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The Importance of Shipping Hydration and ElectroBalance

by Dr Clair Thunes PhD Nutrition
Consulting Nutritionist for EnviroEquine & PET
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Long distance travel is often a necessary part of many competition horse’s lives. Horses shipping long distances are subject to higher levels of transport stress which creates a number of potential health and performance risks.  Travel causes stress because it requires that the horse make extreme adjustments in its behavior and management of its physiologic systems in order to cope with the environment.

There are three forms of stressors associated with transport. Physical stressors (such as loading and unloading, vibration, head posture and lack of movement), psychological stressors (such as separation from the regular herd, confinement and exposure to strange environments) and environmental stressors  that include changes in temperature and humidity, dust, ventilation and even changes in light levels.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis conducted work looking at the impact of 24 hours of long-distance travel on horses that were experienced travelers. They monitored the horses both during transit and in the recovery period 24 hours after travel. They found that the horses lost an average of 6 percent of body weight and hematocrit and total protein (used as indicators of dehydration) increased during travel. Weight loss was thought to be due to sweat loss as well as decreased gut fill and the blood work confirmed that the level of dehydration increased with time traveled. Most horses regained 50 percent of the weight lost within 24 hours of arrival at their destination.

Other studies have shown that horses can lose significant amounts of fluid and electrolytes due to sweating during transport possibly as much as that lost completing the traditional endurance day of a three day event (roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross country) during a 10 hour journey.

Giving excessive levels of electrolytes during transport may be detrimental. A better approach to insuring horses stay hydrated is to provide adequate electrolytes in the days running up to travel and to insure horses are drinking properly before departure. Then on arrival administration of electrolytes can continue. It is also important to make sure that the electrolyte you choose provides large enough amounts of sodium, chloride and potassium per serving to have an impact on electrolyte status.

Electrobalance has really helped to keep my horses from dehydrating while traveling, competing, and during big weather changes. It's palatability makes it an especially easy choice to feed.

Bronze Medal Winner, Allison Brock
Member of the 2016 US Olympic Dressage Team

ElectroBalance is a unique electrolyte that provides levels of sodium, chloride and potassium at levels to restore sweat losses in a base of bentonite clay. Bentonite clay may help support healthy gastrointestinal tissue by acting to buffer stomach acid and coat the stomach lining. This makes it an ideal choice for horses that display gastric sensitivity when consuming electrolytes and for those horses at risk of gastric ulceration when stressed.

Using ElectroBalance before shipping helps insure adequate sodium intakes prior to travel which can help encourage thirst. Enviro Equine client Chad Summers, a racehorse trainer, uses ElectroBalance as part of his program and has been utilizing it with all his horses. Chad recently took the international racing community by storm when his horse ‘Mind Your Biscuits’ won the 2017 Dubai Golden Shaheen 2 Million Dollar (G1) race against a strong line of international competitors. Summers relied on ElectroBalance to make sure that Biscuits stayed in top form during the long trip to Dubai, where the Gold Shaheen was held as part of the 2017 Dubai World Cup and believes that it helped the horse stay in top form during a difficult travel schedule from Florida to Dubai.

Other proven methods for horses that do not drink during transit include feeding soaked hay, adding water to any grain meals to create soups and putting a handful of grain in a water bucket to tempt drinking. For horses that tend not to drink in strange locations, add something like apple juice to your water at home and then do the same at the new location to mask any unusual taste. Note that untreated water should also always be made available.

With careful management and use of a quality electrolyte like ElectroBalance, dehydration and shipping stress during transport can be minimized helping to ensure that your equine partner arrives at your destination ready to perform at their best.

Consulting Nutritionist for EnviroEquine Dr. Clair Thunes is passionate about her profession—one that she decided upon at the age of 14. After earning a Bachelor of Science with Honors from Edinburgh University, and a Master of Science in Animal Science and a PhD in Nutrition from the University of California, Davis, Dr. Thunes went on to found Summit Equine Nutrition LLC an independent consulting company in 2007. An experienced nutritionist and accomplished scientist, Dr. Thunes understands the vital role that nutrition plays in managing horses today. Most importantly, she believes in making nutrition accessible to everyone and removes the guesswork so that owners have the peace of mind that their horse’s diets are optimal for maximum health and peak performance.  Her clients include all horses from competitors at the 2016 Rio Olympics to retired pasture friends, mules and miniature donkeys. She writes a weekly online commentary for theHorse.com and her nutrition articles have been published in noted publications including: The Horse, Equine Wellness, Trail Blazer, Horse & Rider and The Horse Report. Besides consulting she teaches equine nutrition and equine exercise physiology in the Animal Science Department at UC Davis and equine health at Cosumnes River College.  Clair continues to be involved with The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. and she is currently the Regional Supervisor for the Sierra Pacific Region.