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Does my horse really need electrolytes?

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You can’t go running or spend time outside during the summer without seeing someone replenish their electrolytes. Whether it’s a sports drink or electrolyte chews, people find ways to stay hydrated by keeping this essential component in balance. Horses are no different. Especially in the wickedly hot summer months, they need electrolytes to stay healthy, hydrated, and at the top of their game.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are components of salts (or mineral salts) that carry an electric charge (as ions) when dissolved in fluids. Roughly 2⁄3 of the horse’s body weight is fluid. This fluid is made up of water and electrolytes. Electrolytes assist with fluid balance and nerve conduction. Continuing to supplement your horse’s diet with electrolytes will keep him hydrated and able to withstand outside heat.

Sources of Electrolytes

  • Pure Salt Lick (white)
  • Salt and Mineral Lick (red)
  • Himalayan Salt (rock, pink). These usually have a rope so you can tie them higher up.
  • Table salt sprinkled over feed

When using a salt block, it’s important to remember that most horses are aware of how much they need to stay healthy and keep hydration levels high. There is no need to cut out chunks of salt for the horse, as he will lick off as much as he needs as often as he needs to.

When to Supplement

Sometimes a horse may lose more electrolytes than he is taking in. This may be attributed to his workload, extreme sports-like endurance, eventing, and racing, or the fact that he sweats like it’s his job. Endurance horses, for example, can lose 10 to 15 liters of fluid per hour when it’s hot, causing an extreme loss of electrolytes through sweating.

Equine athletes that are constantly training under extreme conditions might benefit from electrolyte supplements. These can be found in paste and powder forms. Just like with any health supplements, there are certain ingredients you will want to make sure are included. Two ingredients that should be at the top of the list are sodium chloride and potassium chloride. 

What’s the easiest way to help your horse get his daily electrolytes? Give him one to two heaping tablespoons of table salt. Either iodized or non-iodized will work well.

Carolina Equine Hospital

Do you think your horse may need to be started on electrolytes? Do you have questions about how to start giving them? Give our office a call! We are open for regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm.