We all know that Colorado weather can be extreme and unpredictable. When it’s cold, it’s really, really cold. And when it’s hot – well, it’s like walking on the surface of the sun. And while it seems like only yesterday that we were freezing and frostbitten, the Colorado Summer has arrived and with it, temperatures up to the 90s!
Yes you’re hot. But if you think you’ve got it bad, just imagine how hot your horse must be! Did you know that horses get hot up to 10 times faster than their human counterparts? And a horse’s sweat has four times the salt concentration ours does. This all means that rehydrating your horse after a hard workout is hugely important.
It goes without saying that with all of the sweat your horse loses in the ring and on the trail, it’s important that he (or she) has access to lots of clean water. But watering your horse without also replacing his electrolytes could harm him by diluting his bodily fluids too much.
Electrolytes, particularly sodium, chloride and potassium, help maintain proper fluid balances and crucial body processes and also impact nerve and muscle activity in horses. Sweating out too much of these can cause muscle fatigue, weakness and dehydration.
So how can you manage electrolytes to keep your darling pony healthy and in top performance this summer? Here are some things to consider:
- The level at which you should supplement electrolytes depends on your horse’s workload and diet. Electrolytes may be skimpy in poor hay and grain, but higher quality forage—like good hay and fresh, green grass—usually contains significant electrolytes, especially potassium. So provide your horse with good forage and give him regular access to a salt block or salt chips. For lightly or moderately exercised horses, that’s probably enough. But if your performance horse is working hard and sweating a lot, consider doing more.
- It’s important to know that dosing electrolytes to an already dehydrated horse can be dangerous, as electrolytes must be consumed in conjunction with water or the horse could be at risk for even more severe dehydration. Always offer your horse lots of water when providing electrolytes. Also, putting electrolytes in your horse’s water could decrease his water consumption if he doesn’t like the taste, so make sure he has access to another clean water source.
- When choosing the best electrolyte products for your horse, avoid those containing sugar.
- Just like electrolytes improve an athlete’s performance, they can also boost the performance of your sport horse in training and competitions. In anticipation of an upcoming competition, you can offer your horse a dose 1-2 days beforehand. This can stimulate your horse to increase his water intake and prepare him to shine.
While electrolyte balance is always important—especially for horses in heavy work—it is particularly important during these hot summer months. So remember electrolytes as well as water to help keep your horse happy, healthy and hydrated.
This blog is meant as a guide, not a rulebook. If in doubt, ask your vet!