09 Nov Does Your Horse Need a Salt Block? Read Before Trying
As a horse owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your horse is getting the proper nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. Without access to adequate nutrients, your horse will not be able to perform their best. Additionally, they will be more susceptible to developing a variety of illnesses and injuries. One of the minerals that is most important to your horse’s health is salt, or more specifically, sodium.
Does your horse need a salt block? While not every horse needs a salt block, every horse needs adequate amounts of salt in their daily diet. If your horse is not receiving enough salt in their meals, you will need to supplement using a salt block or other form of iodine supplement. A salt block is often the easiest and most convenient way of ensuring your horse has access to salt and can regulate their intake as needed.
How does salt benefit horses? Why is this mineral so important in their diet? What is the best type of salt block for your horse? In this post, we will answer these questions and more regarding salt blocks for horses. Equipped with this information, you will be able to provide your horse with the diet it needs to look, feel, and perform their best.
What You Need to Know Before Giving Your Horse a Salt Block
Supplementing a horse’s diet with a salt block is a very common practice in the world of horses. A practice originating from cattle farmers, salt blocks are inexpensive, convenient, and require minimal effort on part of the owner. However, there are a few things to consider before adding a salt block to your horse’s environment.
Benefits of a Salt Block for Your Horse
Horses require a daily intake of salt, regardless of the season or their level of activity. A full-sized horse requires approximately one ounce of salt each day. In warmer seasons when perspiration is increased, a full-sized horse requires double this amount. Here are just a few of the many benefits of adequate salt intake through a salt block:
Salt Promotes Water Consumption
An effect of salt that humans know all too well, salt is known to promote water consumption. You must combat increased salt intake with more water, this is key to preventing dehydration. Especially in the cooler months, your horse may not be drinking adequate water.
Becoming dehydrated during any season can lead to a number of physical conditions. By adding salt to your horse’s diet through a salt block, you can encourage increased water consumption throughout the year.
To learn more about encouraging your horse to drink water, visit our article How to Get a Horse to Drink Water: Complete Guide.
Salt Replaces Minerals Lost During Perspiration
Salt also plays a crucial role in the warmer months. During the summer, horses perspire more frequently due to the hot weather, sun, and increased riding times. Perspiration depletes the body’s store of sodium and electrolytes.
It is important to replenish these important minerals, something that is most easily done by increasing the daily intake of salt. With an easily accessible salt block, your horse can regulate their salt intake, quickly replenishing what was lost during their workout.
Iodized Salt Regulates a Horse’s Thyroid
Horses also require a regular supply of iodine to regulate their thyroid gland. Most horses are not able to receive the iodine they need from grass or feed alone. For this reason, it is important to provide your horse with an iodine supplement. Fortunately, iodized salt is a great source of iodine and a great way to provide your horse with the minerals and nutrients they need to remain healthy.
Not all types of salt contain iodine. If this is a mineral in which your horse is lacking, it is important to carefully select a salt block that is clearly marked as iodized.
Types of Salt Blocks for Horses
There are several different types of salt blocks on the market for horses. Each type of salt block has different benefits and selling points. Some horse owners choose their salt blocks for the various health benefits while others purchase the salt block that their horse seems to most thoroughly enjoy.
As you may well know, horses can be picky when it comes to things they eat. You may need to try several types of salt blocks before finding one that your horse will actually use. Because this can get expensive, it is recommended that you begin with a small salt block of each variety or even borrow a portion of a salt block from a friend.
Some of the most common types of salt blocks for horses include plain white salt blocks, iodized salt blocks, mineralized salt blocks, Himalayan salt blocks, and Redmond salt blocks, to name a few. Your equestrian friends or veterinarian will be able to provide you with further guidance regarding the type of salt block that is best for your horse’s unique needs.
Things to Consider Before Giving Your Horse a Salt Block
While salt blocks provide countless benefits for your horse, there are a few things to consider before making this investment. After all, a salt block will only benefit your horse if they need the additional minerals, and if they utilize the salt block once it is added to their environment.
Does Your Horse Get Enough Salt in Their Diet?
The first thing you must consider is whether or not your horse is getting enough salt in their daily diet. Most types of horse feed feature nutritional facts on the packaging. With some easy calculations, you can estimate how much salt your horse is getting each day. If the feed you use does not have enough salt, it is wise to supplement your horse’s diet with some form of a salt supplement.
Will Your Horse Regulate Their Salt Intake?
Most horses will naturally regulate their salt intake. However, for some horses, a salt block may present an issue. It is important that you carefully observe your horse for the weeks following the introduction of a salt block to make sure they aren’t getting too much, or too little, salt in their diet.
Will Your Horse Use The Salt Block?
Salt blocks were originally introduced to cattle farmers. Cattle, as you know, have rougher tongues than their equine counterparts. For this reason, some horses shy away from licking salt blocks as it can aggravate their tongues. When you are first introducing salt blocks into your horse’s diet, begin with a small block to ensure that your horse will use the block. If not, you will need to look into other ways of incorporating salt into your horse’s diet.
Many horses naturally like to lick salt blocks. If your horse tends to lick your hands, stall walls, and other objects, it may be a sign that your horse is trying to get efficient minerals. To learn more, check out our article Why Horses Lick: What You Need to Know.
What Type of Salt Does Your Horse Prefer?
As mentioned previously, horses can be picky when it comes to the things they eat. Before you invest in a large salt block for your stable, take some time to determine what type of salt your horse prefers. This can be done by purchasing small salt blocks or asking a friend to borrow a corner of their salt block so your horse can experience different varieties.
While your horse may refuse to use a bitter, mineralized salt block, they may thoroughly enjoy a Himalayan salt block. It may take some time to find a type of salt that benefits your horse’s health while pleasing their palate.
Other Ways to Incorporate Salt Into Your Horse’s Diet
Not every horse will use a salt block. Additionally, not every horse benefits from a salt block! Fortunately, there are many other ways to incorporate salt, and the minerals found within salt, into your horse’s diet.
There are countless equine supplements on the market today. From sodium and iodine supplements to electrolyte boosters, the market continues to expand. If your horse could benefit from a boost in electrolytes during the warm summer months, consider adding an electrolyte supplement into their diet. This may be something that you give them on a daily basis or it may simply be a treat after an intense workout.
Granulated Salt Added to Meals
Besides salt blocks, one of the easiest ways to add salt to your horse’s diet is to simply add granulated salt to their meals each day. It is important to carefully measure the salt as the taste can quickly overpower the feed. You must also purchase salt that is specifically formulated for equine ingestion to avoid any issues.
Providing Your Horse With a Well-Balanced Diet
The best way to ensure that your horse has a happy, healthy life is to provide them with a well-balanced diet. You must realize that the dietary needs of your horse will continue to change as they mature. With more activity comes a greater need for nutrients, different stages of life present different dietary challenges.
Routinely assess your horse’s diet to ensure that they are receiving the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they need. If you do need to make adjustments to their diets, it is recommended that you introduce these changes slowly. Abrupt changes to your horse’s diet could result in indigestion or a variety of physical ailments.
Proper salt intake, along with other minerals and nutrients, will allow your horse to look, feel, and perform their best, regardless of the season!
Want to know more about your horse’s diet? Check out our article The Ultimate Guide to What Can (And Can’t) Eat.
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