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[RC] E-lytes - Darlene Anderson

Gosh...it really disturbs me seeing some endurance neophytes taking as gospel, the advice to not electrolyte during rides. Now, I don't have tens of thousands of miles to my name, but I'm nearly to 4000 and I've ridden a variety of horses. Being a student of the Mike Foss school of endurance riding, last year at the annual PNER convention in Portland, OR, Dr. Foss stated that there's no possible way to replace ALL the e-lytes lost in competition, but that the administration of e-lytes (salt!) will encourage the horse to drink, just like when we eat salty food which in turn makes us thirsty...we drink. I was riding a horse, at the time, who didn't drink much on the trail during training so I tried this and to my surprize, it worked! He drank like a fish with a "half shot" of e-lytes before our rides.
I've learned through trial and error that as long as your horse is PPED and sweating normally, you can't possibly over-electrolyte, and believe you me, we give plenty of e-lytes when the conditions warrant such. In cooler conditions and going at speeds that shouldn't metabolically compromise our horses, we don't tend to give as much e-lytes, much the same as the Teeters.
In the beginning of my "endurance career" I rode a half arab/qh who was "heavy to the QH" and I learned from her a few very important things about metabolics and horses...she was my first and only (knock on wood) metabolic pull. The single most important thing I learned from that experience (courtesy of Dr. Jerry Washburn) is that an arrythmic heart rate is one of the very first signs of metabolic distress and it's also the most commonly missed signs. This didn't really come home to me until the '97 Pan Am when a friend asked me to crew her horse that she had leased to the Brasilian team...Long story short here...another of the leased horses came into the first vet check at 16 mi. The mare had an arrythmic heartrate at that time so I mentioned to the owner/crew what I had experienced. She told me in no uncertain terms that "this is normal for this horse, mind your own business and go crew your own damn horse". The mare pulled at the third vet check, metabolic, had to be shipped to the eq. hosp. and treated aggressively with fluids. Makes ya say, HMMMMM.
We use Enduralytes or Enduralites (made by the same people), mixed with applesauce. We tried yogurt, but my partner's horse is "sensitive" and didn't like the yogurt (ok, so my partner is a little anthropomorphic when it comes to his Partner, his Z Boy), so we stick w/the applesauce. When it's hot out we e-lyte often and, again in cooler weather, we usually give them the night before and the morning of competition and play it by ear from there.
Please remember that our horses are not generic wind up toys...they are all different with different needs, what works for one horse is not necessarily going to work for the next one, no matter their breeding and body type. Horses are funny critters and we need to remember that they have the ability to give us all they have and more if we let them. It's our responsibility, as their guardians, their partners, to prevent harm from coming to them. Collect your information and see what works best for you, don't assume that just because something works for one person that this is automatically the best program for you.
It's a process, this becoming an accomplished endurance rider! 
My .02 based on personal experience...good luck and happy trails,
Darlene Anderson
Official Endurance Junkie

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