- August 4, 2021
- Jolyn Young
Electrolytes. They’ve been a mainstay buzzword for years in the performance horse world. Professional competitors smile at us from the pages of glossy magazines and attest to how much such-and-such brand has drastically improved their performance. Online ads tell us we need to give them to our equine partners in order for them to stay healthy during the hot summer months.
But, what are electrolytes? An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. They are essential for numerous bodily functions, and horses need them to survive. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, and calcium. People need them too, and we usually get ours through fruit, vegetables, and unfiltered water.
So, do we really need to supplement our horse’s diet with them? The short answer is “no.”
“If the horse is getting enough water and eating and drinking, they don’t need electrolytes,” said David Faught, DVM.
Dr. Faught said clients often call his clinic concerned that their horses will get dehydrated in the summer, especially if they’re traveling to compete in a hot, humid area like the Midwest. He recommends riders offer plenty of hay and free choice water to stave off dehydration.
“The horse gets the electrolytes through his feed and water,” he said. “If a horse is drinking water and doesn’t have diarrhea from an illness, he gets (an adequate amount) through his feed and water.”
Exceptions to this general rule include endurance rides, when a horse can get lathered with white, foamy sweat. In this case, he might need to receive supplemental electrolytes. But for the average rider or competitor, packaged electrolytes are more a marketing ploy than an actual need.
So, there you have it straight from the (horse) vet’s mouth: Save your money on electrolytes pastes and powders. Feed quality forages and/or grains on a regular schedule, offer clean water at all times, and provide free-choice salt blocks.
At least one aspect of horsekeeping just got a whole lot simpler. Hope this helps your summer of riding go just a little bit smoother!
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....