Tag Archives: electrolytes

Fatigue and Your Horse

Muscle fatigue results in a decrease in athletic ability. It is a normal consequence of exercise at high intensity or for prolonged periods of time. Fatigue actually protects muscles from damage.

How does fatigue manifest itself? Change in gait, stride length, and speed can all occur.

Electrolyte imbalance may also play a role in fatigue. During intense exercise water moves into muscle cells and concentrations of potassium decrease, decreasing the strength of the muscle contractions.

Intense training over many weeks can result in a form of chronic fatigue. This over training causes decreased performance which, oddly, is not reversed by a couple of weeks of rest. Massage and a high quality diet can turn this syndrome around.

Temperature and humidity have a huge impact on the degree of disturbance to muscle during exercise.

Sports massage can counteract many of the negative symptoms of muscle fatigue: before the event, massage can warm up the muscles. After the event, soreness can be minimized. The benefits are numerous:

Decreases muscular / skeletal pain
Improves quality of movement
Alleviates stress
Reduces risk of injury
Improves alignment

Improves blood circulation

Promotes healing

Prevents future injuries
Enhances muscle tone
Increases range of motion
Eases muscle spasms
Reduces inflammation and swelling
Relieves tension
Hastens elimination of waste products and toxins
Lengthens connective tissues
Breaks down adhesions
Improves temperament
Creates synovial fluid in joints from increased circulation
Boosts performance and endurance
Restores mobility
Extends the overall life of the horse


How to Help Your Horse Deal With Heat

Heat Advisory for Horses

What's New ImageSpraying off your horse can be effective at lowering body temperature.

Here are ten important tips to prevent heat related problems in horses.

1. Heat can kill: High environmental temperatures and related heat issues of dehydration, exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur in horses and can produce illness and death. This is serious business and you must take steps to ensure your horse is protected when traveling in a trailer, being ridden on trail rides, or in competition events.

2. Drink water: Maintain hydration in your horse by allowing free access to water at all times during hot weather. It is a myth that a hot horse drinking water will experience colic or other medical problems. Never let your horse pass up a chance to drink water. Only horses that have been deprived of water for a significant time (many hours or days) need to have water provided in smaller amounts over time. Let your horse drink on the trail or after a class at a show. Hint- You can lead a horse to water .  . .  . this is true, so offer some hay and your horse will often drink after eating the hay. Soup-consistency bran or pellet mashes are another means of getting extra water into your horse

3. Shade: Provide shade as much as possible.

4. Limit what you do with your horse during peak heat:

  • Ride or compete with your horse in the early mornings when it is cooler.
  • Have the ride or event management consider a change in the program schedule to limit afternoon activities during peak heat.
  • Shorten your ride.
  • Go slower and provide frequent breaks for your horse, in shade.
  • Encourage your horse to drink whenever they want water.

5. Ventilation: Provide open vents and windows in trailers which can open for cross ventilation (however, don’t let your horse stick its head out while on the road).

6. Know signs of fatigue and overheating in your horse and stop before more severe signs of heat exhaustion begin: Persistent high respiratory rate that does not come down with rest over 10-30 minutes (normal is 20-40 breaths per min). Change in mentation, decreased energy level and reluctance to keep going. Dry mucous membranes in the mouth (they should feel “slimy”). Prolonged capillary refill time—Push on your horse’s gum. They should be pink to start, then it will blanch to white after pressure, and return to pink in approximately one second.  Check this at the start of your day and frequently throughout the day. If it is prolonged, your horse is trying to tell you to stop, rest, provide water and if other signs of colic or muscle pain occur, you need to stay put and seek veterinary attention. Gut sounds—Listen at the start of your day (if you don’t have a stethoscope put your ear on your horse’s flank- behind the ribs). You should hear gurgling sounds on both sides of the belly– that is normal and good. Quiet gut sounds are a warning that your horse may be heading for dehydration or exhaustion.

7. Fans: If in a barn with limited ventilation, try to arrange more air circulation by careful placement of a fan in front of the stall or in the aisle way. Keep electric cords out of reach of horses.

8. Hose (spray) off your horse or pour water from a bucket over your horse. Cool water is fine, normal temperature (not hot) water is good too. Evaporation produces cooling and continuous hosing is one of the most effective means of lowering body temperature.

9. Water source: Keep a supply of water available for your horse to drink.  Obtain some clean 5 gallon cans and fill them up with water before you travel.

10. Electrolytes: These may be useful if the horse has been sweating excessively. Only use if they can be followed by access to water to drink. Have a plan outlined by your veterinarian if you have not used electrolytes before. Only use electrolytes specifically made for horses.

Trailering Tips in the Heat
If you need to trailer your horse, do so in the cool early morning or late evening hours when it is cooler. Don’t leave your horse in a parked trailer, especially if there is no shade. Just as with a parked car, temperatures inside a trailer can rapidly reach 140 degrees and the horse can quickly develop heat stroke.Provide as much ventilation and airflow as safely as possible on the road.Be very careful with hauling foals – they appear to be even more susceptible to heat than adult horses.

Tips provided by:

John Madigan, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM, ACAW*

Gary Magdesian, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM, ACVECC**

W. David Wilson, BVMS, MS, MRCVS***

*International Animal Welfare Training Institute

**Head- Equine Critical Care- VMTH

***Director- Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH)

School of Veterinary Medicine University of California-Davis


Should You Test Your Horses Blood for the Start of Show Season?

I heard from a client that her trainer has all horses competing at Preliminary and above (eventing) tested for blood enzyme levels at the start of show season. I was so impressed to hear that such comprehensive care is being given to the horses at her barn. I think it is a great idea to monitor your horses blood when he is in an intensive conditioning program. Two important muscle enzymes can be tested for. By studying these enzymes, veterinarians are basically trying to assess whether or not the horse has tied up, or if the horse has early signs of tying up.Other factors which can contribute to tying-up include vitamin E and selenium deficiency, and electrolyte imbalance. A horse with any of these imbalances is more prone to injury and cramping, as muscles cannot perform efficiently, thus leading to overloading of the tendons.

Trailering is Hard on the Body!

Balancing in a moving trailer requires the same effort as a ride. So a 6 hour trailer trip is roughly the equivalent of 6 hours of training. If you talk to savvy bettors at the track, they will not place a bet on a horse that is not stabled at the racetrack. They know that trailering over for the race takes too much out of the horse. A bumpy ride forces the muscles to contort in ways that places more strain on muscles than a gallop over varied terrain. Many bodyworkers get urgent calls from owners after their horses have been transported. Horses will be sore, and may be subluxated after traveling in a trailer. Add the additional stress of some dehydration, changing temperatures, slippery floors, a careless driver, fumes from traffic, and the change of routine, and you can have a horse with a body in distress. Massage, good nutrition and hydration, and rest, will all help to restore your horse to health. I also use Transfer Factor, which I have discussed in other posts. Feel free to search my topics for more information, and also: I welcome comments, questions, etc!

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