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Electrolytes

Overlooked and Underappreciated Elements of Health

Electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  They are integral to the function of many organ systems, including the heart, muscles, skeleton, digestive tract, nervous system, and kidneys, as well as they are a major component to maintain hydration - essential to thermoregulation, digestion, muscle function, nutrient and waste exchange, pH balance, and metabolic regulation. Insufficient electrolyte levels can lead to lethargy, muscle dysfunction, cardiac arrhythmias, skeletal disorders, blood pressure misregulation, and nervous system disorders.   

As electrolyte loss increases with sweat loss, any factor that leads to increased sweat loss means electrolyte supplementation is warranted.  This includes changes in environmental temperature, training at any level, and any type of notable stress. Combining any of the factors leads to further increases in sweat (and electrolytes) lost, meaning additional replacement is needed. Realize that sweat is lost from the horse even at ambient temperatures and low humidity - but often the sweat is evaporating before we can see the evidence. Thus, even at cool temperatures, a horse in work is losing sweat and electrolytes.  

A common mistake is waiting to supplement electrolytes after an imbalance is present.  It can take days, weeks, or longer to correct an imbalance, so the time to supplement is when any sweat factor has increased so that imbalances and the resulting impacts can be avoided.

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