Why Do Electrolytes Encourage Horses to Drink?

Our nutrition expert looks at why a horse might choose to drink water with electrolytes over plain water.

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electrolytes for horses
There’s no harm in adding one serving of an electrolyte to a 5-gallon bucket of water. This amount of electrolyte likely will only just provide enough sodium and chloride to meet maintenance requirements. | Photo: iStock
Q.My horse doesn’t drink well if he’s stalled overnight. I rarely bring him in, however, last night I did because his paddock was wet. I decided to give him two water buckets: one with regular water and one with a scoop of electrolytes in 5 gallons of water. To my surprise, when I came back in the morning, he’d consumed the entire bucket of water with electrolytes.

But now I’m concerned. Is it okay for him to drink that much water with electrolytes? Why would he drink so much? I’ve read about adding things like apple cider vinegar to water. Would that be better than using the electrolytes?

A.It’s great you’ve found a convenient way to encourage your horse to drink more water when he’s stalled. This is something a lot of owners struggle with.

There could be many reasons why your horse typically doesn’t drink much when he’s in a stall. First, it’s possible that he doesn’t drink much water when he’s outside, either. But because he likely must drink from a large trough or an automatic waterer, it might not be easy to tell how much he consumes when he’s turned out

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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