We normally think of salt more as a warm weather requirement. Horses do require about 1-2 ounces of salt per day to provide help meet their requirement for sodium and chloride. This requirement can increase to 4-6 ounces of salt per day in hot climates or under exercise where losses in sweat increase greatly. Inadequate salt in the diet can result in abnormal eating behavior such as licking or chewing objects which have salt on them (fork handles etc.) or licking/eating dirt. Water intake may also decrease, increasing the risk of impaction colic. In more extreme cases, horses will stop eating and may experience muscle incoordination.
Cold weather salt intake is sometimes overlooked. Horses do not lick salt blocks as readily as some other specie even when the salt block is a comfortable temperature. During cold weather, outdoor salt blocks become even less inviting! Would you lick something that is freezing cold?
A good option to maintain year around salt intake is to offer loose salt available free choice, either in stalls or in a covered mineral feeder. Salt intake from loose salt has been observed to be higher than from salt blocks due to the ease of consumption. When purchasing loose salt, ensure that you are selecting salt that is intended for animal consumption (NaCl, iodized table salt, plain white salt), and not a mineral salt blend (red salt), or salt that is intended for de-icing.
If horses are salt starved, it may be a good idea to limit the amount of salt put out for them until they have adjusted their intake. It is essential that fresh clean water at an appropriate temperature be available at all times as well.
Commercial feeds normally contain 0.5-1.0% salt, so horses on this type of feed will typically consume less free choice salt than horses not receiving salt in their feed. They may still benefit from having loose salt available free choice. A salt block is better than not having any salt available free choice, but may not be as effective in maintaining salt intake in cold weather or when high intakes are required in hot weather.
Providing salt free choice is a good management tool that can help your horse eat and drink well all year long!
95 Replies to “Feeding Salt to Horses”
What are your thoughts on the use of Himalayan Salt for horses? Is it utilized as efficiently by horses as it is by humans? Is the price difference worth the investment?
Hello Hannah, Thanks for the question. I would expect Himalayan salt to be used as efficiently by horses as it is by humans, but because horses receive a diet that is much less processed than human diets, the benefits from the trace mineral content might be very limited and would probably not justify the investment.
Another factor to consider is that given the much higher carbon footprint and cost of the true Himalayan salt from Pakistan, I would suggest using a local salt source for horses. If an unprocessed natural source is desired, Redmond salt out of Utah is widely available and is OMRI approved.
Regards, Roy J.
At the risk of sounding totaly green about feeding and care of horses, I’m very confused, I keep a mineral block available all year as the Sun comes out it warms and they are eating chunks instead of just licking this is 3 to 4 times per day. Living in a small town, asking the teen behind the counter at feed store, well they try. What exactly am I asking for? Do they need the white salt block also with the Mineral (red) block? Can ya straighten me out Plz Doc? Thank You they are stalled at night.
Hi Debi – Thanks for asking, and don’t ever worry about sounding “green” – we are here to help!
In regards to your question, it sounds like the horses may be trying to make up for deficiency in their total diet by consuming chunks of the mineral block, or it may be simply that they are bored out in the pasture and chew on the mineral block to stay busy.
To ensure that the first option is not the case, make sure the total diet is balanced. I generally recommend white salt (block or loose in the warmer months, and loose white salt in the colder months). The red mineral blocks, if consumed rapidly or in large chunks, can cause dietary imbalances when considered in the context of total diet (forage, concentrate, mineral block). If the horses are on a commercial concentrate and forage, AND assuming that you are feeding them by weight at the recommended feeding rate, the horses should not need the extra minerals provided in the mineral block, just free choice access to white salt and of course fresh water (above 40 degrees F) along with the rest of their diet. They should not need both the mineral block and white salt.
Please let us know if you have further questions! Thanks ~ Emily L.
Hello Debi, Great question and does not sound totally green about feeding horses! Here’s a little further information you might find helpful:
Horses really do not like to lick salt blocks in the same way that cattle will lick the blocks. Their tongue is just not well adapted to lick a hard surface, particularly if the surface is cold. If they are not getting salt in their diet from other sources, they are trying to consume a couple of ounces a day and have probably decided it is more comfortable to bite the block than it is to lick it. I have seen this with a number of horses over the years. You might want to offer some loose white salt and keep an eye on consumption. If horses are a bit ‘salt starved”, they will consume extra salt for a few days. As long as they have free access to water that is 45-50 degrees, that is not a problem.
There are a lot of different types of mineral blocks. If you are using a trace mineral salt block, it is probably still 96-98% salt. If you are using something like a 12:12:12 mineral block (12% salt, 12% calcium, 12% phosphorus), the consumption rate will be different than a regular salt block. Other mineral blocks may contain other nutrients and are softer than straight salt blocks.
Regards ~ Roy J.
Did you mean ounces by weight or onces by volume?
Chuck & Kids
Hi Chuck & Kids – By weight is what we were referring to.
Thanks ~ Gina T.
I’ve tried the big salt blocks in every different combination and what I’ve found cleanest, easist and most likely for me to maintain is the smaller size block in their feeder. They are in at night to eat and they have it, feed, hay & water all available at their leisure all night. I can tell over time that they are licking at them and at least getting some extra salt…
My vet recommended adding a teaspoon of Lite Salt to my horses grain during the winter to ensure they are eating some salt on a daily basis.
I have both mineral and white small salt blocks in buckets in the horses stalls, but in winter they don’t use them much so I add a small amount of loose white salt in their grain twice a day. They have heated water buckets and drink plenty of water when I do this – more water than if I don’t add the salt. The loose salt I have is salt and something called prussiate sodium – feed store said this was fine; designed for people – so I assume its OK for horses?
Prussiate sodium has several names (Sodium ferrocyanide, tetrasodium hexacyanoferrate or sodium hexacyanoferrate(II)). It is used for several industrial purposes and as a food additive as an anti-caking solution, but it is not the same thing as table salt. This compound turns blue when combined with iron and is the main component of Prussian blue dye, hence the “Prussiate” part of the name. It is not overly toxic unless consumed in large quantities, because the cyanide ligands are tightly bound to the metal in this compound. It is likely in the salt you are using at very low quantities, as an anti-caking agent. If the label indicated that it is feed-grade, or intended for animal consumption, then it’s likely fine for your horses. You can usually find a % inclusion or order of inclusion on the product tag if you would like to double check. If you have any doubts, plain white salt provided free choice to your horses along with fresh water is what we recommend.
