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Electrolytes for horses: when do you need to complement salt?

Horses can handle warm weather well because they can lose the warmth by sweating. When a horse loses sweat, he doesn’t only lose moisture, but also body salts, in other words electrolytes. Those electrolytes are playing a crucial role in the water management of the horse, and even make it possible for a horse to sweat. The fluid is replenished by drinking, but what about the salts?

The importance of sweating

Sweating is necessary to cool down. Sweat forms a layer of moisture that evaporates, causing the body temperature to drop. If a horse cannot sweat, for example if he doesn't have enough moisture in his body, he gets overheated.

What are bodysalts?

Humans often takes too much salts, but in horses this is not the case. Especially in the summer months when it is warm, a lot of body salts, many body salts are lost through the sweat. A horse loses mainly sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. The protein who also consist in the sweat of horses, forms a layer in the coat which stimulates the evaporation.  This can be recognized by many horses through white foam during sweating at friction on the neck and between the legs.

Percentage of salt that a horse lose per day

Sweat score

How can you recognize?

Sweat lose avg. horse

Salt lose  per day


It is still partially dry, moisture and sticky under the saddle. The neck is sticky and the flanks are slightly darker than normal.

1-4 liter

2-7 teaspoon


It is wet under the saddle and on the neck. Here and there some foam spots along the saddle, were the reins touch the neck and also foam between the hindlegs.

4-7 liter

7-12 teaspoon


The horse is visibly wet under the bridle, on the neck and the flanks with here and there some foam spots.

7-9 liter

12-16 teaspoon


Neck and flanks are totally wet. Wet spots above the eyes. White foam between the hind legs.

9-12 liter

16-21 t teaspoon


See sweatscore 4 and sweat trickles from above the eyes and the belly.

12-18 liter

21-32 teaspoon

Source: Zeyner et al 2013; Weight losses in excercised horses, a pilot study 

Complement electrolytes

When a horse has a shortage of electrolytes it can absorb less well moisture and hold so the horse will dry out. It also reduces the elasticity of the skin and the endurances decreases. At a temperature of around 20 degrees a horses loses with light work about four liters of moisture and 30 grams of salt per hour. The horse replenishes the fluid by drinking enough water.

However, supplementing the salts is another story. Forages and concentrated feed contains little salts, so you need to complement this as owner. Add kitchen salt to the feed can be an option, but horses often do not find it appetizing. If you add salt to Slobber horses do like it much more. You can also provide them a bucket of saltwater, next to the drinking water. You will see that horses choose consciously the salty water.

A salt block or lick stone can also complement salt, but it has been found that the absorption of the salt varies greatly. A better solution for this is to give your horse a complete electrolyte mix, like Pavo E’lyte. This supplement contains not only sodium chloride, but also other body salts your horses loses by sweating. A leisure horse doesn’t need more than 100 gram per day, but during heavy training or extreme temperatures the advice is to feed 200 gram per day.

When do you need to complement salts?

Do not standard feed salt daily, only during warm weather or heavy training. If you give electrolytes before the training or competition, your horse can profit optimally from this and you prevent your horse from starting with shortages. Don’t be scared for overdose, because your horse will urinate the overdoses. But a daily substantial amount of salt can promote the development of stomach ulcers or exacerbate existing ulcers. Don’t forget to provide your horse of unlimited water. Your horse will become thirstier because of the extra salt, it is important that your horse can drink to prevent dehydration symptoms.

Tips during warm weather

Giving electrolytes is not only enough during extreme heat, hereby a few extra tips:

  • Adjust the pasture schedule:
    Make sure that your horse doesn’t stand in the sun during the warmest moment of the day.  Put your horse for example during the night or early mornings outside. If this isn’t possible make sure your horse have enough shadow in the form of a shelter or trees.
  • Preventing with sun screen:
    Horses or ponies with light colored noses burn really quick, this can be very painful. Lubricate the noses with sunscreen!
  • Feed extra:
    Because of the heat, the grass can look very dry and yellow. The nutritional value in the grass is not very high. Give your horse extra roughage, such as Pavo DailyPlus and Pavo Speedibeet. Our advice if you don’t feed concentrated feed is to complement the feed with extra vitamins and minerals like Pavo Vital and Pavo Summerfit.
  • Provide enough fresh water:  
    An adult horse of around 600 kg can drink during warm weather 40 till 60 liters per day. Provide enough fresh drinking water and clean the through preferably every day. Be aware that your horse don’t drink too much water after riding because this gives a chance of colic.
  • Adjust the training:
    It is not pleasant to train heavily in extreme temperatures. You relieve the body by riding early in the morning or late in the evening. If this doesn’t work out once, make sure you cool the horse well afterwards.

Pavo DailyPlus

High fibre roughage mix to extend the eating time

Pavo E'lyte

Electrolytes for competition horses

Pavo SpeediBeet

High-fibre, quick soaking beet pulp flakes

Pavo SummerFit

The daily vitamin and mineral supplement

Pavo Vital

Daily vitamin and mineral balancer