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[RC] Elytes - Bruce Weary

One of my main concerns about some of the debates on RC is that issues are analyzed down to the last detail, and the worst possible scenarios are examined right out in front of everyone--even the beginners. I would never dream of discussing all of the possible morbid diagnoses a patient might have, in front of him. I would do so with another doctor, but that's our job. Chances are the worst is not going to happen, and there's no sense in alarming the patient, unless absolutely necessary.
You have to be a little bold to do this sport and to ask this level of work from your horse. But the horse, IMO, is better off with a conscientious, bold rider than a timid one, as it relates to these decisions about elytes, feeding, training, etc.,. Let me explain. If a timid rider doesn't condition enough at home (not wanting to hurt the horse), that horse must still do 50 miles on ride day, and may have a rough time of it due to that well-meaning lack of conditioning. He may suffer from not enough elytes if the rider is afraid to give them. He may suffer from not enough or too much feed, depending on the reasons and strategies about how much he should eat.
So let's talk about an elyte strategy that works. I use LyteNow syringes--more expensive than homemade, but a professional product used thousands of times with good success. I give my horse 1oz the night before the ride, and if she drank overnight, I give another 1oz the morning of the ride. From then on , she only gets them after a drink. I don't use "at the vet check," "after so many miles," or "every hour" as criteria. The salts must be in solution to be used. That means they must be accompanied by water. When the horse has had a *good* drink, there is enough water to dilute the 1oz dose and not cause tummy upset. At a vet check, if she has eaten well, I can afford to get back on the trail and start the whole process again after her next drink. Or, I can give her "potato chip mouth," which is smearing a little bit of elytes on her tongue to encourage thirst, but not putting a significant amount in her stomach. Don't ever give elytes to a horse that isn't drinking. Even if he hasn't drank for 20 miles. There may be another problem, or he may just not be thirsty yet. There are a lot of horses like that. They shouldn't be used to get a non-drinking horse to drink. They should be used to get a drinking horse to continue drinking.
A little experimentation won't hurt your horse. IMO, in the long run, you will help the horse more by experimenting with everything you do for him. Saddle fit, feed, conditioning, shoeing, elytes, etc,., These animals are tough and can take a lot of our mistakes without real harm. We have to trust in that.
Oh, and one last observation I have made over the years--you will learn more from an average horse than you ever will from a great horse. There is less room for error, and your senses and judgement will be heightened. My foxtrotter mare recently finished 10th at a ride of 130 horses. I learned more taking a horse like her, with less genetic ability than all the Arabs she beat, to that level of performance than I ever did with previous Arabs. My wife now says, "Just think what you could do with an Arab now." She may have a point.
Remember that this is supposed to be fun. Experimenting with our horses, to me, is like backing up your trailer. Little turns of the wheel are enough to make a difference. Dr Q


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