Thank you ~ Emily L.
My horse is very mouthy,but he still does not lick the salt block I have much at all. I figured that meant he didn’t need the salt, but you are saying that may not be true. Is it OK to use normal plain human table salt or a coarser Kosher salt free-choice? I only have one horse, and hate to buy a big bag of livestock salt.
Yes, plain old table salt is absolutely OK for your horse!
Thanks ~ Emily L.
If you test your hay, which is relatively inexpensive, you will know exactly what and how much to feed; $26.00 through http://www.equi-analytical.com, you can clearly see how much salt your horse needs on a daily basis. We supplement our herd (mini to a 15.3 gelding) with anywhere from 3-12 ounces respectively. We buy salt from our feed dealer and it is very inexpensive. They eat just as much in winter as in the hot days of summer. We also provide white salt blocks for them in their barn. Be careful of mineral blocks, if you are in an iron heavy area (as we are in northern Illinois), horses can tend to be iron-overloaded. White salt is best and supplement major and trace minerals based on your hay analysis.
Where does the Redmond salt fit in? Would it be like feeding white salt or like a “red” mineral block? If I am feeding the Redmond salt free choice, should I still be feeding the white salt?
I looked up the Redmond Salt online since I wasn’t familiar with it, but it appears to be a “natural” form of salt with a few trace minerals in it. Looking at the guaranteed analysis, it might look like you are getting a high amount of some of the trace minerals, but when you do the math based on how much a horse will take in – only a few ounces a day – it should not interfere with the rest of your feeding program, and it is a perfectly good source of salt (NaCl, or the sodium chloride we’ve been talking about) for your horse.
Thanks ~ Gina T.
My horse is a 26 year old half Arab with Cushings. She is on Pergolide, gets grass hay, no pasture, one pound Safe Choice a day and seems to be in good shape. What type salt would be best for her, if any? I do have a small salt block in separate feed container, but really cannot tell you what kind it is except the color is brown, apple flavor. I am also going to start the supplement Smartflex Senior from SmartPak for the winter.
Thanks, Karen M.
Hi Karen, Thank you for your question about your mare. You are correct to offer salt to her free choice. There are a couple of good options. Plain white salt or a general trace mineral salt will both work well. I prefer to offer loose salt rather than a salt block as horses do not as readily lick salt blocks as say cattle do, particularly in cold weather. You can put the loose salt in a small feeder in a stall or sheltered area. You would expect your horse to consume 1-2 ounces per day, more in hot weather. If loose salt is not feasible, then offering a salt block is also a good option.
As your mare does not get any pasture and is only getting one pound of SafeChoice per day, you might want to consider using Lite Balance or Empower Balance instead of SafeChoice as they have a higher concentration of trace minerals and vitamins for the limited amount fed. If she starts having any problems chewing forage, Life Design Senior is a good option and is commonly used for older Cushing’s horses with great success.
Please let us know if you have any further questions!
I am looking into feeding a loose salt by American Stockman. I want to mix it into their grain but I am not sure how much to give them. I have two mares that eat together out of the same feeder so it would have to be divided as equally as I could.
Thank you for your question regarding feeding loose salt. You are doing the right thing to offer salt and you do have a couple of options. Maintenance horse require 1-2 ounces of salt per head per day and easily twice that in hot weather. Horses will self regulate their salt intake if salt, particularly loose salt, is offered free choice. If you fasten a small container in your feeder that you could keep supplied with loose salt, you mares could consume the amount they need on a daily basis and you would not need to mix it into their feed and they could adjust intake according to individual requirements. If the horses have not had salt available, they may consume more for the first few days and will also drink some additional water.
If you prefer to mix the salt in, you could add 2 ounces per head per day. You can use a diet scale or a postage scale to weigh the salt so you know how much you want to add.
Regards, Roy J.
I have two one year old horses is it ok to give them a salt block or a mineral block?
Hi Crystal – Great question! Yes, horses of all ages should have salt available free-choice to them. Make sure they also have free access to water. They may consume a fair bit when you first introduce a block to them, out of curiousity mostly, but you should see that taper off within a few days.
Thanks ~ Gina T.
I just bought a salt block but when I went to put it out for the horses, I noticed the label said Brine salt for water softener. Is that OK to feed to the horses? thanks
The block you purchased that was labeled Brine Salt for Water Softner will be OK to feed your horse. It should be chemically the same as a white salt block for horses. There are actually some white salt blocks in the Champion line that are labeled for both uses.
It is always best to purchase products that are specifically labeled for the intended use, so you should probably buy a salt block next time that is either labeled specifically for livestock or labeled for both livestock and water softners.
Roy A. Johnson
My barn owner manager took my himalaytan salt block out of his stall stating it could do kidney damage , what do you think?
Hello Sharie, Thank you for contacting us. Himalayan salt is being sold in upscale stores for human consumption, and I have not seen any recommendations that there are any risks to horses. The only concern that I can see someone having is if they have reasons to believe there are more heavy metals or other elements in this salt source, but I have not seen any data to that effect.
It might be possible that your barn owner/manager might have noticed increased water consumption and urine output, if the horse is consuming more salt than normal, and think that was a kidney issue. This can happen, particularly if the horse was salt deficient, then is offered a very palatable salt source such as the himalayan salt block.
I have a 1800lb shire horse, 10 years old. I keep a 10lb red mineral salt block in his stall and he can lick on it whenever he wants…he goes through one of those blocks in about 6 months…I always thougth he’d like it when he needed it. Now my sure asked me about his salt intake, because my horse pees about twice during a one hour shoeing session….and he pees a lot….but he is a big horse too. Whe I go trail riding, regardles of the length of time of the trail he also pees about twice….I feel that he is fine, he drinks a lot too, which I consider a good thing, he drinks about 25-50 gallons of water a day depending on how hot it is….He is healthy and in good shape, happy, playful and loyal….Does this sound like he eats too much salt as my shoer suggested as a reason for his pee habits?
