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Horse Care: How to Use Electrolytes
Horses have a higher muscle mass than humans, meaning their bodies generate more heat in less time. Horse muscle makes up 40% of a horse’s body mass, compared to only 20% in humans. The more muscles contract, the more heat the body has to deal with. And since horses have less skin surface area than humans for their size, they get rid of body heat.
For horses, the greatest risk of heat-induced dehydration actually comes from longer periods of work or low-intensity exercise. Because these exercises seem minimal, neither horses nor their owners notice the gradual but severe decline. Cold water is important to combat the heat, but since water is a product, water alone will further reduce the body’s electrolyte deficit, and will be excreted as urine because the kidneys recognize ingested water as an overload. . To combat this, proper use of electrolytes is essential to maintain the horse’s health during times of heat and body stress.
Choose a good electrolyte
In science, electrolytes are ionized living organic compounds. In everyday terms, electrolytes are what keep our bodies healthy and functioning properly. When we (or our horses) exercise, our bodies use electrolytes, and electrolytes are used up most quickly when the body is so hot that it sweats. Electrolyte supplements replace those lost in sweat to keep our bodies functioning properly as long as an appropriate amount of nutritious food and water is administered.
When purchasing a supplement, it is important to choose one that mimics the sweat lost by your horse. Look for a product with about a 1:2:4 potassium:sodium:chloride ratio. This simply means that for every gram of potassium, there should be two grams of sodium and four grams of chloride. Also, try to avoid fillers because they reduce the efficiency of electrolytes and products without them are more direct.
It is also important to choose a supplement that tastes good. Horses can be picky, and, like children, don’t want to eat bad tasting treats.
Recognize the signs of Dehydration
Horses whose core body temperature has been significantly increased by short, intense exercise or long, easy, moderate exercise should be cooled with water and rehydrated with electrolytes. While electrolyte formulas should not be used on a daily basis, their use after hard work, competitions, or during long journeys is incredible.
An easy way to test for dehydration in your horse is by scratching the horse’s skin. If the skin rolls back easily, the horse is well-hydrated. But if the skin slowly returns to its original position, the horse needs special attention.
Electrolyte supplements come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy great options in pellets, powder, or pre-packaged syringes. The type you choose depends on how easily your horse eats or drinks in hot, stressful situations.
Knowing when to administer electrolytes is essential to your horse’s health and performance. If you expect to do very strenuous or strenuous activities, such as racing or horse riding, start giving your horse electrolytes a day or two before, during, and up to two days after the activity. For slightly less strenuous work, give your horse a dose an hour or two before work begins, and after work is finished.
In general, horses need 30 to 90 grams of electrolytes per hour of hard work, depending on their weight and outside temperature.
• Pellets – Pellet electrolytes are mixed directly into your horse’s feed during a normal feed. These work well if your horse is not a picky eater, and you are giving him electrolytes before a big event, a ride or a hard day’s work.
• Powders – Powders are more versatile and convenient than pellets. Powders can be mixed with feed in the same way as pellets, mixed with something like applesauce or yogurt, or mixed with water to make a horse sports drink.
• Syringes – Prepackaged kibbles are more expensive than pellets or powders, but very useful, especially for eager horses. All you have to do is pour the contents of the syringe into your horse’s mouth. You can fill your syringes with electrolytes by mixing two to three ounces of the powder with a paste like applesauce or yogurt and filling a clean syringe with the tasty solution.
It is important to never force feed your horse. If your horse is uncomfortable, focus on cooling him down and getting him into a more comfortable position before trying again.
Type: Salt Lick
For regular, daily electrolyte intake, make sure your horse has regular access to salt to keep his blood hydration levels up. Low sodium levels in the blood can cause dehydration, but the problem is usually self-resolving if you simply put a drop of salt in your horse’s hooves.
While electrolytes are needed for vigorous activity, too much can actually be toxic. Otherwise, only providing your horse with mixed-electrolyte water will promote his dehydration. Your horse should always have access to plain drinking water, and if possible, try to mix your horse’s electrolytes into his feed or administer it as a syringe, and keep his drinking water separate. . While mild dehydration can be managed and prevented by the horse owner, moderate to severe dehydration requires veterinary attention and possibly intravenous fluids.
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