Why Electrolytes?

Have you ever wondered why athletes drink an awful lot of sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade? It is not only because of the fact that those drinks taste good but it also has allot to do with the fact that these drinks contain allot of electrolytes and when we get allot of exercise, just like horses we require Electrolytes to perform at our best.


So why are Electrolytes important?

Electrolyte is just another name for the chemical salt in your horse's tissues -

and in you, for that matter. Electrolytes enable the muscle fibres to fire correctly to produce movement. Anyone who exercises knows that when you work hard, you sweat. Human sweat is mainly water, so the remaining body fluids become more and more concentrated with salt. The result is you become thirsty, but can quickly replace lost fluid by drinking water.

Horses, however, evolved without a need to produce and maintain the level of activity we often require from them. Normally, horses use their large lung capacity to cool themselves by breathing quickly. When they start to sweat, they do so with a very important difference. The liquid a horse loses is almost exactly the same as the liquid left in the tissue. Not only does a horse not feel thirsty, but just replacing the water is not enough. Their bodies lose enormous amounts of salt, which they will not replace naturally for nearly 24 hours.

Without this salt, the electrical function of a horse's muscles is impaired. The energy level is reduced and tired muscles can lead to tendon injuries. They can also lead to slow intestinal activity which can cause colic; and to generally poorer circulation and a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles resulting in cramping and tying-up.

Without this salt, too, another dehydration symptom occurs: synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, commonly known as `thumps'. Here, salt imbalance in the cells causes an electrical short circuit, resulting in the diaphragm firing with each heartbeat - a nasty case of equine hiccups, which in some cases can be fatal.