Why Sweat it?

Why Sweat it?

By Gayle Ecker
Vol.2, No.2, Spring 1999, Equine Research Centre's Journal

What is sweat?
* Sweat is a watery fluid containing salts, also called electrolytes.
* Sweating helps the horse lose heat when body temperature increases.
* It is formed in the sweat glands in the skin.
* Horse sweat is 10 times 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, where as potassium (K+) is most abundant inside the cells (like the muscle).
* 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 bone growth.
* Ca++ builds bones and teeth and contributes to healthy function of the heart, muscle, nerves and blood clotting.

How to replace 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 a product like Perform'N Win, use about 3 oz. per hour of exercising, once the horse is used to the taste, add to the water in the recovery period. Amounts needed to replace sweat lossed will vary depending on conditions.

How does sweat help heat loss?
* Sweat must evaporate in order to take heat away from the horse efficently.
* If the weather is not and humid, the sweat will not evaporate quickly.

Sweating Buckets?
* The human sweat rate is only 2 - 3 liters per hour.
* The horse's sweat rate can be 10 - 15 liters per hour. That's sweating buckets!

Its 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 warn 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 aviod 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 at the University of Guelph publishes an informative newsletter called EquineCanada.

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