Electrolytes play key roles in muscle contraction, the nervous system, and maintaining the fluid balance around cells, and very importantly, the concentration of sodium controls the horse’s thirst response. This is especially notable, as a significant loss of electrolytes can actually reduce the horse’s desire to drink, even when he has lost a large amount of fluid and is at risk of becoming dehydrated.
If the lost fluid and electrolytes are not replaced, the horse will begin to suffer from dehydration, affecting performance and resulting in symptoms of fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance, and ultimately more serious conditions affecting muscles and the ability to perform.
Because horse sweat contains a higher concentration of sodium and chloride than his other body fluids, it is important that electrolytes are provided at the correct concentrations to ensure that the desire to drink is maintained, so fluid balance AND electrolyte losses can be restored to promote recovery, and ensure continued optimum performance. This is especially important during longer show or events, when performance may decline if electrolyte and fluid balance are not restored.
Electrolyte replacement to restore losses and encourage water intake are important for all horses and ponies who sweat – from Pony Club ponies working hard at rallies in the Summer, through to globe-trotting International eventers, showjumpers and dressage horses!