Endurance horses are the epitome of extreme athletes, and like their human counterparts they end up sweaty and thirsty after long-distance events. Although performance supplements for horses and specifically formulated feeds are used to ensure sufficient energy production and peak performance, there is always extra energy lost through heat. This heat leads to sweating, through which horses lose both water and electrolytes, and it is vital to replace these.
The loss of water and electrolytes
As you will have experienced for yourself, when your body temperature rises you begin to sweat. For horses, the secretion of sweat to cover the skin is the primary means of reducing their body heat. Warm sweat is excreted to cover the skin, and as it evaporates the heat is removed from the body. For endurance horses especially, usually performing under warmer summer conditions, the rate of fluid loss through sweat has been measured at roughly from 10 to 15 litres per hour (6-7 litres under cooler conditions). If you consider that an 80 km ride at an average pace of 16 km/h usually takes around 5 hours, that would mean an average fluid loss of between 50 and 80 litres.
Why this is dangerous
The danger in this is that water, along with key electrolytes, is drawn primarily from the blood and large bowel. If the horse does not drink water to replace this relatively soon, the blood volume can decrease to the point where sweating ceases and the horse’s body no longer expels heat as needed, leading to heat stroke and often the death of the animal.
Why electrolyte replacement is vital
Although equine supplements can help to regain much of the minerals lost through sweating, there are other complications that require electrolyte replacement. It has been found that severely dehydrated horses can often become exhausted and reluctant to drink, which is problematic as they will become increasingly dehydrated. This is why many riders and owners have been known to add a salt supplement to their feeds and equine supplements to encourage thirst and trigger a desire to drink water.
The advantage of electrolytes such as our Rigly Endurance Paste is that they provide the necessary sodium and chloride (the key ingredients of salt), as well as potassium, calcium and magnesium for horses to recover from exercise. Oral rehydration concentrate solutions are also a great way to get the necessary body salts and other minerals back into your horse’s body directly after exercise. For horses that are severely dehydrated and unwilling to drink, large volumes of our RECHARGE rehydration concentrate can be administered via a stomach tube.
Another potential danger faced by endurance horses that many are unaware of is alkalosis. Alkalosis is when the blood possesses excess alkalinity due to the loss of chloride salts and potassium in the blood when horses sweat heavily. So if you have a horse that is classified as a heavy sweater we recommend adding some Sweatmix electrolyte replacer along with other equine supplements.
Acclimatisation is important
Although the necessity of introducing electrolyte replacement is clear, it is also important to acclimatise your horse to these procedures during training rides outside of events. And although the electrolyte replacements give back much of what your horse needs, you must always be sure to have sufficient water available as well.
For more information on exactly how much of which performance supplements for horses and electrolyte replacements is needed, contact Stride Distributors and we will use our expertise in the field of equine supplements to see that your equine friends are kept in tip-top shape.