Supporting the body’s recovery process after physical exertion, training, and competing is crucial for equine athletes. Recovery support is also crucial for horses stressed from high temperatures and/or high humidity. Metabolic horses, especially, are easily stressed when they can’t cool themselves down fast enough or sweat enough.
Recovery requires six basic elements: water, electrolytes, muscle glycogen replacement, cellular energy support, antioxidants, and rest.
Adult horses are 65% water. A 1000-pound horse consumes on average 10 gallons of water per day. High heat and humidity can cause a working horse to lose up to 4 gallons of water an hour—a rate that cannot be replaced immediately by drinking. Horses that train and compete in hot weather dissipate heat through sweat and increased respiration, both of which cause the horse to lose water. Dehydration can occur as a result of significant fluid loss, which causes nerve and muscle disruption and puts stress on the heart.
Just over a 5% loss of fluids marks the beginnings of dehydration, yet studies in Australia have shown that even a 4% loss in fluids can affect performance.
The sweat of a horse contains high levels of several electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Replacing these critical minerals is essential to recovery.
Depleted glycogen in the muscles can lead to high lactate levels, contributing to muscle fatigue. The re-synthesis of glycogen requires adequate intercellular water and electrolytes. Carbohydrates in hay and grass provide glucose to re-supply the muscles with glycogen. Horses don’t replenish glycogen as quickly as humans, although adding a banana with some alfalfa pellets within one or two hours after exercise can help boost the muscle recovery rate.
Cellular energy support
The mitochondria inside the body’s cells are the tiny generators responsible for the production of ATP—a molecule that provides 95% of the cellular energy that powers the body. These biochemical processes in the cell are known as cellular respiration. Recent research indicates that the mitochondria, outside of supplying ATP, may also be important for muscle-building.
Cellular respiration requires oxygen, and insufficient oxygen levels lead to muscle fatigue and increased lactic acid. We can support the respiratory process with CoQ10 supplementation or with shilajit, a nutrient-dense biomass from the Himalayas that supports both the mitochondria and the body’s natural production of CoQ10.
Shilajit has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to support stamina and endurance. In Nepal, shilajit is consumed in a tea by Sherpas renowned for their mountaineering skill.
Antioxidants are important for reducing free radical damage and inflammation. Vitamin C is produced by the horse via the liver, and can be important to supplement at times when the immune system needs support: when shipping, showing, during periods of increased stress, or during tendon and ligament healing. Vitamin C is essential for synthesizing collagen.
The enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) is among the first-line-of-defense antioxidants for preventing oxidative stress in the body. A study in Canada on Standardbred horses in training showed that SOD supplementation may “reduce the increase in muscular membrane permeability induced by training.”
Vitamin E and selenium are important antioxidants not only for recovery but also for overall health. A complete blood count (CBC) is recommended at least once a year (twice a year for performance horses) to make sure your horse is getting adequate vitamin E and selenium in the diet.
Rest is essential for giving muscles time to repair, rebuild, and strengthen. Rest is required for soft tissue repair (tendons, ligaments) and the body’s removal of metabolic chemicals that build up during exercise. Recovery time allows the body to regain fluid loss and energy stores.
Short- and long-term recovery
Short-term recovery occurs in the hours immediately after intense or stressful exercise when replenishing energy stores, fluids, and protein synthesis is imperative.
Long-term recovery is part of a well-designed training program that includes days of rest (recovery days) built into the training schedule along with cross-training, or working the horse on different surfaces, even at the walk. Many top FEI vets have recommended not always working a horse on synthetic footing, but riding on grass and walking on pavement to help strengthen muscles and connective tissues.
To begin with, Alixir EQ provides the much-needed electrolytes and trace minerals from Celtic Sea Salt and sea vegetables. Sea salt can help increase the horse’s desire to drink more water while providing the essential electrolytes, macro- and micro-minerals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sea salt is used to cool the body and regulate levels of water and moisture.
Alixir EQ’s ingredient list also includes:
Shilajit for mitochondrial support, because the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cells and are responsible for the production of ATP and CoQ10. Unique to Alixir EQ, shilajit also provides fulvic acids that include additional ionic electrolytes and trace minerals.
Antioxidants vitamin C and SOD from the Amazon rainforest fruit camu camu and organic barley juice powder.
Organic tulsi leaves (known in Ayurveda as holy basil) to support the glandular and circulatory systems in the recovery phase.
Medical-grade micro-crystalized aloe that helps to protect the delicate intestinal mucosa from irritation and gastric acid burn—important because the GI tract can be especially sensitive to stress.
Riders and owners are keenly aware of the importance of hydration and recovery for their horses. BioStar’s Alixir EQ paste provides you with a full spectrum of support for hydration and recovery. All you need to add is the rest and relaxation for the body to heal and repair.
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