WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES FOR HORSES?
Providing your horse with the essential electrolytes in the proper ratios, can result in better performance by improving power and stamina.
Electrolytes include the following minerals:
- Sodium (Na)
- Chloride (Cl)
- Potassium (K)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Calcium (Ca)
They are all essential in maintaining the right amount of fluid in and around your horse’s cells.
HOW DO ELECTROLYTES WORK?
Electrolytes are involved in key roles throughout the horse’s body.
Regulating heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve pulse transmission and digestion are all assisted by the electrochemical processes of electrolytes.
They also help to move fluids in and out of cells and aid in nutrient absorption. Without electrolytes, water cannot be properly retained and utilised by the horse’s body.
Horses naturally lose electrolytes through sweating, urine, and faeces, but gain them (in particular Potassium) by consuming grass, hay, and/or feed. The exceptions are sodium and chloride, which should always be provided in the form of salt added to the horse’s daily feed. (5-10g/100kg bodyweight daily)
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION?
It is critical to ensure electrolyte levels are at sufficient levels, if unbalanced or depleted, cell function in the muscles, gut, and heart will slow and in extreme conditions possibly shut down. Signs of severe dehydration are: uncoordinated muscle contraction, trembling, unsteady gait and muscle weakness. The horse may even lose interest in drinking as the physiological trigger that tells a horse to drink can also be impaired when dehydrated.
WHEN TO FEED ELECTROLYTES?
The key is balance, a horse that lightly sweats only requires salt to top up the sodium and chloride levels that are not at sufficient levels in the diet. Potassium supplementation is not required as it is abundant in hay and pasture.
Horses who sweat for prolonged periods should be supplemented electrolytes, as large amounts of sodium, potassium and chloride are lost. Potassium loss is approximately half as much as sodium, chloride loss is twice as much as sodium.
WHY CHOOSE SUGAR & FILLER FREE ELECTROLYTES?
One thing to keep in mind is that not all electrolyte supplements are created equal. Many contain sugar and other fillers, which aren’t desirable – especially for horses with insulin resistance and other metabolic conditions.
Sugar is not required for optimal electrolyte absorption and may excessively dilute the more valuable ingredients needed.
A horse does not require extra sugar or fillers especially when dehydrated, as they convert digestible fibre inside their body into glucose, glycogen and fat with the help of their beneficial gut microbes.
By providing your horse the necessary electrolytes lost in sweat from a quality product e.g CEN Complete Electrolyte, this will ensure they have the necessary elements available to improve power, stamina and perform to their potential.
Please contact us if you need guidance to balance the nutrient profile of your horse’s diet.
Written by Bryan Meggitt (BMedSc. PGCrtMedSc.)
Biochemist / Senior Scientist and Co-founder of CEN Horse Nutrition
Bryan is passionate about improving equine health through nutrition according to science & nature.