Robert Monk is here to tell us why horses need salt and how to make sure they get enough. If you’re looking for a natural source of sodium, consider supplementing your horse’s diet with wondrous seaweed.
Equine Salt is a Key to Healthy Horses
By Robert Monk
As all horse enthusiasts will know, horses – just like any other animal – need salt in their diet. As an electrolyte, one of the primary purposes of sodium chloride in the body is to balance cell fluids by attracting and retaining water. Like other mammals, horses lose their salt through sweat and urine, and what the body loses it needs to take back in again through a balanced diet. Of course, salt occurs in many places naturally, but the chances are that when your animals are out and about grazing, they’re not going to have access to the levels of salt necessary for them to lead a healthy, happy existence.
How much salt does a horse need?
To put it simply, the answer is as long as a piece of string. It depends on a number of factors, including the age and size of your horse, as well as the levels of work and exercise it carries out every day. However, authorities on the subject do provide guidelines according to how much the average horse needs when it lives an average, perhaps somewhat restful existence. It’s essential to make sure your animal is getting enough; deficiencies in essential minerals like salt, over the long term, can lead to kidney and heart beat problems, amongst other physical issues.
In the U.S., the National Research Council advises horse owners to make sure their animals, at rest, have around 25 grams of salt per day. However, a number of other researchers have suggested that this requirement increases rapidly – by as much as eight or nine fold – when horses engage in heavy duty work. A more modest level of work will necessitate around 55 or 60 grams every day.
How can I give my horse the salt it needs?
There are a number of options available for balancing out your horse’s diet and making sure its salt levels remain sufficiently high.
- Some horse owners prefer to buy loose salt that can be easily mixed in with a horse’s feed.
- Others prefer to buy salt blocks, which allow you to easily buy in bulk. However, it’s worth noting that this option does come with one or two downsides. Some horse owners have reported that their animals take a little too enthusiastically to a salt blocks. Due to the ease with which they can access a block, some horses bite off large pieces, ultimately taking in more salt than their bodies require.
- Others prefer salt licks, which can be hung on a rope. This option has the benefit of relieving boredom when the animal is penned in, since it has to lift its head to get at the lick, which – being fastened to a rope – can move elusively to either side under a horse’s tongue. Reducing the animal’s boredom between the hours in which it’s ridden can work wonders towards cutting back on stress levels, leading to a generally improved wellbeing in the long run.
What kind of salt should I give my horse?
This doesn’t matter too much, since any form of dietary salt you buy will contain mostly sodium chloride. Some of the more popular options today consist mostly of Himalayan salt, which is sourced from Pakistan.
Whatever option you go for, just remember: a horse’s standard diet, without any form of sodium chloride supplement, will already contain some measure of salt. Be sure to check the salt levels in the feed your horse goes through every day, and adjust the amount of salt you give it through supplements such as loose salt, salt blocks and roped salt licks accordingly.
Do you supplement your horse’s diet with salt? How do you ensure they get enough? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
Robert works for Darlingtons Group Ltd.
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