Does Your Horse Need Electrolytes?

Many pleasure horse owners think that it's just top competition horses that need electrolytes.  Electrolytes are not ordinarily included in standard feeds, and there are a number of occasions when you should consider supplementing your horse's diet with a suitable electrolyte product.

Why feed electrolytes

The purpose of electrolytes is to replace salts and other minerals that the horse loses through excess sweating.  Such deficiencies can cause serious health problems for your horse including lethargy, loss of condition and poor coordination in his movement; that's why it's so important to supplement him.

When should you consider giving your horse electrolytes?

Horses in hard work should be given electrolytes if they sweat profusely.  Always bear this in mind if you work your horse harder or for longer than he is used to.  This is particularly important during spells of hot, humid weather when horses find it more difficult to lose body heat and consequently sweat-up more easily. 

It's not necessary to feed your horse an electrolyte supplement every day if he's not in hard work or otherwise stressed.  Although not harmful, the horse's body will simply excrete any unused supplementation in his urine, and you'll have wasted your money.  During periods of light work, colder weather or rest, a free-choice salt lick is all that your horse needs to keep his sodium levels adequate.  You can buy salt and mineral licks from your feed supplier.  Place one in your horse's stable near his water buckets or out in the field so that he can help himself when he wants to.

What electrolyte to buy

It's important that the electrolyte you choose is easily absorbed by your horse so that his metabolism can make use of it quickly.  Look for combinations of chloride and/or calcium acetate in the ingredients as these are the most rapidly absorbed.  Electrolytes with bicarbonate content are intended purely for the re-hydration of horses suffering from diarrhoea and should not be used as an exercise supplement.  Ask your feed supplier for guidance on which type of electrolyte to buy.

When to give electrolytes

Give your horse electrolytes a couple of hours before he is going to travel or prior to hard work.  On long journeys stop every few hours to offer your horse a drink, then give him electrolytes.

If you're on a long ride in high temperatures and humidity, offer your horse water when you stop for a break then give him electrolytes.  Be aware of distress signs like excess sweating, fatigue and a refusal to accept water or food.  If your horse appears distressed, rest him in the shade and sponge him down with water.  Strip off any excess so that the heat does not remain trapped in his wet coat.  He should recover within 15 minutes.

At the end of exercise or when the stressful situation is over, offer your horse a drink and give him electrolytes to help him recover.

In conclusion

Maintaining the right levels of salt and minerals in your horse's body is essential for his health.  It may be necessary to supplement him with electrolytes which can be obtained from your feed supplier.

For more information, check out companies such as Nerang Stockfeed.