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  • Q:

    My ten-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter gelding is healthy and sound, except I can't work him much, as he routinely gets thumps if the temperature even approaches the high 70s. We are anticipating a record hot summer with many days over 100 degrees. I'm at my wit’s end thinking about how this will affect him. I had to scratch a class at the last show due to thumps, and it was not a demanding day for a horse his age. He is fed alfalfa hay and 2 lb (0.9 kg) of a performance feed, and he is in moderate body condition. Help!

  • A:

    Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, also known as thumps, is usually caused by low blood calcium, but it can be brought on by low levels of other electrolytes. The imbalance may occur because the horse loses large quantities of certain minerals, namely calcium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium, through extensive sweating or severe diarrhea, or because there is a problem with the way minerals are used within the body, such as kidney or parathyroid gland dysfunction. Horses that are fed a diet high in calcium, such as alfalfa, may be more prone to developing thumps during competition because the excess calcium in the body affects its ability to mobilize calcium to counteract losses during extended exercise.

    For this reason, experts recommend removing excess calcium (alfalfa) from the diet three days prior to a competition or removing excess sources completely. Reducing the amount of calcium before a show or hard ride prompts the horse's body to conserve calcium and stimulate the parathyroid hormone. Although it sounds counterintuitive to remove calcium, it actually stimulates the body's ability to mobilize calcium in times of need. In addition, remove any supplements that may be adding extra calcium prior to competitions.

    His current feed can stay in his program, even prior to competition. However, it appears he is not getting quite enough to meet his nutrient requirements. Feeding at least the minimum recommended by the manufacturer ensures the horse consumes the daily recommended requirement of many important nutrients, including several vitamins and minerals.

    Since he only needs 2 lb (0.9 kg) per day to maintain his weight, I suggest adding a concentrated micronutrient supplement to fill in the missing vitamins and minerals. Micro-Max is the KERx micronutrient supplement that supplies high-quality natural-source vitamins and chelated minerals that are shown to have the best digestibility. Just 120 g of Micro-Max daily will fill in the nutrients without adding extra calories to the diet. It makes only a small calcium contribution and is still appropriate with his condition. However, to be on the safe side it can also be removed prior to competition. (Australian horse owners should feed Gold Pellet.)

    Prevention of thumps also depends on maintaining electrolyte balance during exercise. This can be done by providing daily electrolyte supplementation. KER offers a slow-release electrolyte, Restore SR, that provides a time-released source of sodium, allowing sustained absorption for maximum replenishment. Classic electrolyte therapy causes spikes in blood electrolyte levels and stimulates increased excretion. This means that the horse excretes most of the electrolytes prior to absorption in the large intestine. KER found a way to provide a slow-release electrolyte to maximize sustained absorption in the hindgut. Restore SR should be fed daily with doses based on workload and sweating.

    When you know a hard competition or ride is coming up, provide electrolytes before, during, and after. Restore Paste is a one-dose tube of electrolytes designed for these situations.

    Australian horse owners can satisfy the electrolyte needs of their horses through the use of Restore and Restore Paste.

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