Equine Electrolytes FAQs

Equine Electrolytes FAQs

What equine electrolytes do, how they work and why they are needed.

bay horse swishes tail (Credit: Astrid von Krenski)

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From AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

When summer arrives, horses are exposed to higher temperatures while in their stalls and training for competitions. During these times of added heat, many people turn to an electrolyte for their horse. Understanding what electrolytes do, how they work and why we need them can help you make a proper decision when choosing an equine electrolyte. We have taken some of the most frequently asked questions we get at Progressive Nutrition and posted their responses, so you can get the information you need to make an informed buying decision.

What does an electrolyte do?

The purpose of an electrolyte is to quickly replenish the nutrients lost in equine sweat. The major nutrients found in equine sweat are sodium, potassium and chloride, along with some additional minor levels of other minerals. Ideal electrolytes are formulated to provide the same ratio of these nutrients as found in sweat in order to ensure a fast-acting and properly balanced product. Proper use of electrolytes can speed your horse's recovery time from exercise. Immediately offering an electrolyte solution after training can reduce the recovery time from 12 hours to 45 minutes, allowing your horse to return to their hydrated, refreshed state faster and, as a result, compete longer.

Why do some electrolytes contain sugar while others do not, and is it needed?

The debate about sugar in electrolytes is an interesting one. Some companies such as Progressive Nutrition add it to their formulas based on scientific research, and others say it’s only there for flavor. However, the sugar is necessary to ensure an electrolyte works quickly to replenish those lost nutrients to speed recovery and rehydration. Many of the critical minerals we need are absorbed faster into the bloodstream if they are absorbed along with a sugar molecule. The added sugar is not there as a flavoring agent, it’s there to speed up absorption so that your electrolyte starts benefiting your horse in 30 to 45 minutes instead of several hours or a day later.

If my horse is supposed to be on a low-sugar diet, can I still give it an electrolyte containing sugar?

Yes, especially if you consider that Progressive Nutrition’s electrolyte Aqua-Aide only contains about 30 g of sugar per 2 oz dosage. As a comparison, 6 lbs of a low-carbohydrate feed that is only 10% NSC would be providing 272 grams of sugar--almost 10 times what the electrolyte is providing. For sugar-sensitive horses, if there is no concern with the 6 lbs of 10% NSC feed, the small total amount of sugar added by the electrolyte will work as well.

Is it better to topdress on feed or add my electrolyte to water?

The best way to offer an electrolyte is mixed in water. Part of replenishing sweat is also replenishing the horse’s hydration or lost water. By combining the electrolyte in water and offering it as an electrolyte solution, you get both at the same time. This ensures that we get the fastest absorption of both nutrients and water.

If I have automatic water, is it OK to topdress on feed?

In situations where you may have an automatic watering system or when adding the electrolyte to water is just not feasible, you can topdress it on the feed as long as the horse has access to water to drink after they consume the electrolyte to ensure proper hydration. Electrolytes may make the horse thirsty, so you don’t want to restrict access to water after they have consumed electrolytes as a topdress.

Nutrena: What's Inside Counts

Your horse's health is the most important thing to you, and to Nutrena. That’s why Nutrena® horse feed are specifically formulated for every life stage and activity level. Because for a horse, proper nutrition plays the biggest role for a lifetime of health and happiness.

AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena is one of the world's largest equine nutrition companies, feeding more than one million horses per day. Learn more at www.aqha.com/nutrena.