In a 450kg horse, that’s a whopping 270kg of water!
Replenishing sodium and chloride loss
The average horse requires approximately two teaspoons of salt per day. It’s important that you consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist to determine how much salt your performance horse requires. However, adding extra salt to their diet is a good place to start.
This is done best in two ways, including:
- Add two teaspoons of salt to your horse’s feed once per day to ensure your horse is receiving adequate salt.
- Provide a salt block in their paddock or stall to allow your horse to voluntarily seek out sodium and chloride.
Following intense exercise, an electrolyte replacer can be given to your horse to rebalance any deficiencies in sodium and chloride. However, at all times, ensure your horse also has access to fresh, clean drinking water.
At Running Cool, we genuinely care about your horse’s health and wellbeing. Our superior horse feed range supports your horse at every stage of life with well-balanced vitamins, minerals and protein for pleasure and performance. Click here to learn more.