Basics of Electrolytes for Horses

Basics of Electrolytes for HorsesLet’s face it, the summer heat takes its toll…know the basics of electrolytes for horses to protect them! Based on the article, horses use their sweat to regulate their body temperature. Equine sweat is more concentrated with salt (sodium and chloride) than other body fluids. In result, horses lose a tremendous amount of electrolytes during these harsh, hot summer months. So what exactly are electrolytes? They help the body regulate water levels to maintain a balance between dilution and dehydration. There are five major electrolytes. These include sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Understanding how each one affects your horse is vital.

  1. Sodium and Chloride: These two play a factor in maintaining blood volume. They are the first to be released when a horse sweats. Imagine Sodium and Chloride as partners. Sodium leaves the body in sweat first, then water follows.
  2. Potassium: This is one of the most important electrolytes to your horse. It is required for muscle contraction and relaxation. Some horses require more or less than others in their diet but it is still present in a healthy horse.
  3. Calcium: This is essential for muscle function. Without this electrolyte, your horse’s body will break down and become weak.
  4. Magnesium: This is a vital component of body fluids.

Maintaining a balance between these can be tricky. Giving a dehydrated horse concentrated electrolytes can actually worsen conditions. But don’t worry, we have a solution! For starters, all horses should have free-choice access to loose salt or a salt block. Good-quality forage should provide adequate potassium. Together, these feedstuffs should provide sufficient electrolytes for the average horse. For any additional information, see the whole article here.

Presented by Kentucky Equine Research