Electrolytes for your horse: all you need to know!

Elektrolyten voor paarden - Global Medics

If you are actively involved in equestrian sports, you have certainly heard of the term ‘electrolytes’. You may also know that a horse loses important salts and minerals, or also called electrolytes, when sweating. These substances are important for your horse’s water balance. It is therefore advisable to replenish them in time in order to avoid any discomfort. A shortage of electrolytes can result in the following:

  • A dull coat.
  • Tense muscles.
  • Reduced willingness to work.
  • Dehydration.
  • Poorer performance.

How an electrolyte supplement can benefit your horse’s health and how to ensure proper recovery from a deficiency, you’ll discover it in this blog!

 

What are electrolytes for horses?

Electrolytes are substances that dissolve in body fluids, creating electrically charged ions. An example that everyone knows is table salt (NaCl). When dissolved in water, it splits into two separate ions: a positively charged sodium ion (Na+) and a negatively charged chloride ion (Cl-). 

Electrolytes are crucial for your horse’s health. They regulate the fluid balance in the body, energy management, pH balance, the tension and relaxation of muscles and signal transmission from the brain and nervous system. It is important to note that the body cannot produce electrolytes itself, but must obtain them from food and drinking water.

The most important electrolytes for horses are chloride (Cl-), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+). Each has its own function within the body:

Electrolyte                                              Function
Sodium Helps regulate fluid balance in the body, blood pressure and proper functioning of muscle and nerve cells.
Potassium Essential for the contraction of muscle fibres and for a good conduction of nerve impulses.
Chloride Together with sodium and potassium, it ensures the fluid balance in the body.
Calcium Helps to build strong bones.
Magnesium Involved in the formation of bones and teeth and the transmission of nerve impulses. It also ensures normal muscle function.

Global Medics Electrolytes ensures rapid recovery thanks to the presence of numerous active ingredients. In addition, we have added amino acids that promote rapid recovery of the fluid balance. This makes Global Medics Electrolytes a complete product suitable for both recreational and sport horses.

 

When is it advisable to feed electrolytes to your horse?

After intensive training, competition or long transport, it is recommended to provide your horse with extra electrolytes. During hot days it is always a good idea to feed electrolytes as your horse sweats a lot and loses large amounts of minerals and salts.

The table below shows you how much sweat and salt your horse loses on average according to the sweat score:

Sweat score Characteristics Average sweat loss Salt loss per day
1 Under the saddle, it’s partly damp and sticky. The neck and flanks are slightly darker than normal.  1 to 4 litres 2 to 7 teaspoons
2 It is wet under the saddle and on the neck. There is some foam where the reins touch the neck and along the saddle.  4 to 7 litres 7 to 12 teaspoons
3 Under the bridle, on the neck and the flanks are visibly wet with some foam spots here and there. 7 to 9 litres 12 to 16 teaspoons
4 Neck and flanks are completely wet. There is white foam between the hind legs. 9 to 12 litres 16 to 21 teaspoons
5 Same as sweat score 4, but there is also sweat dripping above the eyes and belly. 12 to 18 litres 21 to 32 teaspoons

Source: Zeyner et al 2013; Weight losses in excercised horses, a pilot study 

Tip: Want to quickly find out if your horse has a fluid or electrolyte deficiency? Then you can take a fold of skin on the neck between your thumb and forefinger. When you let go, the fold of skin should disappear immediately. Does it take a while for the fold to go away? Then it is almost certain that the water and electrolyte balance is disturbed.

 

How should I administer Electrolytes?

To make it easier to administer this powdered product, you can mix Global Medics Electrolytes with slobber or apple sauce. The best method of giving electrolytes is to mix them with lukewarm water. This ensures that your horse gets enough fluids after exertion.  

Horse owners often add table salt to the horse’s feed. This is not a good idea as it only contains sodium chloride. Choosing a fully balanced product such as Global Medics Electrolytes ensures that your horse gets all the substances it needs to avoid an electrolyte deficiency. 

 

General hot weather tips

In addition to supplementing electrolytes, there are a number of other actions you can take during high temperatures to make it as comfortable as possible for your horse:

  1. Make sure there is enough fresh drinking water. A horse drinks up to 30 litres of water in normal weather, but this can rise to 60 litres in hot weather.
  2. Avoid training during the hottest hours of the day. Is it really too hot? Then give your faithful friend a day’s rest.
  3. Provide cooling. For example, spray your horse with fresh water or provide a cooling blanket. 
  4. Use sun cream on horses with a light skin around the nose to avoid sunburn. 
  5. Keep an eye on the quality of the pasture grass. The heat can cause the nutritional value of the grass to drop significantly. This can be recognised by its yellowish colour and dryness. In this case, it is wise to give your horse extra roughage.

 

More information?

Not sure whether you need to feed your horse electrolytes? Or do you still have questions after reading this blog? Then feel free to contact us. We at Global Medics are always ready to give you advice.