As we discussed last month, water is a major component of the equine body. Adult horses are 65% water, and foals are 80%. When we think about the size of an adult horse, that’s a lot of water that needs regular replenishing; a 1000-pound horse consumes an average of 10 gallons of water per day. Increased workload or elevated environmental temperatures increase that demand, which can be as high as 16 gallons per day. Hot, humid days can cause a working horse to lose up to 4 gallons of water an hour—a rate that cannot be replaced immediately by drinking.
Losing water means losing electrolytes
The definition of dehydration in horses is the point when body tissues don’t have enough water to function properly. Horses can lose up to 5% of their body weight in fluids before showing signs of dehydration, and yet just a 4% loss in fluids affects performance.
Unlike humans, the sweat of a horse contains high levels of electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Electrolytes are also lost to the body through urine and feces.
Dextrose is commonly added to equine electrolyte formulas on the theory that sugar helps the absorption of sodium, just as it does in humans. However, two separate studies conducted by Kentucky Equine Research showed that neither glucose nor dextrose increased electrolyte uptake.
Muscle glycogen replacement
Depleted glycogen in the muscle leads to high lactate levels, which contributes to muscle fatigue. Horses can’t replenish glycogen as quickly as humans can. Various studies point out that the re-synthesis of glycogen after exercise requires adequate intercellular water and electrolytes.
The transmucosal pathway
When we use water as a delivery system for electrolytes and nutrients, we can provide quicker absorption than giving electrolytes and other recovery nutrients in food. As a horse drinks, some of the electrolytes and the water are absorbed via the mucous membranes in the mouth. Absorption of electrolytes in water through this oral transmucosal pathway provides fast transportation to the systemic circulatory system. Absorption is rapid because of the rich vascular supply to the oral mucosa. Even the respiratory tract provides a large mucosal surface for nutrient and electrolyte absorption. Some of the electrolyte solution is absorbed as the water passes through the respiratory tract, and some is absorbed in the stomach and intestinal tract.
This faster means of water and electrolyte replenishment is particularly important for horses that are beginning to dehydrate, horses that are in heavy work, horses that are working in high heat and/or humidity, or horses that are under stress from shipping, competition, summer heat or winter cold.
There are lots of hydration/electrolyte supplements on the market. Often these formulas contain extraneous ingredients that are not part of the whole food paradigm, including:
- Fumaric acid: a food additive that enhances flavor and sourness
- Citric acid: made from GMO corn, predominately produced in China
- Natural flavors: created by the fragrance industry in France; a “natural” flavor could be a combination of over 200 different chemicals
- Table salt (sodium chloride): highly refined, bleached, devoid of the trace elements found in sea salt
- Dextrose: made from GMO corn via hydrolysis of cornstarch; a commonly used sweetener in packaged and processed foods
- FD&C aluminum lake: an artificial color synthetically produced from coal tar or petroleum; commonly used in eye shadows, mascara, nail polish, lip balm, lipstick, lip liner, sunscreens, supplements, and some opioid pain medications
- Artificial flavors: nearly the same as natural flavors, as both are chemical cocktails made by the fragrance industry; according to Scientific American, “There is little substantive difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings.”
- Vegetable oil: highly refined, solvent-extracted, usually blended from GMO corn and GMO soy sources
The focus of many conventional, existing hydration formulas is on electrolytes, added sugars, and sometimes foods such as oats and alfalfa. What these formulas don’t address is the synergy of GI tract support, mitochondria and ATP support, and the role of stress.
Introducing: Aqua-Forte EQ and Alixir EQ
BioStar is excited to release two new hydration and water enhancement formulas. Unlike other hydration formulas on the market, we have incorporated GI tract support, antioxidant support, stress support, and mitochondrial support with electrolytes. These are truly the next generation of hydration supplements for horses because they address the whole horse.
Designed to be added to drinking water, Aqua-Forte provides:
Organic fennel seeds for digestion.
Celtic sea salt and sea vegetables for isotonic electrolytes in the same ratio that is lost in sweat, plus additional trace minerals.
Shilajit for mitochondria support and the production of ATP and COQ10; provides fulvic and humic acids for GI tract health.
