Electrolyte supplements for horses is a relatively new concept, for myself anyway. My journey into supplements was a baptism of fire – we had a mare who tied – up severely and required veterinary attention about three years ago. Following that we also needed to change the exercise and feeding regime from “the way it was always done.” My thoughts here are purely from my own experience and research, I am in no way shape or form a horse nutritionist. If this is of help – great! But definitely speak to a nutritionist before making any sudden changes to your equine’s diet.
Electrolytes in simplified terms are essential minerals your body and your horse’s body need to function. They are made up of minerals such as sodium, calcium, and potassium. Lucozade always comes to mind when I think of electrolytes! But similar to how Lucozade is marketed, when we do strenuous exercise and in turn sweat, we need to replenish what we have lost. And horses are no different. Stressful situations, traveling, hard work, and even extreme summertime temperatures can cause horses to lose crucial minerals. Not ideal as big losses of these can impair muscle/ brain function, nutrient absorption, and digestion just to mention a few.
The mare mentioned above was a “stressy type” and would sweat standing. I have come to the conclusion that coupled with feed and exercise that was not suiting her lead to her tying up. Hindsight is 20/20.
Offering water after exercise will unfortunately not rehydrate your horse – as a horse’s body cannot retain water without the presence of electrolytes.
I feel electrolytes are an essential supplement for my yard. There is a minefield of choices to choose from, almost every brand at this stage has a gel, powder, liquid or even the old fashioned salt lick can be used as a form of natural salt replenishment.
The brands I have used are.. (no way sponsored/affiliated, I wish!)
TRM Electrolyte Gold
These come in very handy 50g sachets and can be mixed with food or water. In addition, The Equine Warehouse sells per individual sachet or X30 sachets per box.
Forams Equi – Salts
Can be got in either 4kg or 10kg size, and come with a measuring scoop to allow for easy dosing. These can be added to food or water also. I have found this to be a little stronger smelling than the TRM sachet, could cause a problem if you have picky eaters.
Horses excrete anything extra they do not need – so it’s not a worry that they will overdose on electrolytes!
Personally, I have only used the above two, and have zero complaints with either. I find the powder a little easier to disguise within food, for the picky eater. I would normally mix into their food following a long journey, day out hunting, or hard exercise. The TRM sachets are probably more handy as they can easily fit into a pocket if you are traveling and take up less space at home, rather than lugging a 4 kg bucket around. Also depending on your discipline, it may be more cost effective to buy individual sachets, rather than committing to a larger amount.
In the end, it can depend on personal preference or a fussy lawnmower on four legs’ preference.
I have often wondered to myself “is it all a fad?” This question was definitely in my mind when writing this article. Everytime I seem to open Instagram brands are plugging electrolyte supplements, it’s very easy for us equestrians to get bamboozled by the lovely marketing and advertising and of course, feeling we are doing best by our animals, to fling away hard earned cash in the hope this will be of benefit to our steeds. Also, I find online research can be a little hit and miss as most Google searches will bring you directly to bigger brands’ websites. They almost scream off the screen “you mean you DON’T feed your horse x,y, and z!? And you call yourself an animal lover!”
However, I like to think I have done due diligence before and during this article to confidently say they are a very useful supplement to assist in recovery. I reached out to the amazingly helpful James Kelly of KSB EquineIreland who echoed the above, electrolytes are definitely of benefit and a useful supplement. For my own horses, there’s no need for me to get excited and buy the most expensive one money can buy! Personally, I will shop around and get a product that will assist in recovery and replenishing anything lost during exercise just to prevent any injury and keep ponies comfortable. Unless you have money to burn I think this would be the best policy for anyone tipping around with some hacking / hunting like myself.
Ensure there is plenty of fresh water available after feeding an electrolyte supplement. As feeding without water available will cause the horse to become MORE dehydrated and stress their gut. In the unfortunate event of this happening essential minerals will be taken from the gut – thus possibly causing irreparable damage.