Electrolytes Explained

Independent Nutritionist Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr explains what electrolytes are and how to use them.

Electrolytes are body salts that maintain fluid balance. We feed electrolytes to our horses in the form of salts such as common or table salt (sodium chloride) and the constituent of lite- or lo-salt, potassium chloride. 

Does my horse need electrolytes?

Although the normal diet supplies some electrolytes to horses, every horse that sweats needs extra added, because they are lost in sweat. Horse sweat is more concentrated than body fluids and horses can lose large amounts of electrolytes (body salts) during exercise, especially sodium, potassium and chlorine.

How much should I feed and when?

All working horses should be fed common salt (sodium chloride) every day, starting at a tablespoon or 19g per day for an average 500g horse in light work, and increasing with work level. Harder working horses need potassium as well, so mix an equal blend of salt and lite or lo-salt (a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride). Give electrolytes in the feed because it is impossible to replenish enough salt for a moderate to hard working horse in water (as a solution). 

What about mixing electrolytes in water?

Electrolytes are given in water to help rehydrate the horse, or replace body water loss, rather than to replace electrolyte loss. Water containing electrolytes is more efficient at rehydrating horses than plain water. Add electrolytes to water at a rate of 90g per 10 litres to make an ideal oral rehydration solution.