Organic apple powder for antioxidant support, including quercetin, one of the most powerful flavonols known.
Aqua-Forte can be mixed in 1-2 gallons of water for faster hydration, or in 4 gallons of water if you want your horse to consume Aqua-Forte over a longer period of time.
For performance horses, Alixir will be available in two forms: as a paste administered orally by syringe for fast-acting support, or in a powder to be added to drinking water.
Alixir paste consists of a base made from camelina oil, organic freeze-dried lemon, and lecithin from non-GMO sunflower oil. To this foundation, we’ve added:
Shilajit for mitochondria support, ATP and COQ10 production, and cellular energy. Provides fulvic and humic acid for GI tract support.
Celtic sea salt and sea vegetables for isotonic electrolytes in the same ratio as sweat, plus trace minerals.
Micro-crystalized aloe (also found in our product Tum-Ease) that coats the GI tract to protect the mucosa from irritation and gastric acid burn.
Organic tulsi leaves, also known as holy basil, one of the Ayurvedic adaptogenic herbs used to support glandular and circulatory systems under stress.
Organic barley grass juice powder providing the super antioxidant SOD that helps reduce muscle oxidative stress.
Organic apple powder containing the potent antioxidant quercetin which helps reduce histamine and other allergic and inflammatory mediators.
Camu camu from the Amazon rainforest, known for being one of the richest sources of vitamin C essential to synthesizing the collagen that maintains ligaments and tendons. Camu camu’s vitamin C and bioflavonoid content is nearly 20 times higher than that found in one orange, and this rainforest fruit provides a matrix of carotenoids as well: rutin, catechins, ellagic acid, lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin for additional antioxidant support.
Alixir powder differs slightly from Alixir paste, in that it does not contain organic barley juice powder. Instead, it provides dehydrated coconut, which provides medium-chain triglycerides for muscle and organ energy plus additional fiber. Alixir powder can be added to drinking water in a high concentration — one serving per 1-2 gallons of water — or a more dilute ratio of one serving for 3-5 gallons of water
Good drinkers, poor drinkers
Some horses drink well whether they are home or at a show. But other horses don’t drink as well when they ship or show, and some are very picky about how the water smells and tastes. Stress, especially when combined with heat and humidity, can bring on dehydration and even delay the onset of drinking to remedy it. And hot weather isn’t the only dehydration factor; impaction colics can occur due to dehydration in cold weather.
What we found when we tested Aqua-Forte and Alixir was that even the suspicious drinkers readily drank the water with these supplements added. We also found that consumption of the enhanced bucket of water then increased the horses’ consumption of plain water.
(Note that it’s important to remember with anhidrosis horses that dehydration is the consequence, not the cause, of non-sweating.)
Water is a traditional delivery system
Horses on fresh pasture have the advantage of getting water through the blades of grass they eat. The combination of grass, nutrients in the grasses and moisture, plus physical movement in their environment, are the fundamentals of equine biology. Horses that rely mostly on hay can be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being properly hydrated.
Water is also a traditional delivery system for humans; many plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda are taken as soups or teas. Laozi, the classical Chinese philosopher described tea as “the froth of the liquid jade” and said it was an indispensible component to “the elixir of life”.
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda consider the spiritual component to herbs and plants. Each living plant has a measure of consciousness and the ability to affect our consciousness. Water is a fundamental element that, when combined with specific herbs as a tea or soup or cold drink, provides physical, emotional, and spiritual benefit to the animal or human drinking it.
The two herbs we have chosen in our new hydration formulas — fennel and holy basil — have a long tradition of use in teas, soups, and in plain water. Water with holy basil leaves is given to cows on Hindu holy days in India and Nepal.
Shilajit, although a bio-resin and not a plant, has traditionally been taken mixed with water. Today the people of Nepal, including the Sherpas, make shilajit tea and drink it several times a day.
Our new formulas Aqua-Forte and Alixir both combine traditional medicine of plants, fruits, bio-resin and minerals with the essential element of water for wellbeing and performance of all horses.
Aqua-Forte and Alixir will be available June 15th.