It’s hot. You’re sweating, your mouth is as dry as the Sahara desert. You just whizzed around a course in the heat of the day. You reach over grab a Gatorade and sloshes down like you are barreling down a luge in the Olympics. So here’s the thing. By taking that swig of Gatorade you replenished most of what you lost while cooking in the sun… But, what about your horse?
What is an electrolyte?
Electrolytes are positively and negatively charged ions that are formed when minerals and other salts dissolve in water. Similar to the ocean, the body’s fluids (blood, plasma, saliva, etc.) are full of salts and minerals. They are important because they are what the cells use to maintain voltage stability across cell membranes. Electrolytes carry electrical impulses such as muscle contractions & nerve impulses across themselves and to other cells. Without electrolytes, the cells in the body couldn’t properly communicate with each other and perform essential functions.
How do we lose electrolytes?
Electrolytes are typically lost through sweat. The three main salts that need to be replaced are sodium, chloride and potassium. Calcium and magnesium can also be lost through sweat but typically on a much smaller scale than the other three. Each salt plays an important role in the body. Sodium helps to maintain blood pressure and balance water levels in the body. Chloride balances the alkalinity (acids and bases) of the body fluids. Potassium helps balances the cellular fluid and is vital for optimal muscle, heart and kidney function.
When should I use electrolytes?
Electrolyte supplementation is not necessary for every horse, every day. As long as the horse has access to fresh water and free choice minerals/salt, the horse’s electrolytes should be in balance. Conditions in which you would want to consider the use of electrolytes would be:
- Heavy workload/training in which the horse sweats considerably much
- Long trailer hauls (especially in the heat)
- Endurance events such as racing, cross-country/eventing, competitive trail or other long riding/driving events
Ideally, if you know you and your horse will be engaging in activities like those mentioned above electrolyte supplementation would occur before, during and after the event. However, there are times when those activities are not foreseen.
A few signs that your horse may be in need of electrolytes:
- Excessive sweating
- Lack of thirst
- Increased capillary refill time
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Poor performance
- Abnormal heart rhythm or rate
- Diaphragm spasms/thumps
What types of electrolytes are out there?
There are typically 3 types of electrolytes on the market. The recommended time of administration on these electrolyte supplements can vary greatly, so it’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions to find the one that is right for you.
- Powder/Granules: Electrolytes that come in the form of powder or granules are typically given as a top dressing to feed or put in the horse’s water. Oftentimes these come in flavors appealing to the horse such as apple, orange or cherry. This form of supplement would be ideal for those horses that are less picky of eaters.
- Liquid: This form of electrolyte is often put directly in the horse’s drinking water or as a drench. Drenches are ideal for those horse owners that are practiced in drenching. Otherwise, we recommend contacting your veterinarian regarding the correct procedure. The liquid that is given through the horse’s water is good for a horse that will still drink water, but needs an electrolyte boost.
- Paste: Paste electrolytes are administered to the horse orally. By giving the paste, you know that the horse is getting most, if not all, of the electrolytes.
Fabio Fabulous is a 13 year old miniature horse gelding that is owned and loved by Big Dee’s employee, Mary. His events include halter, showmanship, in-hand trail, jumping, being spoiled and snuggled. Mary has used Cocosoya as a supplement for various horses over the years, but has been giving it to Fabio a year and a half. As you can see in the pictures below, Cocosoya has greatly improved Fabio’s mane, tail, coat and overall body condition.
Cocosoya, manufactured by Uckele Health & Nutrition is a fatty acid horse supplement. This supplement provides Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids. Horses, as well as humans, that are deficient in essential fatty acids may show hair loss, skins problems, and impaired immunity and reproduction issues. This supplement helps with coat, hair and hoof strength and shine. The increase fat in the horse’s diet may also help build and maintain weight. Cocosoya is also highly palatable – which is great for a picky eater or if you want to mask the taste of other supplements or medications. Cocosoya horse supplement is recommended for all ages, breeds and disciplines of horses.
What are essential fatty acids?
- Alpha-linolenic acid, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- Improved skin and hair coat quality
- Decreased joint pain in arthritic individuals
- Improved bone formation
- Reproductive benefits
- Prevention of gastric ulcers
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Linolenic acid
- Pro-inflammatory (needed to fight infection and repair tissue)
- Produce steroids & hormones
- Regulating pressure in body fluids, cell division and smooth muscle activity
- Oleic acid and Erucic acid
- Supports the function of Omega 3 and Omega 6
- Nonessential fatty acid because the horse can produce it
Enter to win a gallon of Cocosoya! A $23.00 value.
Do you have a horse that is tense, on-edge or unfocused? Perhaps a calming supplement would be the right choice to bring out the best behavior in your horse without sacrificing performance.
Typically, there are two types of horse calming supplements. The first is a top dressing for feed that will help with everyday handling, work and training – this usually comes in the form of a powder or pellets. Second are “day of” supplements given before an event – these most likely come in the form of a paste. Calming supplements can be given anywhere from 1 hour to 5 days before the event – each supplement has its own specific time frame.
