A common complaint from people is that their endurance horses don’t like being syringed. Mimi herself has always been a basket case when it comes to being force-syringed after a staph infection early on in our time together meant that she had to be syringed nasty-tasting antibiotics several times a day.
So any kind of syringing has always been…interesting. What usually happened when something like this: Halter pony. Stand in the middle of the stall. Hold leaprope in right hand. Hold syringe in left hand. Pony would catch sight of syringe and start wildly flipping her head up and down. Grab halter for greater control. Head still flips up and down. Wrench head around and attempt to jam syringe between clamped lips. Miss. Repeat previous three steps. Maybe get syringe between lips, if lucky. Otherwise, get on tongue, then squirt half thfe contents out in overeager anticipation. Pony spits out anything on her tongue. Refill syringe. Repeat steps, this time jamming in the back of the throat, wondering the entire while if you’re going to choke the pony or send the stuff into her lungs. Get the residue of whatever didn’t get all the way in the back of her mouth spit all over you in distain. Unhalter furious pony, who then retreats to the back of her stall, or even better, the pasture, and then refuses to speak to me for the rest of the day.
Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly an ideal situation for trying to do any kind of e’lyte syringing. I’d tried all the tricks…syringe filled with applesauce, then syringe with nasty stuff, followed by a yummy applesauce…nope. She got to the poiunt where she could smell the plain applesauce, and she’d happily take that, but as soon as I’d give her a different one, she’s spazz again. Syringe dipped in molasses? No go. Molasses and e’lytes mixed? A little better.
What about just mixing it in her food? Well…Dad is fortunate in that Beamer seems to do quite well with minimal e’lyting, and he happily munches them down mixed into any of his sloppy goodie mixes. I’m not so lucky. Mimi’s a fussy princess when it comes to salty things, and flat-out refuses her food if there’s a hint of electrolytes in it.
I made a new discovery for an electrolyte buffer. I’ve been using a sugar substitute, blue agave syrup, in my coffee and tea, and recently discovered that it is low-glycemic, horse-safe, and actually used in a couple different kinds of horse treats. Mimi, being a pony, is already predisposed to being more sensitive to sugar, and is on a pretty strict, low-sugar diet (no cereal grains, no molasses, limited carrots), so I’ve always been somewhat leery of having to use a high-sugar base such as molasses to mix electrolytes for her. She never seemed particularly fond of it, either…hence the both of us ending up sticky, between her head-flipping syringe avoidance tactics, and then spitting out half of whatever did end up in her mouth.
Enter blue agave syrup. She loves it. She actually reaches for the syringe now. She had gotten to the point that she didn’t want to eat any of her sloppy goodie mixes because she was suspicious they might contain e’lytes. So she wasn’t getting e’lytes and she wasn’t getting her moist food, post-training rides. Something has to be done.
It’s now been a month, and I’ve been mixing her electrolytes in a syringe with blue agave syrup and water. After we get back from our rides, while I’m untacking, she stands in front of her hay bag and eats. By the time I’m done, she’s had about 15 minutes to munch and drink, thus providing a good base of food in her stomach. I then give her the e’lyte mix via syringe…which she happily reaches for, and then she gets her pan of electrolyte-free goodies — beet pulp, flax, and probiotic.
Something else that I’ve discovered works — I’ve switched sides. I now stand on her right side. She seems more comfortable with that, as I think standing on the left side sends her brain back into vapor-lock and unpleasant flashbacks of forced syringing. Unconventional, but at this point, I’ll do whatever it takes to get her to take her e’lytes and eat her goodies. I’ve always said she’s a princess, and I don’t mind catering to her whims.
For those curious: I use Perfect Balance electrolyte powder, one scoop in a 2 oz. syringe, about half an ounce agave syrup, and the rest with water, just over an ounce. Mix it up, store it in the syringe. You can mix it in a larger batch, like for multiple e’lyting along the trail at a ride (at which point, I use half the e’lytes and half the agave), but if you do that, mix the e’lytes and water in a sealable water and shake very well to dissolve. The e’lytes take a while to dissolve. Then add the agave to that mix, and shake to dissolve. If you have a way to slightly warm the water, that works even better to dissolve everything.
For every endurance rider you ask, you’re likely to get a different answer for e’lyting protocol, and favorite brands, and favorite buffer. This is jsut the bare bones of something I’ve found that works for me and the pony, and only the tip of what I would consider to be my full e’lyting protocol, and it’s likely I’ll do a post in the future about that very subject.