Why & When to feed Electrolytes?


Spring has sprung and the competition season has started. Although many of us are looking forward to warmer weather this is not always the same for our equine friends. Knowing why and when to feed electrolytes is crucial to help your horse to stay in tip top condition and enjoy the spring and summer.

Getting a sweat on, the facts:

  • Horses sweat to lose heat
  • The warmer it is the more they must sweat to maintain their body temperature
  • In hot conditions 10-15 litres of sweat can be lost per hour – equivalent to a full bucket of water!
  • Sweat also contains electrolytes
  • Equine sweat is more concentrated than blood, so a sweating horse loses proportionately more electrolytes than water
  • This means that sweating horses can lose massive amounts of both water and electrolytes
  • Electrolytes are crucial to making a horse feel thirsty (see box below)

Why feed an electrolyte supplement?

  • If electrolytes are not replaced after sweating the horse will not feel thirsty and will not drink – the horse will become dehydrated
  • Normal feed and forage does not contain adequate levels of electrolytes to replace those lost through significant sweating
  • Electrolyte supplements need to contain sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. So adding table salt to feed or supplying a salt block will not meet your horse’s needs

What are the signs of dehydration?

  • Unfortunately the early signs of dehydration are not easily detectable in horses
  • Mild dehydration will cause horses to perform poorly. If your horse never seems at his best when being ridden or competing on warmer days, or regularly sweats a lot it is likely to be due to dehydration
  • Severe dehydration causes horses to become wobbly, overheat, which can lead to collapse and death

When to feed an electrolyte supplement?

  • Horses that regularly sweat when working, especially in warm weather
  • In hot weather even horses in light work will benefit from an electrolyte supplement
  • Horses that sweat when travelling or due to stress
  • Any horse that sweats excessively, regardless of the cause requires electrolytes

How to feed electrolytes?

  • One off episode of sweating (e.g. stress or travelling) – a single dose of electrolytes is likely to be effective
  • Significant one off episode of sweating (e.g. competing in warm weather) – feed electrolytes for a few days on and after the sweating
  • Regular sweating (e.g. schooling daily during warm or hot weather) – feed electrolytes daily
  • Nettex Electrolyte Maintenance Powder and Electrolyte Maintenance Liquid are ideal for regular use
  • Nettex Electrolyte Syringe Paste Boost is ideal for one off use or as a ‘Top-up’

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for our Q&A session on electrolytes and calmers when I will be available to answer any questions that you may have

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