Salt Lick horses
Although horse owners know that their horses need salt, it is sometimes difficult to fulfil this need. How much salt does the animal need? Which type should you use? Which form is best? The answer of course depends on the activity level of your horse, the overall diet and even the weather.
Your horse's diet
All horses need salt in their diet, especially sodium chloride (table salt). According to various studies, the average horse in rest needs 25 grams of sodium chloride per day. Active horses require around 55-65 grams of sodium chloride per day, and horses with a heavy or demanding workload may need up to 200 grams per day. Horses get some sodium chloride from their grain and supplements, so make sure you check the nutritional value on the labels to determine how much extra salt your horse needs. Most horses are good at regulating their salt intake and only consume what their body says they need; however, some horses will consume too much out of boredom.
The importance of sodium
Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body of a horse and is important for fluid balance and hydration. Sodium values affect the thirst of your horse. If the sodium level is low, the body will strive to not flush out the sodium. This will cause the horse to drink less. However, it can also encourage the horse to drink more when in times of need, such as during high performance, hot summers or cold winter months. When a horse sweats, it loses sodium and other electrolytes which need to be topped up. It also works in combination with chloride to manage muscle and nerve functions and responses. Insufficient salt intake in horses can lead to abnormal eating or licking habits, such as eating dirt, to get the nutrients that his body tells him he needs.
Types of salt and salt licks for horses
Sodium chloride comes in many different shapes and forms - plain white blocks, red traces of mineral blocks, salt licks on a rope, loose table salt, iodized salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt and more. The type of salt you choose must be determined by the horse's specific needs, the nutritional value of its diet (including grain and supplements) and its taste preferences.
A salt block for your horse
The normal white salt blocks only contain sodium chloride. If you are not sure what your horse needs or you do not want to add other minerals, start by feeding pure salt. Another option is to feed iodinated table salt, which adds iodine to the sodium chloride. However, make sure you check the grain rations and supplements for iodine quantities. Iodine is generally added to mixed foods and is found in high levels of kelp-based supplements and can have an effect on the thyroid gland.
Licks from red mineral blocks
In addition to sodium chloride, as the name suggests, red mineral blocks contain trace minerals (copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt, iron and iodine). Trace minerals are an important part of the horse's diet, but some forage and almost all feed grain contain important trace minerals. The chance that your horse will get too many trace minerals with the addition of a mineral block is unlikely; the levels in these blocks are not high enough to make a significant impact and most horses will not consume enough salt for it to become a problem. The only drawback is that you might pay for something that your horse doesn't really need. On the other hand, if your horse prefers the taste and causes it to consume the required amount of sodium, then it is a bonus.
Licks of rock salt or Himalayan salt
The third type of salt for your horses is rock salt or Himalayan salt, extracted from rocks in Pakistan. Himalayan salt is considered to be one of the purest salts available. It is not processed heavily like table salt, so it leaves the natural minerals intact. It is usually weatherproof and holds out in a wet environment, making it ideal for use in the meadow. Some horses absolutely prefer the taste of Himalayan salt, so if your horse does not like the other types of salt, give it a try. Himalayan salt licks are available in blocks, on a rope (to prevent boredom by encouraging the horse to play and chew) and loose as an addition to grain.
Other ways to supplement salt
Salt can be fed in different ways, but the method that works best for your horse can depend on your horse's preferences or how its feed is managed. Horse owners can add loose salt directly to the feed or else in a bucket, or via salt block in the stable or pasture. By placing salt directly in your horse's diet, you can determine exactly how much salt he gets. With a salt block he can lick or chew as desired, but you have to check if he gets enough salt. A small block will last for about 2 months.
Salt blocks: what you should pay attention to
Salt blocks are useful for horse owners; they can be placed in the stable or pasture and the horse can lick whenever it wants. However, there are also some disadvantages to blocks. Salt and mineral blocks were originally designed for cattle that have rougher tongues than horses. Horses have fairly smooth tongues that can be irritated by repeated licking of rougher surfaces and this may result in not getting the required amount of salt. Horses can also become frustrated with the blocks and bite in an attempt to consume more, causing teeth or jaw problems. In winter, when salt intake and water consumption are extremely important, the blocks can be very cold due to the temperature drop and become even less inviting to lick.
Finally: every horse is different so pay attention
So which type of salt and which form are ideal for your horse? Because much of this has to do with your horse's preferences, you have find salt that your horse likes by trial and error. If you prefer to use a block, try small blocks of both white and red mineral blocks to see which one your horse prefers. If you are concerned about your horse's sodium consumption, especially if he works hard in warm, humid conditions, consider adding loose salt to his daily grain. Table salt can be purchased cheaply in bulk and plain white salt, loose or in block form. Your goal, as a responsible horse owner, is to ensure that your horse is fed or has free access to salt. Therefore pay attention to his preferences and adjust your choice accordingly.