Most of us horse owners recognize the value of electrolyte supplementation during the hot summer months. After working one’s horse hard, or coming back from a long trail ride, or even bringing horses in on a hot day, we can see the sweat marks that indicate a horse may need electrolytes to replenish the lost salt and potassium. However, electrolyte supplementation is at least equally important during the winter months.
Those of us who have access to an indoor arena are able to ride and work our horses year round. During periods of hard work, regardless of temperature, horses will sweat and lose electrolytes. By using a supplement such as Buckeye Nutrition’s Perform ‘N Win or Perfect Balance by Peak Performance, we can help our horses stay healthy by replacing valuable electrolytes lost.
A second reason to use electrolytes during the winter months is to encourage water consumption. Many horses’ water consumption drops dramatically during the winter, and this can easily lead to impaction colic. During the spring, summer, and fall, horses are able to graze and have access to fresh grass. During the winter, when fresh grass is not available, horses have to rely on hay for their forage requirements. The water content in grass is significantly higher, around 5 times higher, than that of hay. Therefore, horses are able to ingest a good amount of their required water intake just by grazing on fresh grass. Horses’ water consumption also declines when their water is cold. So, during the winter, we have a situation where our horse is not getting water from forage, and is not inclined to drink as much from water troughs or buckets. By adding a good, salt or sodium based electrolyte to their feed, we can help increase thirst, and improve water consumption, and hopefully avoid impaction colic issues.
When choosing an electrolyte, I tend to look for the ones that are low in dextrose or other sugars, and gravitate towards those that are sodium based. If you have a horse with HYPP, you have to be careful about potassium intake, so look for an electrolyte that is specifically designed for horses with HYPP.
Other ways to encourage water consumption include filling water buckets with warm water, or using heated buckets or water heaters if you are using a trough. Ideal water temperature is around 40 degrees. This year, I am making use of Eccotemp’s Horse Washer, which is a portable hot water on demand system. I do not have access to hot water in my barn, and after a few years of lugging buckets of hot water down to the barn every morning and evening, I decided to make life a little easier on myself. This system connects to my hydrant and to a propane tank. I simply turn it on, and have instant hot or warm water to fill my water buckets with.
Combining these steps with electrolyte supplementation will hopefully lead to a healthy and happy horse this winter. Most electrolytes can be added either to your horse’s feed or water. If you add an electrolyte to water, you should also remember to put a second bucket of just plain water up as well.
This blog was written by Grant – one of Big Dee’s Showroom Managers