Electrolytes Vital for Performance HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 2, 2017
More than one horse owner has asked herself this simple question, “Why don’t feed manufacturers put electrolytes in feed specifically designed for performance horses?” According to Joe Pagan, Ph.D., founder and owner of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), this is a reasonable question but one that is easily answered.
“A horse's energy requirement stays the same during consistent work,” explained Pagan, “but sweat losses change with weather, work intensity, and other factors. Horse owners need to be able to easily adjust the amount of electrolyte given based on sweat production.”
The two most common questions Pagan addresses about electrolyte supplements include what type of product is best and how much electrolyte should be fed.
In selecting a product, Pagan advocates simplicity. “Pick an electrolyte that is salty. A lot of electrolytes are full of sugar. The horse may love it, but it doesn’t have a lot of electrolyte in it,” he said. “Look at the label, find one that has sodium, chloride, and potassium as the primary ingredients.”
Once a high-quality electrolyte is chosen, it must be fed at a level that is appropriate for the amount of sweat produced. “If you have a horse that you’re working—and it’s hot and sweat’s dripping off of it—then you need a lot of electrolyte. If a horse is not sweating that much, maybe just a little damp when it returns from the ride, a lower level of electrolyte is appropriate,” he said.
Because sweating isn’t the same day in and day out, Pagan explained, workload and weather conditions dictate the amount of electrolyte used. This variance keeps electrolytes out of the feed bag, yet they remain an essential supplement for performance horses.
Well-formulated electrolyte products such as Restore SR and Restore Paste deliver key electrolytes to horses. Electrolyte technology has advanced in recent years, and Restore SR contains a proprietary slow-release mechanism that allows sodium to be released gradually into the gastrointestinal tract for sustained absorption. When sodium is delivered slowly over a period of time, more is retained and utilized by the body.
Equine athletes, such as racehorses and barrel-racing horses, benefit from Race Recovery, which provides targeted electrolyte supplementation for intensely worked equine athletes given furosemide, supporting a quick rebound from hard work.
Learn more about nutrition of performance horses from this video featuring Pagan, courtesy of Evention TV.