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Electrolytes for Horses: How to Supplement Mineral Salts Lost with Sweat

Electrolytes for horses
electrolytes horses

Electrolytes for horses are elements that conduct electricity in solution. The most important in horses are sodium, potassium, chlorine, calcium and magnesium and they supervise over numerous functions such as muscle contraction, osmosis of body fluids, base/acid balance and the transmission of nervous impulses. They are all essential for the horses life, but in particular Sodium, Potassium and Chlorine must be supplied in larger quantities through feeding because they are considerably eliminated with sweat. Unlike man’s, in fact, the horse’s sweat is hypertonic, means that it contains a high amount of salts. In the horse it is important to drink water and refill with electrolytes to maintain the correct balance which is called “electrolyte balance”.

Electrolytes for horses: What happens when a horse is sweating?

Sweating is used by the horse to disperse heat and evaporation reaches up to 65%. It has been calculated that the amount of heat generated in 1-2 minutes of a very intense physical exercise by a horse can be degenerate by evaporating 1 liter of sweat. During exercise, the first increase in temperature can improve performance because aerobic energy production is increased. However, the more physical effort increases, the larger is the production of temperature in the muscle, even more than 50 times. This high temperature comes from the conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work, but only 25% of the energy is then altered into work and 75% generates only body heat, which must be dissipated during or after exercise.

Electrolytes sport horse

Are electrolytes lost only with sweat?

It is often preferred to replace the loss of electrolytes for horses exposed to intense sporting activity or when the external temperature is very high. All situations concerning a loss of electrolytes for horses such as salivation, foal feeding, lactating and soft feces are underestimated erroneously.

Where are electrolytes for horses absorbed?

The absorption of electrolytes for horses, in addition to the absorption of water, happens at the blind-colon level, for this reason: the intestinal tract involved must be in good health to allow this. The health management of this digestive segment assumes importance on the hydration status of sport horses. To support the physiology of the intestine, some electrolytes such as Reidral + CY contain inulin, a prebiotic that promotes transit and helps to regulate the fermentations of cecum.

Electrolytes for horses

Electrolytes for horses: what sweat eliminates and how much?

There are several studies on horses and the loss of sweat with exercise, some of which have shown that horses exposed to endurance or cross country competitions can lose from 2 to 7.4% of their body weight in a single day. If we consider a horse weight of 500 kg and an average loss of 5%, we can say that in a single day a horse can lose about 25 kg of body weight and can even produce 30 liters of sweat in 5 hours. In racehorses, the loss is about 10 liters for a mile race. Dehydrated horses can have a decrease in plasma volume which inevitably leads to a reduction in the perfusion capacity of skeletal muscle and skin, with a consequent decrease in performance, tiredness and sometimes hyperthermia.

Electrolytes for horses, how much is important water for the horse?

water horse

A horse at rest normally drinks between 15 and 35 liters of water, depending on the type of feed eaten (grass or hay), the quantity of protein and minerals in the diet. Important to always pay attention to the available water and delivery mechanisms such as pipes and drinking bowls. The most frequent appearances of poor water intake are: variable appetite, decreased performance and constipation. Hot weather and fatigue reduce the sense of hunger and thirst; a dehydrated and tired horse is a horse that is more likely to suffer injuries as well as poor performance. Mineral salts are used to induce the horse to drink, replenish the electrolytes lost by sweating and therefore restore the electrolyte balance.

Electrolytes for horses: how to choose mineral salts for your horse?

First of all, on the market, we find a different kind of electrolytes in paste, powder and liquid. Balanced formulations with raw materials and bioavailable additives are preferable. Liquid products generally contain few salts due to a normal saturation of the solution. For this reason, it is useful to supplement horse diets with complementary feed in paste or in powder form. Physical activity leads to an increase in the production of free radicals that damage muscle cells and various organs. Usually to the most important mineral salts: sodium, potassium, magnesium chloride and D-calcium phosphate, antioxidants such as Vitamin C are added, to protect cells from oxidative stress.

Electrolytes for horses

Master Lyte, Equiplanet complementary feed contains vitamin C and Maltodextrins which gives energy during competitions. Higher quality products such as Reidral + CY also bring other antioxidants such as vitamin E, Selenium and Glycine to protect cells, especially muscle cells. Finally, the most innovative and complete products, such as Reidral + CY contain lactic acid buffers such as citric acid and sodium propionate. It is important to specify that the sugars contained in these complementary feeds increase the bioavailability of the electrolytes and they are also important for palatability. The best thing we advise is to add it gradually to the feed, to get the horse slowly used to the flavour.

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Electrolytes for horses: which one to avoid?

Important to avoid too cheap products since they are often formulated with poor quality or incorrectly balanced raw materials and additives. It is better to trust companies that have been dealing with horse nutrition for a long time and have seen results in the field over the years. Blocks of salt are not recommended, as the only source of integration. These generally contain only sodium chloride, which is a common cooking salt, which certainly increases the sense of thirst, but the water consumed cannot be retained in the body and is quickly eliminated, with consequent persistence of dehydration. Furthermore, the quantities of salt that the horse manages to take on a daily basis from a salt-block are very lower than those recommended to replenish the electrolytes.

When is suitable to give Electrolytes for horses?

horse showers electrolytes

The important thing is to carefully evaluate how much your horse drinks, pushable watering system are frequent in the stables, to which it would be appropriate to place a measuring dispenser to accurately check the quantities of water taken. The salts should always be administered when the horse rest because in this way it has available water. The addition of electrolytes without continuous access to water can significantly increase the osmolarity of the gastric contents and decrease the gastric emptying, for this reason, important to avoided during competitions. Paste electrolytes for horses formulations such as Reidro Fast are comfortable to bring to the competitions, also useful for the presence of buffers, but you must always administer them keeping in mind what was mentioned here above. In conclusion, it is better to supply mineral salts in the evening, when the horse is in the box after training or competition and it has the possibility to drink water at disposal.

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If you have any question regarding the use of the right electrolytes for horses or what kind of products needed for your horse or your stable, send an email to and our experts nutritionist will be able to advise you. Do not hesitate to contact us.


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