Salt is an integral part of your horse's diet; sweating from weather or work increases the amount of salt necessary to keep a horse healthy. The need for other electrolytes, like calcium, potassium and magnesium, may also increase.
Though most forages provide the vast majority of minerals needed to keep horses healthy, hay and forage have very low sodium content; salt and electrolytes can be supplemented to the horse's diet.
Salt is necessary for bodily functions; sodium allows for proper muscle contraction and nerve impulses. Chloride balances the blood pH and osmotic pressure; it is also imperative for potassium regulation and the production of stomach acid, which aids in protein digestion. Pasture and hay are high in chloride.
An adult horse needs one ounce of salt per day to maintain his health and well being. The best way to ensure a horse has access to the quantity of salt he needs is to offer granulated salt free-choice. Salt blocks, refined or unrefined, should also be available to the horse for additional salt intake.
There are a variety of salt types:
- White table salt. Heavily processed, this salt can be feed to horses, but care must be taken to ensure that the horse is not receiving too much iodine if the iodized form of white table salt is used; too much iodine can damage the thyroid.
- Sea salt is the salt left behind when salt water evaporates; many trace minerals are removed during this process.
- White salt blocks are white salt that has been compressed.
- Rock salt from salt deposits have a variety of trace minerals.
- Mineralized salt block have minerals and typically molasses added to them to make them more palatable.
Electrolytes may be added to the horses water or feed, but there is not enough salt in them to fulfill your horse's daily intake requirement. Electrolytes should be given in addition to salt and on an as-needed basis during times of intense perspiration. It's important to read labels and follow instructions carefully when using electrolyte supplements; if added to water, they should never be added to the horse's only water source. Adding electrolytes to feed that also has salt added may make it unpalatable to the horse.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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