Work or no work – horses need hydration
A horse’s need for cold weather electrolytes can come from more places than energy lost through work. The blame lies partially on the fact that horses dislike drinking cold water and prefer a milder temperature. Neglectful owners can contribute to the problem.
“We get lots of calls in the winter from people with horses that are colicing and it’s because they don’t have access to an adequate water supply,” said John Sylvester, director of research and quality for MARS Horsecare US, Inc., to Barrel Horse News. “People are breaking the ice [formations on top of water containers] once a day and thinking that’s enough. It isn’t.”
The Horse.com notes that winter feeds are many times drier than foliage eaten in pasture and that water consumption becomes much more vital because it aids digestion and prevents impaction colic. However, many horses still do not drink enough water on their own to compensate for this natural lack of moisture in their diet.
According to a report from Equi News, horses not working can get sufficient electrolytes from high quality hay and salt licks. Electrolytes can also be administered via feed supplements and oral pastes like Finish Line’s Apple-A-Day™ and Electrocharge™ Electrolyte products generally feature feeding instructions based on horses’ workloads and sweat output.
“Electrolytes should be given to horses year round. They lose electrolytes from urination, defecation, sweat and respiration,” said Steve Blanchard, President Finish Line Horse Products. “We recommend giving electrolytes in the feed, but if given in the water for any reason we recommend a second pail of fresh water so the horse has free choice.”
Provide care in administering electrolytes, but not too much
“Giving horses electrolytes during the winter is very important in maintaining their overall health.“
Typically owners mix electrolyte supplements into feeds. However, they should also ensure the horse eats the mixture; it may not because of the food’s salinity. Owners should stir the combination around or dilute the electrolytes with more feed so the horse will consume it.
Typically owners mix electrolyte supplements into feeds. However, they should also ensure the horse eats the mixture as some horses may refuse feed due to the salinity. Owners should make sure the feed is well blended or dilute the electrolytes with more feed so horses will consume it.
Signs of horse dehydration include dry skin and mouth, thick and sticky saliva, lethargy, dull eyes and depression. Giving a horse too many electrolytes is a rare occurrence, but it is possible.
A horse should not be given electrolytes if it is presently dehydrated. Electrolytes alone could dehydrate the horse even further and cause severe fluid-balance problems such as salt toxicity. Equines should only be administered electrolytes when the horse has access to water and in dosages recommended by the manufacturer. It is possible to oversupplement electrolytes, however this is very difficult to do when following product instructions and taking the necessary precautions.
Equine dehydration is not a problem unique to the summer but one that is persistent year-round. Providing electrolytes can help caregivers keep horses healthy through every season.