Horses have a fabulous built-in tool for keeping their bodies cool in summer heat: they sweat. The equine system reduces temperature by releasing surface moisture, which creates a cooling effect when it evaporates.
So all that a horse needs to keep that system working is plenty of water to keep replenishing the released moisture, right? Well, not quite.
The chemistry isn’t that simple. There are minerals that her body needs to maintain the right balance of hydration. They’re called electrolytes. If your horse sweats a lot (from rigorous training or excessive heat) she can run low on electrolytes and suffer from dehydration even though she has plenty of water.
To learn how to tell if your horse is dehydrated, read here: http://www.redmondequine.com/dehydratedhorse/ In addition to regulating fluids, electrolytes are essential in proper muscle function and eliminating waste from your horse’s body.
Signs of long-term electrolyte deficiency include:
- Dark urine
- Dull coat
- Sunken eyes
- Poor performance
Fortunately, it’s easy to restore electrolytes to your pony’s system. You can add electrolytes to her feed, treats, or water, or you can administer them in an oral paste.
The essential electrolytes for horses are:
- Sodium (Na)
- Chloride (Cl)
- Potassium (K)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Calcium (Ca)
When you purchase electrolytes to supplement your horse’s diet, make sure the product you buy contains all of these minerals.
Do all horses need electrolyte supplements?
All horses need the minerals we call electrolytes. But if you look at the list (above), you’ll notice that these are minerals found in grass, hay, pelleted feeds, and salt blocks.
It’s not very likely that a young and healthy horse needs electrolyte supplements year-round. However, during times when your horse sweats a great deal -- working in the summer, extra-hot days, or very high performance days, it’s a good idea to supplement her diet with extra amounts of these minerals.
Talk with your vet about whether electrolyte supplements are right for your equine partner.