Thank you for your time and maintaining this blog :0)
Thank you for your interesting question about your 1800 lb Shire and his consumption of the red mineral salt block. If you use a 10 lb block and he consumes that block in about 6 months, that would mean he is consuming about 160 ounces of salt (10 lbs x 16 ounces per lb) in about 180 days. This would be less than 1 ounce per day of this salt, so that would not be an indication of over consumption of salt. A mature horse will normally require 2-4 ounces per day of salt to maintain sodium and chloride balance in the body, depending on temperature and work. If you are feeding a manufactured feed, that may contain some salt also, which would help meet your horse’s daily requirement.
The type of forage and feed that you are feeding may also impact your horse’s pee habits. If you are feeding a forage and feed that provide more than about 10-12% total protein in the diet (Hay plus feed combined), the excess protein is used for energy and the extra nitrogen is excreted in the urine. We see this with horses on high alfalfa hay diets. This is not harmful to the horse, but will cause the horse to drink a bit more water and produce a bit more urine.
If your horse were a few years older, I would also be keeping an eye on him for any other signs of Cushing’s Syndrome. One of the symptoms there is excess drinking and excess urine output. Pretty uncommon in a horse as young as he is at this time.
I would keep offering him the salt block and keep him drinking normally.
Thanks ~ Roy J.
Sorry for may be stupid question, but why horse needs mineral salt? I clearly understand, that any creature alive needs different ions, also sodium and chlorine ions. They are very important. But grass, leaves, oats all these green plants around ready to be consumed are rich of all necessary elements essential for horses. In plants these ions are in more convenient for consumption compounds, than in mineral salt. For cows there is commercial interest in feeding extra salt. Salt causes extra thirst, which causes extra drinking, which results in more milk, which results in more $$. For industry the health of cattle is second item. I guess horses is different case.
From other side. Who supply animals in wild with necessary ounces of salt every day? Wild horses, does, deer, elks. I assume they have similar food base. Yes, i know, nowadays it is popular for humans to spread salt blocks around in wild pastures, it is argument. But one hundred years or more ago nobody supplied salt to wild, but, surprisingly, animals were healthy, mostly.
If I am wrong, please correct me.
In many countries there are campaigns to reduce salt consumption to reduce high blood pressure problems caused by too much salt eaten. (Salt production companies do not agree with this statement. Guess why?) OK, this is for human salt consumption and my be can not be addressed to horses.
Hi Peter, Thank you for your interesting question regarding salt.
Salt is the one of the only minerals that horses will seek out and look for in their natural environment. Natural forage and cereal grains/grasses are quite low in sodium and chloride as well as some trace minerals. In the wild, horses, and other wild animals, would seek out natural salt licks, areas where there were salt outcroppings or where high salt concentrations are present. In the process, they would also consume other minerals. They would also chew/consume bones as a mineral source, which is why bones of dead animals or shed antlers disappear in the wild. Horses in their natural habitats, primarily grassy plains, do not routinely do forced exercise which results in sweating and loss of electrolytes, and would be expected to have perhaps lower salt requirements to maintain ion balance than horses which perform work. The salt requirement increases as horses sweat. Domestic horses are not allowed access to natural salt licks and are also exercised more in conditions which encourage sweating, so they need to be provided access to a salt source. If they do not have this access, they may develop unusual eating habits and consume dirt, chew on trees, fences or other horse’s manes and tails Unless they have been salt starved, horses will normally not over-consume salt. If they are salt deprived, they will consume an excess for a few days until body equilibrium is established. If salt deprived, they also need access to free choice water while they are adjusting.
Commercial diets do contain added salt, but are not overly fortified as excess salt may cause the horses to decrease feed intake. When salt is used in mineral mixes, it is actually an intake limiter. Trace mineral salt contains very low levels of trace minerals and mimics what the horses might consume from natural salt licks.
I saw an interesting documentary some time ago showing the deeply worn trails that elephants and other wild animals followed in a plains region of Africa to a source of salt/minerals. Native Americans and early settlers also hunted at natural salt licks as they attracted animals.
Excess salt does increase water consumption, which also increases urine output, but does not effectively drive milk production.
Human taste for salt is quite a bit different than the natural drive in animals to seek salt to maintain diet balance.
Who knows, if humans had to seek out salt licks or eat bones, might be less high blood pressure?
Roy A. Johnson
You keep referring to “table salt”. But I’m not sure if it should it be iodized… or without iodine? And yesterday at a lecture on colic, the vet mentioned Lite Salt as a choice, and I’ve seen some websites suggest mixing “regular” salt with Lite salt in a 3:1 ratio.
So my question is: please be specific about “table salt” with or without iodine, and also discuss the advantages/disadvantages of Lite salt. Thanks!
Hello Karen, Thank you for your questions regarding salt for horses. We normally recommend iodized salt for horses as they can suffer from iodine deficiencies in the overall diet. The only exception might be if some high iodine supplements, such as kelp, are being used in the diet at fairly high levels.
Lite salt contains a mixture of potassium chloride and sodium chloride, so it has less sodium than regular salt and supplies more potassium. This is frequently used when horse owners are making their own electrolyte products and want the added potassium. The 3:1 ratio has been used for many years in making homemade electrolytes for use prior to, during and immediately following exercise. Using Lite salt would be inappropriate for HYPP horses, otherwise would be OK to use. Key is to have adequate salt available free choice, particularly during hot, humid weather.
Sodium free salt is potassium chloride and is generally used only for restricted sodium diets.
Thank you ~ Roy J.
So what about the larger coarser sea salt mixed in grain vs. regular table salt? Will that make any difference?
Hello Alex, Thanks for the question. Nutritionally, there is no difference between the two options. From a consumption perspective, the larger coarser sea salt may sift to the bottom of the feed pan more easily, in which case the horse will simply lick it up if it wants to.
Thanks ~ Gina T.
