Does My Horse Need Electrolytes in Winter?
By Dr. Wendy Pearson, PhD (Dr. of veterinary toxicology)
Question: Since it’s cold out and my horse doesn’t sweat much when I ride him, should I still give him electrolytes?
The main reason to give electrolytes at any time of year is to keep the horse hydrated. Dehydration can occur for a number of reasons, not just because of sweating during exercise and hot ambient temperatures. As the cold weather settles in, many horses will drastically cut back on the amount of water they drink. This is one of the main reasons why there is a spike in incidence of impactions and gas colics at this time of year. One of the best ways to encourage drinking is to increase the amount of electrolytes in the horse’s diet.
Electrolytes are charged molecules that function to hold water in the body. When you provide electrolytes in the feed, they are absorbed into the blood and create an osmotic gradient that pulls water from the gut into the blood. When there is insufficient water in the gut, the electrolytes in the blood drive the thirst response and cause the horse to seek out water. Electrolytes are as essential in winter’s cold as they are in summer’s heat. They are an inexpensive and effective protection against cold weather dehydration.
Used with permission from www.horseherbs.com.
Main article photo: ©Thinkstock.com/OlgaIT