When your horse is working hard or during hot weather, you may need to supplement his feed with electrolytes. Occasions when you might supplement him include:
· when he is under stress; for example, during long trailer rides especially if he is not a seasoned traveller or if the weather is very warm;
· when you work your horse in conditions of high humidity and heat which make it very difficult for him to lose body heat;
· when he sweats heavily;
· when he is worked harder or for longer than he is used to.
You should always make free-choice salt available to your horse by means of a salt lick in his field or stable but don’t give him electrolytes in his feed on a daily basis if he’s not in hard training or otherwise stressed. If you’re unsure and decide to give him electrolytes when he doesn’t really need the, he will simply excrete them naturally and will come to no harm.
What electrolyte to buy
You should look for chloride and/or acetate combinations like calcium chloride, sodium chloride, potassium chloride or calcium acetate in the list of ingredients as these are quickly and easily absorbed. Avoid products that list corn syrup or dextrose as the first ingredient and contain di-calcium phosphate as this is not easily absorbed.
NB: Electrolytes containing bicarbonate are intended for horses suffering from diarrhoea and can be harmful when used as a supplement for stress and exercise.
When to give electrolytes
You need to give your horse electrolytes an hour or two before he travels or you are going to work him. If you’re travelling him to the beach or for a trail ride, give him the electrolytes before you load the then again before you set off on your ride if you travelled for an hour or more.
If your horse is going to be travelling for a long time, stop every three hours to offer him a drink and give a chance to stale if he wants to, then give him electrolytes. On long hacks, give him electrolytes every three to four hours.
If the temperature and humidity are higher than your horse is used to or the ride is more strenuous than he’s accustomed to, you’ll need to give electrolytes even during a shorter ride. You’ll need to do this on fittening rides too so watch for obvious signs of stress like rapid breathing and constant sweating.
When you stop for a rest, offer your horse food and water first so that he has the chance to refuel without the salty taste of electrolytes in his mouth and save them until you’re ready to move off again. If he is sweating excessively but refuses to eat or drink when you stop, this could be a sign of distress. Give him electrolytes and let him rest in the shade while he settles. If you can, cool him by sponging him down with water, remembering to strip the excess off. He should recover within 15 minutes or so and be ready to eat and drink. You can then continue your ride. If he does not show signs of recovery within this time frame, walk him quietly back to the trailer.
When the work or stressful situation is finished, give electrolytes to help him recover.
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.