I’ve recently noticed a behavior change in my horse. We just went from several weeks of hot/humid weather (95 degrees with 99 % humidity) down to lows in the upper 50s at night and low 70s in the daytime.
As soon as the first cold night hit, my horse was found having a mild colic episode in the morning. This happens sometimes because he doesn’t drink enough when the weather changes. I’ve been encouraging him to drink by giving him some apple juice (10 ounces diluted into 5 quarts of water, once daily), which he drinks readily.
He gets SmartLytes every morning, and he has gotten them for two years. But in the last few days, he’s also licking his salt a LOT. This afternoon, I noticed him licking it for almost an hour, with only a five minute break in the middle. And despite my efforts to keep him hydrated, he had two more mild colic episodes.
He used to colic four or five times per year, but that stopped when I put him on SmartGut. He went two years without an episode. But suddenly it’s picked up again — much more frequently than before.
Do you have any ideas? I’m getting kind of desperate. My vet’s suggestions have never really made a difference.
Hi Erica, Thank you for your interesting question. Colic associated with weather changes resulting in changes in water consumption certainly is a concern. It sounds like you are taking active steps to reduce the risk to your horse.
We have had some success with some horses in improve drinking and electrolyte intake by providing loose salt instead of a salt block. The normal salt requirement for a horse in a thermal neutral temperature zone with no work is about 2 ounces per day (56.75 grams). This can increase to 4-6 ounces (113.5-170.25 grams) per day in hot, humid conditions, particularly if combined with exercise. Smartlytes is well designed and contains nutrients in addition to the salt. Depending on your feeding rate, your horse may still benefit from additional straight loose salt. I recommend loose salt a horses do not lick salt blocks as efficiently as cattle. If you are feeding 60 grams of Smartlyte, a commonly recommended dose, you would still not be providing the 113-170 grams of salt that your horse may need, depending on the salt content of the total diet. You can provide the loose salt in a separate container that is protected from rain and wind. If your horse is slightly salt starved, you may notice higher consumption initially. This normally levels off in a few days.
It is very important that your horse have unlimited access to cool, clean water when you introduce the loose salt. Water consumption drops if the water is too cold (near freezing) or too warm, so keeping the water fresh and keeping it in a shaded area is important. You may also notice higher urine output in the transition as your horse consumes more salt and consumes more water. Again, this should return to normal as your horse’s salt intake stabilizes. Loose livestock salt is available at most feed dealers. If it is not, you could also buy plain white iodized salt used for human consumption.
It sounds like you are in regular consultation with your veterinarian, so you would be having your horse’s teeth checked regularly. Dental issues can impact both chewing and water intake.
Thanks ~ Roy J.
My 9 yr old Morgan gelding loves to lick. He will lick a round Himalayan salt on a rope & consume it within a week. If there is no salt in the stall,he will then begin chewing on the wood. My riding partner feels he is digesting too much salt. I feel it keeps him from becoming bored, plus he does tend to sweat more then most horses when being ridden.
Should I be concern with his salt consumption? Has two bucket of water with thermal blanket on them. Also watched him eat snow today.
Hello Judi, Horses in thermal neutral conditions require 2-4 ounces of salt per day and easily 4-6 ounces per day with exercise or in warm, humid conditions. As long as your Morgan gelding has free access to water, level of salt consumption should not be an issue. That said, I would recommend taking a look at the total diet to make certain it is balance for macro minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium) and trace minerals (copper, zinc, manganese and selenium) as other deficiencies can alter eating behavior. Also make certain that he has adequate long stem fiber.
You may also consider offering another toy in the stall for your horse to play with to see if that changes the salt consumption. Always good to have more than one toy!
Hello – I just cleaned out my water softener and have a 5-gal bucket full of “reduced” or “mushed” salt. I use Morton System Saver II salt, which is “99.7% pure salt” (NaCl). This is not a block, and no longer in pellet form. Is this safe to give to the horses? In the future I plan to just salt my hay, as that cuts down on moisture and mold, but if this is safe for the horses I’d prefer not to waste it. Thanks!
Hello Mike, Thank you for the question regarding use of reduced or mush salt from cleaning out a water softener. There is probably nothing in this that would be detrimental to animals, but because there is a chance that something may have been introduced from your home system, I would be reluctant to offer this salt to horses. Salt is one of the least expensive nutrients that we can provide for horses, so I would recommend purchasing salt that I know is labeled for livestock/horse use.
Thanks ~ Gina T.
I’m looking to feed my mare a mixture of low salt and regular iodized salt to replenish potassium, sodium & chloride lost through heavy sweating. She currently gets the recommended minimim amounts and more of hard feed so presumably her baseline needs are being met however I’m concerned about more stressful times like travelling and competing. I have previously been using Equiform’s blue electrolyte liquid however due to the need to save monies I’m interested to know of cheaper but safe alternatives.
I’m interested in your replies about providing loose regular salt, would I be able to do this but incorporating the low salt as well? if I were to mix them together would this is okay?
Hello Leonnie, Thank you for the question. We believe you are referring to “lite salt” rather than “low salt”. If that is the case, then lite salt is a combination of potassium chloride and sodium chloride used to reduce sodium in some diets (people, not horses). For horses, it has been a common practice to mix up a combination of lite salt and regular salt to use as an electrolyte, so you would be fine in proceeding down that route.
Thank you ~ Roy J.
My pony refuses organic unrefined sea salt when it is offered to him. Conscious that I have never overtly included salt, I ignored his reaction and added it to a feed – which he then refused to eat! Is it therefore reasonable to assume that he has sufficient salt in his diet?
Hello Heather, Thank you for contacting us. We would suggest that you try offering a different source of salt to cross check need for salt. Organic unrefined sea salt may have an aroma or taste that your pony finds unacceptable. If your pony consumes a different source, that would suggest a palatability issue with the initial source. Horses are much more sensitive to very faint aromas than humans.
Thank you ~ Gina T.
My 26 year old black Tennessee Walker consumes a smaller Salt block within about three days.He’s out in pasture all day and comes in his own stall at night.
he does have plenty of access to water.
