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Why Sweat It?
By Gayle Ecker and Leslie Huber D.V.M.,
Equine Research Centre, Guelph, Ontario

Why sweat it ?

  • sweating helps the horse lose heat when body temperature increases.
  • sweat is a watery fluid containing salts, also called electrolytes.
  • it is formed in the sweat gland in the skin.

What is sweat?

  • sweat contains water and salts.
  • horse sweat is about 10x more concentrated than human sweat!
  • the main electrolytes in sweat are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-), magnesium (Mg++) and calcium (Ca++).
  • losses of electrolytes and water affect health and performance.

What are electrolytes?

  • electrolytes are electrically charged particles in solution, some have a positive (+) charge and some have a negative (-) charge.
  • sodium (Na+) is most abundant in the fluid outside the cells, whereas potassium (K+) is most abundant inside the cells (like the muscle).
  • Na+ helps balance the bodyÕs water and maintains blood pressure.
  • K+ helps balance the fluid inside the cells and is important for optimal muscle, heart and kidney function.
  • Cl- helps maintain the balance of acids and bases.
  • Mg++ is important for many functions in the body and contributes to the skeletal growth.
  • Ca++ builds bones and teeth and contributes to healthy function of the heart, muscle, nerves and blood clotting.

How do I replace the water and electrolytes?

  • for optimal health, performance and recovery, replace lost water and electrolytes.
  • use a good quality electrolyte designed to replace sweat losses in the exercising horse, such as Perform'N Win.
  • avoid high sugar supplements, check ingredients carefully.
  • encourage your horse to drink frequently.
  • do not give concentrated electrolytes to a dehydrated horse.
  • when using Perform'N Win, use about 3 oz. per hour of exercising, once horse is used to the taste, add to the water in the recovery period. Amounts needed to replace sweat losses will vary depending on conditions.

How does sweat help heat loss?

  • sweat must evaporate in order to take heat away from the horse efficiently.
  • if the weather is hot and humid, the sweat will not evaporate quickly

Sweating Buckets?

  • the human sweat rate is only 2-3 L/h.
  • the horse's sweat rate can be 10-15 L/h!
  • talk about sweating buckets!

It’s not the heat, It’s the humidity?

  • if a horse is exercising in the heat, endurance time may decrease by 25%.
  • if it is hot and humid, endurance time may decrease 50%!
  • always be aware of the humidity when exercising your horse.
  • learn how to monitor the temperature of your horse.
  • slowly acclimate your horse to exercise in the heat.

Are you a weather watcher?

  • if conditions include warm to hot temperatures, help cool down the horse to "save sweat".
  • repeated applications of water with a sponge will help to take heat away;
  • continue sponging until the water coming off the skin is the same temperature as it went on.
  • if weather conditions are hot and humid, use caution when exercising to avoid overheating the horse.
  • if weather conditions are very hot and humid, consider stopping all exercise if more than one hour duration.

The Equine Research Centre, Guelph, Ontario This article was kindly contributed by the Equine Research Centre, Guelph, Ontario. For further information please click here

To access EquineCanada click here.

© Equine Research Centre, 1996- 2000

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