We can’t forget that our horses need extra TLC during hot, summer days. Properly understanding how electrolytes work and how they affect your horse’s health is one way you can really learn to manage the heat.
What Are They, and What Do They Do?
Electrolytes are electrically-charged mineral salts that are a necessary part of every animal’s ability to stay healthy and to use their muscles and nerves—nerves like the brain! A horse’s major electrolytes are composed of sodium and chloride (which keep salt levels normal in the body), potassium and calcium (which regulate nerve and muscle responsiveness), and magnesium (which helps with enzyme reactions and muscle relaxation). Among other things, electrolytes also help the horse’s body control pH balance and regulate the transport of nutrients/waste in and out of the cells.
Why are Electrolytes Important?
Whenever horses are worked hard—especially in hot, humid weather—they sweat a lot to cool themselves down. These mineral salts are lost when a horse sweats, so the horse is losing both water and electrolytes. But get this: the more horses lose electrolytes, the harder it is for them to sweat, and no sweating means no cooling down. A lack of electrolytes could result in both dehydration and overheating—not to mention muscle cramping and impaired brain function.
How Can You Help?
Most of the time, a horse will get a majority of electrolytes from consuming forage, especially premium forage like Standlee’s. But depending on the conditions (the climate, age of the horse, or whether she is pregnant), you may need to add electrolyte supplements to the feeding routine.
Since a horse’s body doesn’t store electrolytes for future use (like how the body stores fat for when food is scarce), it is important to give these electrolytes during long endurance exercise and just after exercise. Sometimes, this is as simple as providing a salt block. Other times, you can add a commercial electrolyte powder to your horse’s feed. Don’t add it to the water since some horses may reject the water, which increases the threat of dehydration.
Standlee Forage products are ideal for making sure your horse has the adequate nutritional balance they need to stay healthy, especially during the summer. Check out some great forage options to keep your horse supplied with a balanced diet at standleeforage.com.