Sweating is a natural mechanism used by horses to help regulate body temperature. Along with water, sweat also contains electrolytes that must be replenished to avoid dehydration and a reduction in performance.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are essential for maintaining osmotic pressure, fluid balance and nerve and muscle activity. They consist of five key minerals:
- Sodium and Chloride: Helps to maintain blood volume. Water follows sodium, therefore if water is lost in sweat so will sodium. But if sodium intake increases, so will water intake.
- Potassium: Required for muscle contraction and relaxation
- Calcium: For normal muscle function
- Magnesium: A component of body fluids
When and how to use electrolytes?
Salt is the only mineral that horses will source and therefore it is recommended to always provide a free-choice salt block to all horses or ponies. Good quality forage will provide sufficient amounts of potassium to meet requirements for horses in light to moderate work.
A common question asked to the Bluegrass Horse Feed team is why electrolytes are not included within a fortified feed. The answer to this is quite simple, energy demands and requirements remain the same during consistent work but electrolyte demands continuously change due to various factors such as weather or work intensities.
Horses in hard work, during hard training, traveling for long periods or working in hot weather should be supplemented with electrolytes. Most performance horses will have electrolytes included within their normal diets and fed prior to and post-competition.
Which to Choose?
There are a wide variety of electrolytes on the market, and it can be a little overwhelming when trying to choose one. An important element to remember is to check that sodium, chloride and potassium are the main ingredients, and try to avoid products that are glucose-based.
Kentucky Equine Research Restore SR, was developed with the latest technology in electrolyte therapy, a proprietary slow-release mechanism that allows sodium to be released gradually into the gastrointestinal tract for sustained absorption.
To help with encouraging water intake during hotter weather for horses Bluegrass Turmash can be a helpful product to have with you when our training or competing. Turmash is a highly palatable mash that can be made with extra water to encourage water intake and disguise electrolytes.
Contact the Bluegrass Horse Feed Nutritional helpline for further advice on electrolytes supplementation and products available.