As we start into the warmer season, keeping horses hydrated is top of the priority list. Providing the performance horses with electrolytes through an equine supplement (especially during the spring and summer months) should be priority for maintaining top performance and healthy horses. Dehydration can affect your horse’s performance in a negative way. Electrolytes are chemical substances that are essential to the proper functioning of muscles, nerves and kidneys. Horses lose electrolytes in a number of ways; sweat, saliva, urine and diarrhoea.
Losses of sodium, Potassium and chloride in sweat can cause muscle fatigue and weakness; also decreasing the horse’s thirst response to dehydration. Preparation is key in order to stop excessive electrolyte loss during an intense workout or competition; the horse should start out with adequate electrolyte and hydration levels supplied through an equine supplement.
Heat is constantly created within the horse’s body due to muscle contraction. Excess heat must then be expelled from the body; this is done primarily through sweating and some through respiration. Horses are known to sweat up to 15 litres per hour; they sweat at a much higher rate than any other mammal. This may be seen as a very efficient cooling method but it also causes the horse to lose higher quantities of electrolytes through sweat. They also lose large amount of water which can create dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Electrolytes are minerals necessary for an extensive range of body functions; some of these include fluid regulation in and out of cells, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Any depletion of electrolytes can lead to premature muscle fatigue, poor recovery time, muscle cramps, reduced stamina and tying up.
Each mineral has its own function:
- Sodium – balances body water levels and regulates blood pressure.
- Potassium – optimises muscle and kidney function
- Chloride – maintains acid/base balance
- Magnesium – enhances good nerve function and it is important for muscle function and bone formation
An electrolyte imbalance can occur if a horse sweats 10 litres per hour or more, therefore replacement is vital both post exercise for optimum health and performance. It has been shown that replacement is most effective when carried out over longer periods using an electrolyte in the form of a vitamin and mineral supplement for horses. The amount of electrolyte supplement used will vary depending on the degree of fitness, work levels and environment. A carbohydrate should also be present in the electrolyte supplement to help with absorption.
Pre supplementation up to 4 hours prior to competition is said to slow fatigue of muscles by up to 23%. For horses engaged in heavy exercise, especially in hot climates, electrolyte supplementation has a valuable role in preventing metabolic distress. Feeding electrolytes is an important part of a successful equine performance supplements programme.
Recommended PEAK products includes PEAKS Electrolytes.