While the types of calming supplements greatly vary, there are a few common ingredients that can be found in products on the market today:
- Vitamin B1/Thiamine: This is a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the horse’s body – as a result, it must be supplied by the horse’s diet. This vitamin is used in metabolizing carbohydrates and fat. Horses with a deficiency of this vitamin often appear stressed and nervous – the reason for its inclusion in a lot of calming supplements.
- Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency in a horse is characterized by nervousness, irritability, muscle tremors and incoordination. This mineral plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions – including cellular energy generation and genetic information decoding. It also works in part with calcium in nerve transmission and muscle contraction.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin aids in nervous system regulation, metabolism and red blood cell production. The recommended usage of this vitamin is for a horse in a stressful situation or to help increase appetite. A calming supplement with this ingredient would be ideal for situations such as long trailer rides or moving to a new location.
- Tryptophan: This is an essential amino acid from which the horse is unable to product itself. This is used to increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which in turn creates a calming effect in horses. This includes increased sleepiness, reduced aggression and reduced fearfulness.
- Valerian Root: This natural herb is used to reduce anxiety and excitability without reducing the horse’s mental function. Valerian can also be used as an antispasmodic in cases of colic or muscle spasms. This calming supplement would be recommended in stress-inducing events as opposed to competitive events.
If competing, it’s important to make sure that your association or registry accepts the use of the calming supplements you are using. This can usually be done by taking a look at the rule book or calling the office of the association or registry. If the supplement is not approved, be sure to give it time to leave the horse’s system before competition.
Other considerations for an edgy horse would be the horse’s diet. If the horse is being fed a grain that is high in sugar – they will react the same way as a human who has had too much sugar (hyper & unfocused). Consider switching to a grain lower in sugar or consult with a nutritionist or veterinarian to find the best way to reduce sugar in the horse’s diet. Another thing that can affect the horse’s attitude would be an overabundance of calcium. Like we mentioned earlier, calcium and magnesium work together – too much calcium means too little magnesium. Rich grass and alfalfa hay are often the culprits when it comes to a surplus of calcium. More exercise and turn out time can also reduce the amount of excitability and anxiety within a horse.
Do you have a go-to calming supplement? Let us know your favorites!
Looking for a joint supplement for your beloved horse can be tough – there is a variety of options out there and a lot of questions you have to ask yourself (powder, liquid or pellet? MSM or HA? Budget?). We’re going to go over a few key factors in making a decision on a joint supplement for your horse.
First, you want to look at what active ingredients the product offers. While there can be a variety of ingredients found in equine joint supplements, there are a few key players in most supplements found on the market today. Keep in mind that a joint supplement can contain one, a few or none of these ingredients – it’s important to research what the supplement offers.
- Glucosamine Sulfate: This is a naturally occurring chemical found in the fluid surrounding joints – it’s responsible for the manufacturing of cartilage, ligaments and tendons. It’s been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects and is crucial to the development and maintenance of joints. Glucosamine Sulfate is the most readily absorbed ingredient in joint supplements due to the small molecular size.
- Chondroitin Sulfate: This compound is found in the cartilage surrounding the joint – it acts as a flexible connector in cartilage. It also helps neutralize destructive enzymes in the cartilage. Where glucosamine helps build the cartilage, chondroitin helps to slow the degradation of it. However, due to the large molecular size chondroitin is harder for the body to absorb.
- Hyaluronic Acid: This is found in the fluid surrounding the joints. HA helps to thicken the fluid to around the joints for added protection and lubrication. A joint supplement with HA would be beneficial to a senior horse, since natural HA production slows with age.
- MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane): A readily usable form of sulfur which is necessary for the production of collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin as well as the formation of the connective tissue. MSM is proven to be beneficial to horses with arthritis but it can also helps in preventing scar tissue from forming so horses with injuries might find this beneficial as well.
- Yucca: Plant that is found in The Southwest US and Mexico which is believed to have natural pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. This product isn’t specific to joint supplements, but is still often found in many of those on the market today.
It’s also important to consider why you are looking at putting your horse on a joint supplement. Is it because of arthritis, injury, age or a combination of factors? Or are you trying to take a preventative step towards the care of your horse’s joints? Most companies target their supplement to a specific cause – so be sure to look for that.
| Glucosamine Sulfate
| Chondroitin Sulfate
| Hyaluronic Acid
Joint supplements also come in a variety of substances – all of which have their benefits. The biggest factor that I consider when choosing between different formulas is how good of an eater the horse is. If your horse will eat pretty much anything, then you could go with any of the options. However, if the horse is a picky eater, going with a liquid or powder would most likely be the best option. All of the supplements are easy to feed as a top dressing to your horse’s grain. If your horse doesn’t receive a grain ration on a regular basis, the pelleted joint supplements would be a good option because they can be fed on their own.
As always, we recommend consulting with a licensed veterinarian about your horse’s specific case before starting them on a supplement.
What joint supplement do you use? And what do you like about it? Let us know!