Effects of oral electrolyte supplementation on endurance horses competing in 80 km rides

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Reasons for performing study:

There is no evidence that use of oral electrolyte pastes enhances performance in competing endurance horses.


To ascertain whether oral administration of a high dose (HD) of sodium chloride (NaCl) and potassium chloride (KCl) to endurance horses would differentially increase water intake, attenuate bodyweight (bwt) loss and improve performance when compared to a low dose (LD).


A randomised, blinded, crossover study was conducted on 8 horses participating in two 80 km rides (same course, 28 days apart). Thirty minutes before and at 40 km of the first ride 4, horses received orally 0.2 g NaCl/kg bwt and 0.07 g KCl/kg bwt. The other 4 received 0.07 g NaCl/kg bwt and 0.02 g KCl/kg bwt. Horses received the alternate treatment in the second ride. Data were analysed with 2-way ANOVA for repeated measures (P<0.05).


Estimated water intake was significantly greater with HD both at the 40 km mark and as total water intake; however, differences in bwt loss and speed between HD and LD were not found. Treatment significantly affected serum Na+, Cl-, HCO3, pH and water intake, but not serum K+ or bwt. Serum Na+ and Cl- were significantly higher at 80 km when horses received HD, but no differences were found in early recovery. Venous HCO3- and pH were significantly lower throughout the ride and in early recovery when horses received HD.

Conclusions and potential relevance:

Other than enhancing water intake, supplementing endurance horses with high doses of NaCl and KCl did not provide any detectable competitive advantage in 80 km rides. Further, the elevated serum electrolyte concentrations induced with HD might not be appropriate for endurance horses.

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