Regardless of the weather, horses require a daily supply of salt. In cold seasons, salt helps promote enough water consumption to prevent dehydration. In warm seasons, salt replaces what is lost from perspiration. A full-sized horse requires at least one ounce (two level tablespoons or 30 ml) of salt each day for maintenance; this much provides 12 grams of sodium. Heat, humidity and exercise increase the horse’s need.
There are several ways to provide salt. The best ways include offering free-choice granulated salt, or adding salt to your horse’s meal (for palatability, limit the amount to no more than 1 tablespoon per meal). A salt block should be available should your horse want more. A plain, white salt block is preferable, but many horses do not lick it adequately since it can be irritating to the tongue. Mineralized blocks often go untouched due to their bitter taste; however a Himalayan salt block is often preferred.
Calculate the amount of sodium your horse is getting from any commercial feeds or supplements and add salt accordingly. Always have fresh water nearby.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an internationally respected, independent equine nutritionist who believes that optimizing horse health comes from understanding how the horse’s physiology and instincts determine the correct feeding and nutrition practices. Getty provides a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.gettyequinenutrition.com. Sign up for her informative, free monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Also, for the growing community of horse owners and managers who allow their horses free choice forage feeding, Getty has set up a special forum as a place for support, celebrations, congratulations, and idea sharing. Share your experiences at jmgetty.blogspot.com. Reach Getty directly at [email protected].