WHY FEED ELECTROLYTES IN WINTER?
Electrolytes are as essential in the cold of winter as they are in the heat of the summer. In the cooler months, a horse will cut back on the amount of water they normally drink. Even though they are not sweating or in a warm environment, dehydration can still occur.
The risk of dehydration is the main reason why electrolytes are still important in winter.
Electrolytes activate thirst and rehydration of cells in the body. Without electrolytes, water cannot be properly retained and utilised by the horse’s body. They also help to move fluids in and out of cells and aid in nutrient absorption.
Other processes within the horse’s body that electrolytes are involved in are:
- Regulating heartbeat
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve pulse transmission
HOW TO AVOID DEHYDRATION IN WINTER?
An average size horse needs to consume about 40 litres of water daily even in very cold weather. This is due to the length of travel through the bowel and the intestinal contents containing a high moisture level. Inadequate electrolyte intake will not activate enough thirst for the volume of water intake required. By providing electrolytes, ensures adequate fluid intake is maintained for proper digestive function.
Along the intestinal tract, fluids are being actively secreted and then reabsorbed in the terminal portions of the colon. This fluid keeps things moving freely and ensures for good mixing of digestive contents, which assists in the absorption and fermentation process.
HOW ELECTROLYTES PREVENT COLIC?
Inadequate water consumption is the leading cause of impaction colic.
Sufficient electrolyte supply is crucial for a horse’s hydration and improves the consistency of the horses’ digestion and manure formed.
Adequate electrolyte levels help lower the risk of colic by activating thirst and hydration.
Water temperature is another reason horses can become dehydrated in winter. Researchers found that horses drank 38 percent more when offered buckets filled with hot/warm water twice daily compared to ambient, near-freezing water.
Ideally, horses have access to water all day, but the most crucial time is in the two to three hours after feeding.
WHY SUGAR & FILLER FREE ELECTROLYTES ARE BETTER?
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.