Confused about electrolytes? Well we couldn’t really blame you! There are so many on the market, covering a whole range of price points and some people even choose just to feed regular table salt. So does your horse really need this often misunderstood supplement? Well hopefully we can help clear it up a little so you can make an informed decision on the best product for your horse

Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in the blood and tissues of the body. They carry a positive or negative charge and can bind with another ion to make a ‘salt’. They help to preserve the correct balance of fluids in the body’s cells and are involved in muscle function and the processing of wastes. Deficiencies cause dehydration, impaired performance and may exacerbate clinical problems such as azoturia.

A natural salt bed

The key electrolytes to focus on supplementing are:

Sodium (Na+)
Chloride (Cl−)
Potassium (K+)
Magnesium (Mg2+)
Calcium (Ca2+)

Horses can lose electrolytes daily through sweating, urination and defecation. Horses rely on sweating to control body temperature during exercise and during periods of exertion such as competition and training, electrolyte losses can be considerable, particularly during hot weather. Even under normal exercise conditions, a 500kg horse could lose 10 litres of sweat during two hours of exercise. It is important however to remember that horses can also sweat a lot during cold weather, if they are worked hard and not fully clipped. Electrolyte supplementation should not only be a “summer” concern and should be considered in winter too.

Sodium chloride (table salt) can be made available for the horse ad lib in the form of a salt block or by mixing in with their feed. Supplementing a tablespoon of table salt daily will ensure you horse receives sufficient sodium chloride however this will not cover the other essential electrolytes, potassium, magnesium and calcium, mentioned above.

Signs of electrolyte deficiency in horses include:

Dull coat
Sunken eyes
Poor performance
Dark urine

The horse’s body cannot retain water without the presence of electrolytes, so simply offering water after exercise will not rehydrate your horse. Electrolytes should be added to either the water or the feed.

Adding electrolytes to water to form an isotonic solution (a solution that contain the same electrolyte concentrations as that of the body fluids) will ensure that both fluid and electrolyte losses are replenished and the horse becomes quickly rehydrated. However, after prolonged sweating it will take several days of electrolyte supplementation to completely replenish losses.

Alternatively, if your horse is a poor drinker or there is no opportunity to replace fluid losses during the competition, electrolytes may be fed alongside a small amount of concentrate feed. Electrolyte pastes are also available. However, a large single dose can cause the horse to absorb water from the blood vessels surrounding the gut and actually worsen the effects of dehydration in the short term.

If you want an extra intense muscle recovery boost, try pairing your electrolytes with an amino acid supplement such as NAF’s M Power. A unique natural formula, M Power provides key amino acids which, as the building blocks of protein, are vitally important for healthy muscle tissue growth, and naturally sourced anti-oxidants which work in synergy with select herbal ingredients to ensure, smooth, healthy muscle function. These primary ingredients are supported by the necessary vitamins and trace elements needed for performance, plus targeted nutrients, including live probiotic yeast, to optimise the digestive process, enabling efficient utilisation of the key muscle building ingredients. M Power is designed to naturally support muscle development in young, growing horses, or any horse following time off work or showing signs of muscle wastage. Fed as part of the daily diet, M Power will help to maintain optimum muscle strength, power and stamina in fit competition horses.

We stock this alongside both liguid and powdered electrolytes here at Whipley and our friendly , knowledgeable staff can help you find the best one to suit your needs