Is this indicating any health issues?
Hello Sarah, Thank you for your interesting question about your 26 year old Tennessee Walking horse that consumes a small block of salt in about 3 days while being out on pasture. A maintenance horse may require 1-2 ounces of salt per day. This increases to 4-6 ounces per day during exercise or during hot, humid weather that causes the horses to sweat. If a horse has been without salt for some time, it is not usual for them to over consume for a few days until they adjust to the salt being available. As long as water is available, the excess salt consumption just results in more water intake and higher urine output.
That said, excess salt consumption could also indicate the horse is may be missing another nutrients in the diet. While horses have a limited amount of “nutrient sense”, they will display abnormal eating behavior, in this case perhaps consuming extra salt, while seeking phosphorus or additional amino acids (building blocks of protein). Depending on the pasture, the horse could be deficient in either of these nutrients. In some cases, depending on the pasture type and amount available, a senior horse cannot physically eat enough to meet some of the requirements.
You might consider trying the following:
1. Offer a 12:12:12 loose mineral free choice. This provides a source of 12% calcium, 12% phosphorus and 12% salt. A 12 calcium, 6 % phosphorus and 12% salt would also be an option or a product in that range.
2. Feed a couple of pounds a day of a balancer type product to go along with pasture. Straight pasture may not be a balanced diet for your senior horse and may not be providing adequate protein.
3. Depending on body condition and hair coat, you may want to start using a Senior Horse Feed.
If you tell us more about your pasture and how your horse looks for body condition, might be able to provide some additional suggestions.
I have a question
My well water has a very high level of salt and iron it. Is it safe to give to our filly?
Hello Marg, Horses have a fairly high tolerance for iron in their total diet, including what might be contained in water. Iron oxide is fairly unavailable (think rust). Sulfate forms are more available.
The maximum concentration of salt for growth is about 4000 mg/liter with 7000 mg/liter being the highest tolerable concentration. Salt in the water will reduce voluntary salt intake from salt block or loose salt provided.
You may want to check with your local extension service for additional guidance. If the water is safe for human consumption, will be OK for your filly.
Thank you ~ Roy J.
Had the well tested for salt and it showed 1130, which is to high for humans to drink. We can drink it only if we install a reverse omois under the kitchen sink. Human can stand up to 500 of salt in there drinking water. But mind well has 1130 salt in water which is double the amount for a human to drink. This is why i was wondering if it was safe for the filly to drink. I did not know how much salt a filly can handle, expressly in drinking water.
Hi i wonder if my horse had 2 oz of un refined sea salt, good quality forage and un molassed beet. Would i need to add further supplements to keep him minerally balanced
Hello Jo, Thanks for the question. Beet pulp is not a well-balanced feed. It has low mineral content, is a very poor amino acid source, and only contains about 9.3% protein. Beet pulp fits into a feeding program very well as an energy ingredient, but it needs to be balanced for the other nutrients. We would strongly suggest adding a ration balancer type product to your horse’s diet, to add needed protein, vitamins, and minerals. We offer one, called Empower Balance, and there are a variety of them on the market from other feed companies, so you should be able to find one at the feed store near you.
Thank you ~ Gina T.
An old horseman gave us this recipe that we used to feed free choice. Any thoughts on this?
Equal parts Di-Cal Phosphate, loose red salt and bone meal (or CCC)
Hi Lea Ann,
Thank you for the interesting question. The good news (or bad news depending on perspective), is that I am old enough to remember when this was a recommendation!
The mixture you described, depending on the analysis of the bone meal, would produce a mineral mix that is about 15% calcium and 9.6% phosphorus for a Ca:P ratio of about 1.5:1. The red salt would be an iodized trace mineral salt. If offered free choice, the horses would consume enough to meet salt requirement and in the process would get an intake of calcium, phosphorus, iodine and a limited amount of copper, zinc, manganese etc., depending on the trace mineral salt composition and source. This would help balance a basic hay/grain mixture. It is not as precise as the modern mineral mixtures that are currently available with specified levels of each nutrient and which can be selected basis the type of forage. The mixture might also be a bit lower in trace minerals than we might currently recommend, but it was a step in the right direction and better than many of the alternatives.
If you used calcium carbonate instead of bone meal, you would get an end product that would be higher in calcium and lower in phosphorus.
The salt level would both drive consumption and control intake. Horses might over eat a bit if salt starved, but would level off and no harm would be done if the horse had adequate water. If the salt requirement of the horse was 2-4 ounces per day, the horse would probably consume 6-12 ounces of the mixture, depending on heat, humidity, level of work and other salt sources.
I was just wondering about feeding Saltpeter to a yearling stud colt. I really do not want to geld him until the fall and I thought maybe salt peter would keep him from thinking of the mares.
Thank you for contacting us. I doubt adding it to diet will have any impact on the yearling colt’s interest in mares!
hi, I always have used a salt block but I want to start using loose salt, I got the Morton iodized sea salt at Walmart, is that ok to use? I do need to find it in bigger bulks though cause these at Walmart do not last long with 6 horses, do I give them 1 tablespoon twice a day in there grain? thank you!!!!!
Hi Sheila, Thanks for the question! Yes, that product is perfectly fine to use with horses. Try checking your local feed store, though, for perhaps a less expensive bulk loose salt alternative!
Thanks ~ Gina T.
My gelding does not touch a mineral block or the Himalayan salt. I haven’t tried the plain white salt block. I have read articles on adding salt to feed by a spray bottle. I have tried this but I don’t know how much salt with how much water, and how much do I spray on the feed? Can you please suggest how to do this, or should I switch to sprinkling loose salt on his feed? If I use loose salt, how should I measure it, tablespoon, or what?
Thank you for the question about salt. Many horses do not like to lick a salt block as it is not comfortable for their tongue. Mature maintenance horses require about 2 ounces of salt per head per day. During heat and humidity, this may go up to 4-6 ounces.
Recommendation would be to offer loose salt, free choice. If you want to sprinkle loose salt on the feed, you could sprinkle on an ounce in the morning and an ounce in the evening.
