What Are Your Horse`s Salt Needs'

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If your horse is getting at least half of his calories from hay, you don’t have to worry about potassium, calcium or magnesium losses for moderate workloads. However, salt could be a big problem. He needs at least 1 oz. per day of plain salt every day. In hot weather, the minimum doubles to at least 2 oz. per day. You can add it to the feed.??Horses consuming insufficient amounts of salt run the risk of dehydration.

Don’t use electrolyte mixtures instead of plain salt for maintenance, but if the horse is worked at high speed, or for longer than an hour at a strong trot, you can probably benefit from using sweat-replacement electrolyte solutions.

Look for an electrolyte formula with 20 to 25% sodium, from sodium chloride, and??about the same or somewhat less potassium, from potassium chloride. This is in addition to the minimum salt intake.

It’s important to monitor your horse’s daily salt intake, especially in hot weather. If you use a salt brick, monitor how long it takes him to finish the brick to calculate his approximate daily intake. Use wall-mounted salt hangers, and avoid putting salt bricks in feed tubs.

A safe level of supplementation for horses with insufficient free-choice intake would be 0.25% to 0.5% of the diet. For a horse receiving 20 pounds of feed per day, this would amount to .8 to 1.6 ounces.

If intake is poor, supplementation up to 1% of the ration is safe, which is 3.2 ounces per day for a horse receiving 20 pounds of hay and grain combined. These amounts are usually well tolerated when mixed with grain. However, the excessive addition of salt will decrease appetite, increase water consumption and could be toxic.

Tissue hydration is a good measure of adequate salt intake. Pinch up a fold of skin on the horse’s neck. It should snap right back into place when you let go. If it doesn’t, the horse is dehydrated — degree depends on how elastic the skin was — and he needs more salt and water.

Prevailing nutritional wisdom does not allow for an increased sodium intake in the broodmare. However, we question this common belief. Studies in lab animals show that restricting salt leads to fewer matings, lower conception rates and lower birth weights. Interestingly, the young of salt-deprived mothers showed a strong salt-seeking behavior when offered salt solutions at an early age.

It’s recognized that milking mares need more salt, however. In fact, salt requirements during lactation are double those of maintenance. Under conditions of high heat, the milking mare’s salt requirement could reach 6 oz./day. Failure to provide this, or failure of the mare to consume as much as she needs, could lead to dehydration and decreased milk production.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”A Salt Primer.”