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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

January 5, 2009

An interesting study on rehydration + electrolytes

Now that Phebes is stepping up her work load, and sweating for 2-3 hours in a session I've been giving thought to electrolytes. I've always had some misgivings about the paste type given by oral syringe. My personal concern is putting the high concentrate into the equine stomach, with the potential of causing gastric ulcers, and the risk that the horse will not take in sufficient water to dilute the concentrate. There is also the dynamics of electrolytes, water, cellular things happening or not happening when the electrolyte vs. water ratio is not correct (this is as tech as the granny gets).

A study done in Sweden indicates that electrolytes added to a balanced volume of drinking water will allow the horse to take in the electrolytes in a dilute method. Basically the horse can't overload the stomach this way as you would using a concentrate. The study looked at the recoveries of horses given paste concentrates, plain water, and free choice dilute saline solution (electrolytes) in their water buckets. The horses drinking the saline solution drank more, and recovered more quickly than the other group. The article was written by the Dept. Medicine & Surgery, Swedish Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala Sweden, published in tehEquine Vet J Supplement, 1996 July 22: pages 99-106. If you would like to read the article here is the link: Just paste and copy into your web browser.

Phebes does not like her mouth handled. A vet twitched her and she has been like this since. I am going to work on this as she will need her mucous membranes/ capillary refill checked by the vet. I'm going to do a little experimentation using a powdered electrolyte in her mash the night before, and a little in her drinking water as well. At rides I can offer her plain water and her electrolyte water. Post ride I will also have an electrolyte laced bucket for her to drink ad lib. I'm hoping that a mild electrolyte solution will encourage her to drink more. So far we've had to go 15 miles before she showed interest in water. If the equine body is like the human body, by the time the thirst mechanism kicks in you are already depleted. Perhaps by preloading with a dilute solution she will have good pre-ride hydration, and the electrolyte already in her system will stimulate her to drink early on. I've also given thought to experimenting with apple juice in her water, or even a little gator aid to mask the taste of the electrolytes. I will play with this a little and report on how she does. ~E.G.


  1. I am enjoying following the progress of your training. This is something I would love to do and maybe someday will, I have a 5 yr old arabian is started under saddle, your blogs are fun, informative and helpful. ( Like having a mentor! ) I too am a granny hoping to be a "limited distance granny"soom.

  2. Marsey,

    Thanks for the positive feedback! This has sure been a journey putting this horse on the trail. Things seem to finally be coming together.

    When you are ready to start, be sure and find yourself a mentor to help you along for those first few rides. It will sure make the learning process easier. I'm pretty lucky as I seem to have found myself two mentors :) who have been willing to share their knowledge with me, and even ride with me. If you go to the AERC's site they have a list of mentors. The link for mentors is also on the right hand side of my blog.

    Good luck! And don't give up...ride the trails and post up your first finish here on the blog. I'll be cheering for you. ~E.G.

  3. E.G. - the "sports drink" in a bucket has worked really well for me. I too, am uncomfortable with pasting a horse with electrolytes. I will put some on the mash the night before and morning of, I have 2 water buckets, one with water and one with water+electrolytes+sometimes I put mollassas/applejuice/carrot juice etc. in it for a treat. In my opinion it's too easy to make a mistake and over electrolyte......TWICE I have had a salt block fall into the regular water bucket and not known it.....if I had electrolyted during the ride, on top of only having salty water to drink over night, who knows what would have happened?