electrolytes are nothing more than minerals which are already present in
the animal’s body, albeit in a slightly different form. Cellular function –
which is driven by electrical charges – is controlled by electrolytes. When too
many of them are lost through sweat, the cellular functions are inhibited. Thus,
supplementation is the process of reintroducing into the horse’s system the
minerals it has lost, and thereby cellular functionality is restored.
Obviously it is the ideal to replace the amounts of electrolytes that are lost
during exercise. To this end, it is important to purchase supplements that
actually contain the correct minerals in their proper quantities. Generally
speaking, any electrolyte supplement ought to consist of at least 50 percent
chloride, 20 percent sodium, 15 percent of potassium, and only about one percent
of other trace minerals, such as calcium and also magnesium. Mix the supplement
into the horse’s feed – some may be mixed into the water – and perhaps even add
a bit of sugar (about five percent of dextrose) to increase palatability and
also digestibility in the gut.
Some horse owners report that their animals will not eat feed mixed with
electrolyte supplements, and for those with the more picky horses there are
other solutions available. You may therefore need to be a bit more creative,
such as making a palatable mash of the feed, supplement, and beet pulp.
Conversely, you may also mix electrolytes with applesauce or yogurt to give to
your horse as a treat. No matter how you present the animal with the
supplemented feed, it is imperative that the animals will drink one gallon of
water to offset each ounce of consumed electrolytes. Failure to ensure this will
result in severe dehydration.
For those ready to supplement, keep in mind that you only need supplementation
during the days that your horse will sweat. Thus, if you know that your animal
will attend an event three days hence, it is a good idea to begin
supplementation now and even continue it until about two days after the event.
Many horse owners find that only about two ounces of supplement are needed for
most working situations, while two ounces should be supplemented for each hour
of strenuous activity that takes place in hot conditions.
Prior to competitions the use of electrolyte supplementation will prevent
early tiring, and some horse owners have actually reported that they have
noticed a slight advantage of performance. Yet be careful not to overdo the
supplementation since they are simply excreted. Additionally, do not forget to
monitor your animal’s water intake since the water is the key to creating a
solution in the gut that can be absorbed by the blood stream.