If you wanted to use the spray method, I would put 2 ounces in the sprayer, then add just enough water to dissolve the salt and spray that on hay or feed.
If you apply too much the horse may back off the feed, which is why I really like to use loose salt (same as regular table salt) and offer that free choice in a small container that is protected from the weather. If a horse is salt starved, they may consume more to start with and taper off consumption. Make certain that fresh clean water is available free choice.
Best wishes ~ Gina T.
when i lived in the country, we had a horse and used to go to the feed mill every now and then and get a block of white salt when we bought the horse feed. i didn’t know why until just now reading this article about horses and salt block which is interesting… thank you for the education.
Hay was salted and put in barn as to not catch fire. We
used animal grade white salt and sprinkled each
later of hay. My question is -Will this be too much salt
for horses ?
Thank you for your interesting question about the impact of salt sprinkled on layers of hay to reduce risk of heating/fire hazard. The normal maintenance requirement for salt for horses is 1-2 ounces per head per day, higher in hot humid environments or with heavier exercise. Unless you put on a pretty heavy layer of salt, I do not believe that the amount of salt the horses would consume while eating the hay would be excessive. If the hay is too salty, the horses may back off on consumption or selectively consume the lower salt portion of the hay. You do need to make certain that you have fresh clean water available free choice.
Equally important, if you sprinkled the salt on the layers of hay to reduce risk of spoilage or heating due to high moisture content in the hay, you might want to be quite careful when feeding the hay to make certain that there are not moldy sections of the hay. Horses are quite sensitive to moldy or dusty hay and can experience respiratory or digestive issues.
My neighbor has a field that she rents out for horses to graze. My question is I’m pretty much sure that the horses are just getting the grass that’s in the field to eat and water from the pond to drink. What type of blocks or things can I put out there to help them that won’t break me?
The most common missing elements from what you are describing are the following, in order of increasing cost:
1. Salt source – I prefer loose salt to salt block as it is difficult in hot weather for horses to consume adequate salt by licking a salt block. White salt block or trace mineral salt block is better than no salt source.
2. Salt and mineral source – Trace mineral salt really provides very little trace mineral. I like a loose mineral where salt drives consumption. If this is grass pasture, probably something like a 12-12-6 (12% salt, 12% calcium, 6% phosphorus) or a 12-12-12.
3. If you get a little higher dollar, there are some good pasture tubs available that furnish a protein source along with minerals. We use these with some ranches.
Hi Doc! I like the idea of the protein, mineral and salt tubs fro pastured horses. My question is since the ingredients in the tubs are solid, will the horses lick them and get enough of the product as you said the horses do better with loose product instead of solid product in blocks. Thank you for the info and for this q & a! Great info!
My horses have a salt block and all but one love it. I will be adding free choice since reading this great info. I currently have sea salt on hand but it doesn’t supply Iodide. Will that work or does it need to supply Iodide? Thank you
Thank you for your question about using sea salt as a loose salt supply for your horse. Sea salt contains some iodine, but it is lower iodine content than regular table salt or livestock salt that has iodine added at a specific amount to prevent iodine deficiency. If your horse is receiving a commercial feed, there should be sufficient iodine added to the commercial feed to meet your horses requirement along with the limited amount of iodine that is contained in sea salt consumed free choice. If your horse is not receiving a commercial feed, you might want to use a loose livestock salt instead of sea salt. There is a lot of discussion right now on the human side as we all try to reduce salt intake if there is an issue with iodine intakes. I use sea salt myself when I add salt, but know that there is a fair amount of added salt containing iodine in my other food intakes.
I use food grade diatomaceous earth for parasite control and I am considering mixing it with salt for free choice. Can you recommend mix ratio, as well as, frequency and duration to offer mixture?
Interesting question. Depends on how much diatomaceous earth you want your horse to receive basis your objectives and experience with the product. If you are feeding on a continuous basis for internal parasite control, recommendations vary from 1 cup per day for 60 days to ½ cup per day on a continuous basis. If your goal is more fly control from manure, recommended dose is much smaller, about 150 mg/head/day in some commercial supplements. Your horse will consume about 2-4 ounces of loose salt per day. You would need to weigh the quantity of DE that you want your horse to consume and work backwards from that to decide how much to mix into salt.
Best of luck,
hello, what are your thoughts of RedCal, ,a loose salt/mineral product? would this be better than plain iodized salt or same ? thank you.
Thank you for the interesting question regarding RedCal. This is a product that Dr. Dan Moore has developed. It is a good salt source and a useful calcium source with some added supplement items per the label. I would not expect any issues using it as primary salt source.
The sufficiency of the product in the total diet would depend on the consumption and the type of forage offered as well as any other feeds used in the total diet.
Hi, I have a 24yr old Arab who has Goiter, would I need to use less or more salt then recommended amount for avg horse. TY
Thank you for your interesting question about your 24yr old Arab who has Goiter and the need for more or less salt. Goiter is an interesting condition in that it can be caused by either an iodine deficiency or an iodine excess in the diet. Iodine deficiencies are not common as long as the horses have free choice access to iodized salt. Iodine excesses are most frequently reported if high levels of kelp/seaweed are used in supplements or if there are unusual concentrations of iodine in some other component of the diet. Older horses are also prone to a condition called thyroid adenoma that appears like goiter. The short answer will be that your horse will need the normal amount of salt for weight, exercise and environment. The long answer is that you need to look at the diet and see if iodine deficiency or excess is the most likely situation. If there is iodine deficiency, you would want to use iodized salt. If there is excess iodine, you would want to use non-iodized salt and adjust the diet. Your veterinarian might be able to assist you in determining the true nature of the goiter condition so that you can proceed to offer the best choice.
