Like humans, equine athletes need time to recover between extreme athletic efforts, and this is especially true of racehorses during the highly competitive Triple Crown series. Though a typical horse race takes only a couple of minutes to run, complete recovery can take days or even weeks while the horse restores muscle glycogen, heals microtrauma in bones and soft tissue, and replenishes fluids and electrolytes.
In an article published by Wired, KER President and equine nutritionist Joe Pagan, PhD, commented on another factor that affects today’s racehorses.
In past decades, horses that were “bleeders” were hampered in races by some degree of pulmonary hemorrhage caused by extreme effort. The use of Lasix (or Salix), a diuretic, is widespread in today’s racing Thoroughbreds. While Lasix is effective in lessening or eliminating bleeding during races, it also causes horses to lose up to 50 times the normal amount of calcium, sodium and other minerals through increased urination.
Horses can regain the lost fluids naturally in about three days, but rebuilding stores of important electrolytes can take much longer, according to Pagan. Because calcium and sodium are essential for metabolic processes and nerve function, this slow restocking might affect the horse’s ability to train well after Lasix administration.
As president of Kentucky Equine Research, Pagan designed studies leading to the development of Race Recovery, a product package that helps horses rebound more quickly after Lasix administration and hard work. Oral paste doses given within hours after a race are followed by electrolyte powder doses that provide highly digestible forms of key minerals, supporting a speedy recovery from exercise.