Could anyone advise me on how best to use electrolytes, I'm slightly confused as there seems to be a lot of different information out there, what is a good brand to use as sodium/chloride phos/mag content seems to vary so much? Would you feed a separate mineral supplement or just rely on what's in the hard feed ration?
Unfortunately, this is similar to asking "what is the best saddle" in that the answer is going to vary for each individual horse and, to some extent, parameters like weather and terrain.
We have 3 actively competing horses and all 3 get a different elyte protocol.
Dream gets Lyte Now. She always gets dosed starting the night before the ride, the morning of the ride, each hold during the ride, and at least once after the finish. Depending on the season, she may get pre-loaded starting the night before we leave to trailer to the ride and then after the ride until we have returned home. She also may or may not be dosed mid-loop during the ride, depending on the weather and her behavior/recoveries.
Sultan gets a double dose of Enduramax mixed with ProCMC, starting at least the night before the ride, the morning of the ride, every 10 miles during the ride, and at least once after the finish. He also may get more before or after the ride, depending on the weather/recoveries.
George gets a double dose of Enduramax mixed with ProCMC in the same way as Sultan. George also gets dosed with No Salt (for the potassium) every 10 miles.
If you are interested, I can explain the reasoning behind what each one is getting (or you can let your eyes glaze over and stop reading now
Dream generally has excellent recoveries and is a moderate sweater. Lyte Now is thought to be a relatively fast-acting elyte, in that it gets into their system fast but doesn't necessarily hang around forever. So its enough to boost her system but not overkill (potentially upsetting her stomach).
Sultan sweats like a fiend. Originally he was just dosed during holds, but we noticed that as the ride would go on, he would take longer to pulse down. We suspected that even though he is a great eater and drinker, he was simply sweating so much that he was getting behind. So we tried elytes every 10 miles, and so far that seems to have done the trick, keeping his recoveries consistent.
George also sweats like a fiend, so the thinking we applied to Sultan also applied to him. Dosing every 10 miles helped, but he was still tending to take longer as the ride wore on, esp during hot, humid rides. George is the heaviest muscled of all our horses and one of the ride vets suggested trying an additional potassium supplement. Bingo! With that extra potassium, his recoveries have been consistent.
In terms of normal mineral supplementation, we have a couple brown trace mineral blocks out in the pasture with them at home. During the rides, we don't worry about additional supplementation. They get all the grass hay they want and their normal grain ration outside of the ride, and during the ride they get all the hay they want (we offer both the usual grass and alfalfa) and grain of some sort (how much and what depends on the horse).