Hi there, I have a question (all the way from New Zealand)! We live in a high iron area and we have a high percentage of plantain on our property (which I believe is high in iron also). My horses have been suffering from a variety of problems but mostly lethargy, pale gums, some gastrointestinal upsets, hoof thrush and skin issues. My question is – is salt the best supplement to offset the high iron? I’ve been experimenting with zinc, cobalt/copper and magnesium – seems to settle a lot of the symptoms but they demand high levels of these minerals. They tend not to drink very much so I’m wondering if I need to lift their salt intake too. I’ve run many many blood tests – low phosphorus (pasture is low), low zinc, high calcium (bore water is high in calcium but pasture is low), copper low end of range. Bilirubin had been through the roof high but I’ve changed their feed and given milk thistle and this has settled back to normal. Their immunity seems quite low also, clear trickly noses, scurffy, dull coats. Appreciate your thoughts and advice. Kind regards, Linda
Thank you for your interesting question regarding the problems that you are having that may be related to high iron content in your area in New Zealand. In the course of working with our U.S. and global horse feed business, I have run into this type of issue with high iron levels as well as high aluminum levels and heavy metal issues. There are some areas in the U.S. and a number of areas in Europe that have some soil metal content issues due to either naturally occurring minerals or due to industrial pollution issues.
A fundamental problem can be that the excess of one mineral interferes with the absorption of other metals, particularly copper, zinc and manganese, which can create deficiency symptoms that are consistent with what you are reporting. My best success has been to make use of highly bioavailable sources of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt rather than trying to just add more inorganic minerals and creating potential toxicity/interference issues with just higher levels of all minerals. Here in the U.S., I have used Zinpro 4-plex as a highly bioavailable specific amino acid metal complex as a source of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt when balancing diets in these unusual mineral content areas with good success. There are some other chelated mineral sources available as well that may provide readily bioavailable trace minerals
I would continue to offer loose salt free choice. I would probably not use a trace mineral fortified loose salt as I would want to control the trace mineral sources to use most highly bioavailable for copper, zinc and manganese particularly.
Unfortunately, we do not offer feed products or supplement products in New Zealand. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) does have some partners in your area of the world that might offer some products that you would find useful. You could probably research at http://www.KER.com.
Best of luck!
Hello, I have a question, I recently got a horse who had been on salt licks. I prefer loose salt so I switched her over, doing one tablespoon for about a week and a half then moving to 2 tablespoons after that. She developed what my vet and I think is a thyroid adenoma. But the salt was table salt and not iodized. Do you think the switch to loose salt brought this on? Thank you so much.
I also prefer loose salt as horses are more likely to be able to adjust consumption easier than with a salt block. Most table salt for human consumption is iodized. Iodine deficiency and iodine excess can both create issues. Unless you are using a high iodine supplement such as kelp based products, the excess is less likely. I would recommend using a loose salt that is iodized and continue to observe once you get the horse consuming free choice. Salt intake can vary greatly with temperature and work level, so it is important to adjust or offer free choice. You might want to confirm diagnosis, perhaps with ultrasound or additional monitoring working with your veterinarian.
Best of luck!
Hi, I went to the feed store thinking I would get a plain white salt block, AND a red mineral salt block. Come to find they had regular white, and Iodized white. And, the mineral block had selenium in it. Not knowing the difference on the white, I opted for the Mineral with Selenium (because my DR told me that it was good for humans to expel waste from cells). I learned a few years back that blocks are a waste and to feed straight granulated salt. But my colt constantly licks my arms and not being home all the time, I wanted him to have (some) access to (some sort of ) salt. Any thoughts on my choice of Mineral salt block with Selenium?
Your choice of a mineral salt block with selenium is OK. The challenge with most mineral salt blocks is that the amount of the trace minerals is pretty limited based on what the horses will consume, so you do not want to rely on a mineral salt block as primary source of trace minerals. Horses do not consume/lick salt blocks as readily as cattle, so it is difficult for them to get enough salt from a block, particularly in hot weather. A horse may require 2-4 ounces of salt per day, more in hot weather or when sweating heavily. My preference is to offer loose salt free choice. If they are salt starved, may want to limit offer to 4-6 ounces per head per day until they catch up. Make certain fresh clean water is available free choice as well.
Best of luck!
Hi. Can you tell me are Cornish Sea Salt flakes ok to use in my horses feed or do you recommend plain iodised table salt ? What is your view on the use of electrolytes in addition to salt or instead during periods of hot weather / hard work. My horse won’t touch her salt lick so want to add the correct amount to her feed. Thank you.
Thank you for your interesting question about Cornish Sea Salt flakes for your horse. The sea salts from around the world (with the exception of the black salts, particularly Indian/Himalayan black salt which has volcanic origin and may have some strong sulfur taste/aroma) may be used for horses. The variation in trace mineral content and slight subtle taste differences are unlikely to impact the horses intake. The additional cost generally does not provide sufficient benefit over plain white or white iodized salt to justify the extra cost, but there would be nothing detrimental. I recommend loose salt offered free choice as horses do not lick blocks nearly as well as cattle. Horses require about 2 ounces of salt per day in maintenance. This goes up to 4-6 ounces per day in work/hot humid environments. Electrolytes have definite benefits when administered just prior to , during and immediately after the heavy work with high sweat loss. Horses do not store electrolytes, so excess administration every day is of limited benefit and may increase urine output, increasing risk of dehydration.
When using electrolytes, the horses must be consuming adequate water. If the horse is not consuming adequate water, the electrolytes may actually draw water into the gastrointestinal tract, further impacting dehydration in the rest of the body to the detriment of the horse.
My horse recently had mild to moderate colic. Being this is my 1st experience with colic, many suggestions have come my way…one being to put table salt right on the round netted bale of hay to encourage more water consumption ( She shares the pasture with 2 other mares & we have noticed they havent been drinking as much as we’d like.) We have 2 salt blocks (1 by the water and other in the paddock) as well as a minereal block. Ive only had her a few months, she was bought from an auction so I do not have any history on her. Shes not the prettiest looking girl in the pasture, but she has the best temperament of the whole farm.
Great question! A couple of suggestions or considerations come to mind. You may want to consider a water analysis to make sure the water is quality water. Review water source and quality/quantity available. If there is only one water source adding a second water source if possible may be a good solution to decrease risk of competition for water between horses. Monitoring not only the quality of the water, but also the water temperature can be important. Determine the water tank cleaning/maintenance routine or type of water container, some horses prefer the plastic tubs, some are automatic, some are metal; sometimes offering a variety of water sources will help to encourage horse to consume water.
