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Ways to Ensure Success and a Healthy Horse
During the Summer Months

With rising temperatures and humidity, the summer months can be difficult on your horse. At the same time, these are the prime months for competition, hauling and spending as much time in the saddle as possible. As your level of training and competition increases, be sure that you’re factoring in the effect that heat and humidity can have on your horse’s performance, recovery rate and overall health.

Proper Hydration

Keeping your horses properly hydrated is the first step to maintaining their health in hot, humid weather. Horses require plenty of water to sustain them, as well as to keep them performing at their best and recovering well from exercise. During work in hot humid environments, a horse’s water requirement can increase 2-3 times compared to maintenance. It’s also important to remember that horses being trailered need plenty of water as well.

How Nutrition Comes Into Play for Equine Health and Performance

Horses often need additional support during the hot summer months to maintain a well-hydrated state. A severe electrolyte imbalance is common in critically dehydrated horses and can cause heartbeat abnormalities, lethargic behavior and muscle fasciculations (brief spontaneous contraction or fluttering of muscles). While more moderate electrolyte imbalances may not show clinical symptoms, they can still play an important role in endurance and athletic performance. By supplementing with electrolytes during hot weather, you can help support normal cardiovascular, immune and neurological function in your horse. Some key electrolytes to consider are: Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Magnesium.

Suggestions for Electrolytes

Preloading 24 Hours Prior to Intense Exercise

  • Be sure your horse is drinking a minimum of 4-5 gallons of water per day
  • Administer one to two 32-gram servings of Platinum Electrolyte at 24 hours prior, then again at 12 hours prior to exercise.

During Exercise Lasting Longer Than 2 Hours in Heat

  • Administer one-half to one 32-gram serving of Platinum Electrolyte every 2-3 hours.
  • Allow your horse ample time to drink fresh water after administering Platinum Electrolyte.

Post Exercise

  • Administer one 32-gram serving every 12 hours.
  • Horses should be drinking a minimum of 4-5 gallons of fresh water per day.

Quick Tips for Optimal Hydration

  • Be sure your horse has access to quality forage. This will ensure they’re receiving potassium, calcium and magnesium.
  • Provide a salt block (NaCl). Horses will freely consume 50 grams per day on average of NaCl from a salt block, satisfying the needs of most horses in moderate work.
  • Be sure you have a constant supply of fresh water available to your horse. Electrolyte consumption increases water consumption.

Daily Electrolyte Requirements (Grams Per Day) for Equine Health

Electrolyte Rest Light Work Moderate Work Heavy Work
Sodium (Na) 10 20 50 125
Chloride (Cl) 10 25 70 175
Potassium (K) 25 30 44 75
Magnesium (Mg) 10 11 14 15-19

Difficulty Sweating

Heat can have a profound impact on your horse’s health, interfering with their ability to sweat normally. This is most often a problem in hot, humid climates and can come on gradually or happen virtually overnight. Known as anhidrosis, a horse’s inability to sweat can cause an increased respiratory rate as horses attempt to dissipate heat by sweating but are unable to do so. As their body temperature increases, heart rate and blood pressure can rise to dangerous levels. Anhidrosis very often results in loss of use until the horse’s ability to sweat can be returned to normal.

To help prevent anhidrosis, be sure your horse is not exposed to unrelenting direct sun in hot and humid temperatures. Shade and periods of rest in a cooler environment can help to prevent anhidrosis. In addition, proper nutritional support can help maintain your horse’s health as the weather warms.

How Nutrition Comes Into Play for Equine Health and Performance

Nutrients that can help support a horse’s ability to sweat normally include:

  • Potassium, Sodium and Chloride are all important electrolytes in the horse’s diet, as well as being key components of sweat. If a horse has depleted their body stores of these crucial elements, then their ability to sweat could be decreased.
  • Vitamin E provides critical antioxidant support when oxidative damage increases as horses lose their ability to sweat normally.
  • B Vitamins are essential to proper cell and nerve function. The action of sweating in horses is partially controlled by nerve stimulation.
  • L-Arginine is an essential precursor for nitric oxide synthase and may be involved in increasing blood flow, which is crucial for horses that aren’t able to sweat normally.
  • L-Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, a neurotransmitter important for a horse to sweat normally.

Allergies & Insect Bites

Just like people, horses can have a reaction to environmental allergens, feed and even insect bites. An allergy is simply a heightened immune response to an allergen, creating a hypersensitivity reaction. A horse will most commonly exhibit symptoms of an allergic response on their skin or in their ears in the form of hives, hair loss, rashes, scratching, rubbing and chewing. Behaviorally, horses with allergies can become agitated, itchy and generally uncomfortable, especially while under saddle. Aside from allergies manifesting with skin lesions, respiratory allergies are also common. Coughing and an increased respiratory rate and effort are symptoms often seen in horses experiencing a respiratory reaction to allergens, such as dust, molds and spores.

How Nutrition Comes Into Play for Equine Health and Performance

There’s an endless list of potential allergens that can affect your horse, including food (although rare), shampoos, tack oil, shavings, dust, insect bites or environmental factors such as trees and grasses. Nutrition, however, can help support a healthy immune system and normal response to allergens.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can support skin and coat health, as well as a normal healthy immune system and level of inflammation.
  • B Vitamins are essential to proper cell and nerve function. The action of sweating in horses is partially controlled by nerve stimulation.
  • Quercetin is a polyphenolic plant compound that is widely used for its antioxidant properties and ability to help support a normal healthy level of inflammation and response to histamines.
  • Vitamin E is an important component of cell membranes and can assist the body’s natural ability to protect itself from free radical damage caused by allergens.

Traveling & Supporting Immunity

The summer months are show season, a time to hit the road with your horses to compete. With traveling comes certain factors to keep in mind to ensure that your horse’s health isn’t compromised by miles on the road and exposure to other horses that may or may not be healthy. Aside from keeping your horses fed, hydrated and properly protected in the trailer, supporting their immune system is a critical step in hauling and competing them successfully

How Nutrition Comes Into Play for Equine Health and Performance

The right nutritional support can provide both passive and active immune support for horses that are experiencing sickness, are exposed to another horse that is ill or are traveling and may suffer a compromised immune system due to stress of travel or a new environment.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids help support a normal healthy level of inflammation in the body by resulting in the production of less potent inflammatory products that could negatively impact a horse's health.
  • Micronutrients help provide the body with critical nutrients it needs to maintain a properly functioning immune system and support the body’s natural defense against free radical damage.
  • Amino Acids such as arginine, glutamine, cysteine and methionine help support cellular health and immune function.
  • Bovine Colostrum has numerous benefits, especially seen at the level of the intestinal enterocyte, where the immunoglobulins recognize and neutralize potential pathogenic organisms.
  • Purified Calf Thymus Protein Complex is purified from the calf thymus gland, an organ that plays a major role in activating the immune system.
  • Selenium is required for a multitude of systems. Selenium functions as an antioxidant and is an important component of thyroid, muscle and immune function.
  • Zinc can play a critical role in lymphocyte function and is also needed for the synthesis and activity of superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme.
  • Lysine is an immune-supporting ingredient that is helpful for horses that may be at risk for viral exposure.