Lactic Acid The MOST Limiting Performance Factor in Horses

Lactic Acid from Exercise in Muscles & Blood is the MOST Limiting Factor for Performance in Horses.

There is a Very Narrow pH Limit that is Mandatory for Optimal Performance.

Horse in fast work
Horse in fast work

Body pH must be maintained within very narrow limits for optimal performance.

Processing performance horses’ drinking water can help horses more rapidly recover from exercise acidosis, dehydration and myopathy (Tying Up).

The accumulation of excess lactic acid in muscles and blood is the most limiting factor for muscle strength, endurance and speed.

Performance horses can only function properly if the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of the blood is within a very precise narrow range of pH 7.42 to 7.45.   Any variation from this normal range will result in a decreased performance.

All day long the body produces acids as a normal part of metabolism, even in resting horses.  The body is continually neutralizing and excreting these acids to preserve the pH of tissue cells and blood within the optimal range, so the body can function normally. In resting and only slightly active horses, the body maintains the correct acid-base balance through a complex series of processes, including the elimination of carbon dioxide through the lungs during breathing, and the elimination of lactic acid through the kidneys and urine.

Normally a non-working horse can eliminate excess acid without depleting its salt (electrolytes or alkali) reserve, but the situation changes dramatically when the horse is subject to strenuous exercise.

Different types of work result in different electrolyte losses.

Cooling down an event horse
Cooling down an event horse

Horses performing low intensity exercise for long periods (trotters, long distance endurance) lose large amounts of sweat which is high in electrolytes, particularly chloride ions.  This lower intensity exercise uses oxygen to provide energy, and is known as aerobic exercise.  This creates a high blood pH (known as a metabolic alkalosis).  Aerobic exercise does not produce high levels of lactic acid.

Horses performing shorter term, high intensity (sprint) work, such as CDE Driving horses during the Marathon phase, event horses on the cross country course or race horses: TB or QH, lose relatively smaller volumes of sweat, but develop lactic acidosis from anaerobic metabolism. This intense exercise uses a different energy production pathway, where energy is provided from carbohydrates without oxygen (anaerobic exercise). The side effect of this intense exercise is the production of large amounts of lactic acid.  Blood lactic acid levels increase dramatically at speeds over 10 meters per second.

Polo ponies
Polo ponies

So, fast, maximal exercise causes acidosis,
where the horse’s blood is more acidic than normal because of the higher levels of lactic acid in tissues and blood.  This acidosis rapidly causes muscle fatigue, failure to finish (reduced stamina and endurance), muscle soreness and extended recovery periods (12 to 24 and up to 72 hours).

Acidosis can be worsened if a horse is dehydrated, with insufficient water and electrolytes to maintain normal body fluid balance.   Electrolytes help maintain the cell and blood acidity near normal limits.

On the other hand, prolonged slow work tends to cause heavy sweat loss and alkalosis.  Sweat contains large amounts of essential electrolytes, and these must be replaced rapidly to maintain normal body pH and fluid balance.

Alkalosis causes poor performance, blowing after exercise, nervousness, muscle cramps, and increased blood bicarbonate levels.

The best way to neutralize acids is to use alkaline water.   The body does this by using the essential electrolyte, sodium (an alkali), which forms a salt with the excess lactic acid, but these electrolytes are in limited quantity in the body.

The problem with this is that sodium reserves are quickly depleted when horses are producing a lot of lactic acid during hard exercise, and are losing sodium in sweat as well.   Low body sodium levels reduce the normal thirst reflex, so horses with low sodium levels are often not inclined to drink after hard work, and thus don’t re-hydrate as well as they could.

In addition, when salts are formed while neutralizing lactic acid, they can’t be lost through the kidneys unless they are in solution, so the body must use water it cannot afford to make sure the salts are eliminated causing increased dehydration.

That’s one reason why Alkaline, Ionized, Anti-Oxidant Water & electrolyte supplements are critical in performance horses.

A horse in work loses, in one hour, up to twice as much water, sodium, and chlorides as would be lost normally during a whole day in a resting horse.

After energy availability, the accumulation of excess lactic acid in muscles and blood is the most limiting factor for muscle activity, and the most common cause of muscle fatigue, cramps, tying up and poor performance.

Why Alkaline, Ionized, Anti-Oxidant, Oxygen Rich  Water Improves Your Horses Performance?

Alkaline, Ionized, Anti-Oxidant, Oxygen Rich  Water processor can restructure ordinary water so that is can – Balances blood and tissue pH rapidly

Alkaline, Ionized, Anti-Oxidant, Oxygen Rich  Water – Hydrates quickly, much faster than any other water.  One of water’s unique properties is its ability to form large crystalline structures.  Ordinary water forms large clusters that resemble geodesic domes consisting of 168 molecules or more.

Only a small fraction of the water we use are negatively charged and are permeable to the cellular wall.  (See more about this – called aquaporins or water channels on another page here.)

The ordinary water you and your horses drink does not hydrate, it predominantly washes the exterior of cells and tissues.

Your body has to work very hard to convert the regular water into the negatively charged, small clusters of water that is vital to all bodily functions which take energy and time.  Both of which a performance horse can not spare.

Alkaline, Ionized, Oxygen Rich Water  –  high in Anti Oxidants gobbles up massive amounts of free radicals produced during exercise.

To purchase your own Alkaline, Ionized, Anti-Oxidant Water Processing Machine or to learn more about what this new smarter water technology we have to offer, contact me at or call me at 1-512-734-5056.

References: RanVet,  Pol J Vet Sci. 2010;13(2): 373-9 Muscle damage, hydration, electrolyte balance and vasopressin concentrations in successful and exhausted endurance horses. Munoz A, Riber C, Trigo P, Castejon F. Depart of Animal Med and surgery, School of Vet Med, U Cordoba, Spain.

Disclaimer: Statements made in any publication/book, emails, blogs, websites, written material or in conversations, etc. of any kind: – have not been evaluated by the US Food & Drug Admin, and are not intended to diagnosis, cure or prevent any disease.  If you have a medical condition, please contact your qualified health provider.  The information provided is not a substitute for a face to face consultation with your qualified physician, and should not be construed as individual medical advice.  Information contained herein is for educational purposes only.

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