I was very surprised, when a friend of mine at the barn, told me about her horse’s delight in eating bananas as a treat after her riding lessons. She also mentioned that bananas and salt, were an excellent electrolyte for horses. Curious, I consulted my friend Pam MacKenzie, who is a Purina Certified Equine Feed Consultant for Atlantic Canada. Pam’s experience and knowledge on nutrition and improving the well being of horses is vast, she is my go to person for all related queries. I am grateful to her for answering my questions! These were her answers.
Are bananas and salt an electrolyte?
Yes. Bananas rolled in salt (salt is an electrolyte when wet) create sodium chloride and potassium. Potassium, is often included in commercial electrolyte products, because, like sodium chloride, it is a component of sweat.
How much salt would I put on the banana?
The salt level: it depends on the day, the weather, what feed, hay etc., and the amount of sweat loss the horse is experiencing. Hydration, can change every 4 hours. Watch the horse and see if it is drinking after working, shipping, etc. Check hydration with the tent test.
Tent test: pick up a good pinch of horse’s skin at the neck and let go. If the skin snaps back immediately, the horse is properly hydrated.If the skin takes a little time to go back down, or, it stays up in a ‘tent’ shape, the horse needs more fluids.
This would be a beneficial time to give the horse a banana rolled in salt. Most horses like them and it is a nice way to get salt into them, to encourage and keep them drinking water. Plenty of clean, fresh water must be accessible for the horse to drink after eating the bananas and salt, or the horse will become more dehydrated. As horses are unable to drink on the road while in transit or in the show pen, it is best to only feed them this treat after trailering and after a competition when plenty of water is available.
Also, if the manure is loose the horse may have eaten too many bananas.
Most horses enjoy this natural way of restoring, replenishing and hydrating their systems. I was delighted while watching some of my horse friends gobble them up. So try it out, of course if the horse sniffs the banana and turns away, respect their choice and refrain from force feeding them!