On warmer days, horses have to sweat more to maintain their body temperature.  Horses will also sweat during times of stress and when travelling.

In order to avoid overheating, horses must lose huge amounts of heat through sweating - in hot conditions, exercising horses can lose 10-15 litres of fluid per hour – this is equivalent to a full bucket of water! 

It isn’t just water that is lost – sweat also contains electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts dissolved in the blood and tissues of the body. 

This means that to avoid dehydration, horses need to take in electrolytes as well as water. The main electrolytes are sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

 When should you supplement with electrolytes?

  • All horses that regularly sweat require an electrolyte supplement, especially those that are working in warm weather. 
  • In hot weather, even horses in light work will benefit from having electrolytes.
  • Travelling is another key time when horses can become dehydrated.  During a journey, horses use a significant amount of energy to maintain their balance. In warm weather or for nervous horses this can lead to sweating. 

 Feeding electrolytes

Electrolytes in powder and liquid form are ideal for regular use, especially if you know your horse will be sweating a lot or if the weather is warm.

Ideally feed for a couple of days before and after your horse will be sweating, or daily in the summer. 

They are best added to feed so that you know that your horse has taken them. 

 The signs of dehydration

Unfortunately the early signs of dehydration are not easily detectable in horses. 

They include the skin being inelastic (not springing back as quickly as normal) and dry gums. 

Dehydrated horses will be less alert and may stumble. They will urinate less than normal and have a high heart rate.

If this is severe, the horse will become wobbly and is likely to overheat, which can lead to collapse and death in severe cases.

Mild dehydration will cause horses to perform poorly.  If your horse never seems at his best when being ridden or competing on warmer days, or regularly sweats a lot it is sensible to feed an electrolyte supplement.

For the full article, see the August issue of Horse magazine.

For more information on Nettex, visit: www.nettexequine.com