Keeping free choice salt options available is important. Some horses will readily go to the salt blocks, some horses prefer loose salt, plain agriculture or equine loose plain white salt in an area protected/covered from the weather will entice horses to go to salt sources.
Best of luck!
Eat industry, unprocessed, lightly cooked and organic
wherever possible. However, the intense heat processing
of table salt alters the form with the sodium chloride crystals into built
to be quite challenging for your body to metabolise and use.
If you use these products, it will be possible to see the final results inside a short time.
My horses are in the summer, on forage essentially, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets and pasture grass (Bahia grass 24/7). To that I add minerals that are especially made for alfalfa based feed. To that I have been adding 1.5-2oz of iodized table salt. I only just last night noticed one of my Arabian mares was not as sweaty as the other two. She was humid but not sweaty. I contacted my vet and he suggested feeding lite salt. Living in Hot and Humid TX is very challenging and yesterday it was 110 (heat index) at 5pm. Please help me to understand why only one horse out of 3 and why now? Thanks. I appreciate your response
Thank you for your question. What you are describing sounds like it could be anhidrosis, or the inability to produce sweat in normal amounts. The cause of anhidrosis, or non-sweating isn’t clearly understood. There are supplements such as One-AC and other management techniques (moving horse to a cooler climate, acupuncture, feeding dark beer, etc.) that have been shown to help alleviate this condition, but overall there is no evidence that a particular feeding program can either cause or cure anhydrosis. Continue to work with a trusted veterinarian to monitor this condition. You could ask about testing your horse’s thyroid function, as hypo (low) thyroid has been linked to non-sweating. Along with ensuring your horses diet is properly balanced (adequate amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins and calories) and providing white salt free choice, it is recommend that an electrolyte supplement such as Progressive Aqua Aide, balanced specifically for horses, be incorporated into the diet along with fresh cool water available free choice. Aqua Aide can be top-dressed or mixed in water, and is available for purchase online or in select feed retailers. Also, horses should not be put into work with this condition, and providing adequate shade and cooling strategies (fan, mister, cold hosing) to help alleviate heat stress during the hot humid season is recommended. Attached is information on this condition. Please let us know if you’d like help understanding your horse’s diet in more detail, or if any additional questions come up.
Best of luck!
Can you crush a mineral block and put it in their feed everyday and if so how many tables spoons should they get in their feed a day. Full work vs light and heat vs cold.
Thank you for your interesting question about crushing a mineral block and feeding to horses. An 1100 pound (500 kg) horse requires 2-4 ounces of salt per day for maintenance and this can go up to 4-6 ounces per head per day in hot, humid weather or during work. A challenge in cold weather is that horses will not lick a salt or mineral block enough to consume the required amount of salt. Same for increased level during hot weather.
While it would be possible to crush a mineral block, it might be much more feasible to order or purchase a loose mineral and use that instead. That also gives you quite a range in choices of analysis as some minerals are designed to be fed with alfalfa and some with grass hay. It is important to realize that a trace mineral block is primarily salt and does not supply adequate levels of trace minerals, where a loose mineral may be more appropriately fortified. In general, loose mineral products use the salt consumption to drive the mineral intake. There is also trace mineral salt available in loose form that can be offered free choice. Horses are more likely consume adequate salt if it is offered in loose form. Most commercial feeds will contain about 0.5% salt already.
Common loose minerals may be something like a 12-12-12, which is 12% salt, 12% calcium and 12% phosphorus or a 12-12-6. There are many combinations available.
Your best bet might be to get a loose mineral, then determine how much the spoon or cup that you are using contains by weight so that you can measure by volume and know how many ounces you are feeding. You would want to do that if you crush up a mineral block as well.
I have a 12 year old rescue TWH. I keep a small salt block in his stall all the time and he gets 3# of Triple Crown feed per day along with grass hay and some grazing. He goes through a small salt block in a few days and drinks more than his stablemates. He urinates fine. Could he have salt deprived or just bored?
Thank you for your interesting question regarding the salt consumption of your 12 year old rescue TWH. Appreciate that you rescued him. Normal salt intake will be 1-2 ounces per day. Increased temperature or work can increase that to 4-6 ounces per day. Your note did not indicate the size of your salt blocks, so assume might be standard 4 pound? That would be 64 ounces. If your horse consumes in a week, that would be about 9 ounces per day, fair amount higher than expected. If your horse was indeed salt starved for some time, it would take several days to get back to normal consumption, then you would expect salt intake to drop back to normal level for the size of your horse and the weather conditions. As long as fresh clean water is available and consumed, excess salt consumption will result in increased water intake and increased urine output. You might want to track salt disappearance and calculate average per day intake.
You are correct that excess salt intake can also be the result of boredom and, like other unusual eating behavior, can be an indication of a diet issue. First thing I check is to make sure adequate long stem roughage is being consumed, which would appear to be the case here, but if pasture is limited, you might look at offering more hay. The next thing I think of is phosphorus deficiency, so you might consider offering something like a 12-12-12 mineral free choice and see if he consumes that as an option to the salt.
If the excess salt consumption continues, you may want to switch to offering 4-6 ounces of loose salt with feed instead of free choice block and see if that works for him.
I have a 30 year old quarter horse mare that has started craving salt blocks this week and is drinking more water. She gets a complete pellet feed and soaked hay pellets with all the hay she wants to chew on with no teeth. Seems normal acting . Is there anything I need to watch for?
Hello Lenayah, Great question. Salt is the only nutrient outside of water that horses will search out when they are deficient. But this can vary through the seasons how hard they go after it. Feed in general is not designed to meet their salt need, thus why we offer salt blocks. The more salt they consume, the more water they will drink. I would monitor for another week or two and see if the behavior changes, if not consult with your veterinarian and have them runs some diagnostics. Best of luck to you!
Hi there. I have high grade granulated salt that I found in the ag section of TSC. It has the anti caking agent in. Salt. Sodium ferrocyanide decahydrate. Is this safe?
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