Salt - A Game Changer for your Horse
SALT - A GAME CHANGER FOR YOUR HORSE
Salt is a very important when it comes to keeping horses happy, healthy and calm.
With summer on its way it is a good idea to educate yourself about the salt requirements of your horse.
What is salt?
Plain salt is Sodium Chloride, not to be confused with Epsom salts, which is magnesium sulfate. Salt contains two of the major electrolytes, sodium and chloride which are vital for you, and your horse’s body to function correctly, along with the remaining three Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium.
To iodize or not to iodize?
If your horses are being fed vitamin and mineral supplements containing iodine, there is no need to feed iodized salt. If their mineral supplement does not contain iodine then the iodine in iodized salt would be of benefit in your horse’s health. Duwell Minerals and Vitamins Powder and Happy Tumm have good levels of iodine so plain salt is recommend when using these products.
A Mental Salt Block!
For us humans, sodium is abundantly available especially in junk food and snacks. We are told over and over that salt is bad for us which can give us a mental block when it comes to feeding our horses enough salt. Salt is very important for life and mammals have an instinctive drive to seek out sodium. If there is not enough sodium present in a horse’s diet, they will lick and chew everything handy, such as your hands or wood fencing.
How much salt?
A resting horse at grass uses 20 grams of salt per day excreted via urine and manure and this amount increases as a horse becomes more active and sweat levels increase. Horses should be fed a minimum of 10 grams of salt per 100 kilograms of body weight. If a horse weighs 500 kgs, 50 grams of salt is required per day. More should be fed if the horse is being worked or is sweating more than usual. Salt licks cannot provide enough salt by themselves as horses become tired of licking or their tongues become sore. The other problem is that you have no way of monitoring intake unless you weigh the salt block everyday. We recommend salt be mixed with feed as this ensures correct intake. Some horses do not like salt so need to be trained to eat it. This is well worth the effort and ensures horse drink well when out at events or rides.
Kidneys in action
The horse’s kidneys are superbly effective at maintaining the correct levels of sodium in the body by adjusting how much is allowed to passed out through urine in combination with how much water the horse drinks. If you feed a bit too much salt the horse will drink more and the excess will be flushed out through the kidneys. Feeding too little salt is much more of a problem, impacting greatly on health and behavior.
If horses do not take in enough salt, the thirst response is not triggered. Creates a situation where your horse can become dehydrated, which is worsened as a horse sweats more. Horses that are over supplied with potassium/ protein tend to sweat excessively and become easily dehydrated especially with an absence of adequate sodium. This can be a downhill spiral in health, performance and behavior. Correct intake of sodium ensures that what has been lost can be quickly replenished, immediately triggered the thirst response to ensure the horse feels the need to drink more water.
Ensure clean water is available
It is important that our horses have access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Clean troughs regularly and be aware that black plastic troughs can heat up causing the water quality to deteriorate quickly.
Nutrients uptake affected
When low levels of sodium are present in the body, other nutrients are not able to be transported around the body and waste products are unable to be removed from cells effectively.
Other actions of sodium
In conjunction with Potassium, Sodium is responsible for nerve impulse transmission, correct muscle function, regulation of blood volume, blood pressure, skeletal integrity, as well as many other roles.