Why feed Electrolytes - we take a closer look
A horse’s body is nearly 70% water and horses are designed to lose heat through sweat and do this extremely efficiently, however horses also lose heat by an increased respiration rate, which in turn causes the horse to lose more water. Equine sweat is hypertonic which means that it contains a higher concentration of salts than in actual body fluid — which means that a sweating horse loses proportionately more electrolytes than water. One litre of sweat is estimated to dissipate heat resulting from 1–2 minutes of extreme work or about 5 minutes of sub-maximal work, be it summer or winter.
WHY FEED THEM?
When your horse sweats, he also loses valuable electrolytes, responsible for the correct function of nerves and muscles, and re-hydration is very important to maintaining performance. Offering water alone to a dehydrated horse does not restore the balance between water and electrolytes that is essential to maintain such correct functioning. Instead it serves to delay even further the natural thirst mechanism, so the best way to ensure that your horse is correctly hydrated is to feed electrolytes either in the feed or water to stimulate your horse to drink.
All horses should have access to salt –either through adding to feed (roughly 2oz per day) or via a salt lick, however for those horses in hard work – electrolytes are an important aspect of nutritional care.
The main electrolytes are chloride, sodium and potassium with lower levels – but still important calcium and magnesium. It should be noted that electrolytes cannot be stored up by the horse, so feeding large amounts in the build up to a competition is fruitless however, used sensibly in the days running up to a competition and afterwards will stimulate water intake, so that the horse enters the competition fully hydrated as well as maintaining optimum performance afterwards.
WHAT CAN ELECTROLYTES HELP PREVENT?
Electrolyte loss can result in conditions such as thumps, otherwise known as asynchronous diaphragmatic flutter. This is a little like hiccups in that the horse’s flank twitches and it makes an audible thump, hence the name. It is not really harmful in itself, but indicates that a severe electrolyte disturbance is present.
The more serious effects that a lack of electrolytes in the horse’s system can cause include azoturia (tying up), which can cause a horse to collapse. There is also an alarming syndrome of heat stroke and dehydration, often lumped together as “the exhausted horse complex”, which is the great fear for anyone competing a horse in hot, humid conditions.
The key is to ensure that you replace fluid and electrolytes at every opportunity. It is advisable to allow frequent small drinks when exercising, and extremely dangerous to withhold water before competing.
Water and electrolytes are normally replenished by a horse’s normal diet, but they may not get the opportunity to do this in a lengthy competition situation. To prevent this imbalance, we have created the Nettex Electrolyte Range.
The Nettex Electrolyte Range has been formulated to help replace vital salts that are lost through any form of sweating brought on from strenuous exercise, travelling or stress-related conditions.
Ideal for using during the hotter months and competition season, the Electrolyte Range is available in powder or a syringe paste.