Horses and Salt Blocks
Salt is one of the things that all animals need in one form or another. Itís been around for as long as man has been in existence and has been a staple of his diet. While man has learned to mine salt from the ground and turn it into a variety of products, animals have always relied on obtaining it from natural sources. Animals, including man, can not live without some salt and without minerals.
Unfortunately, man seems to have overstepped his boundaries when it comes to salt. Salt in its natural form is often bound with other minerals. This salt is usually a light grey or pink in color. Minerals and salt go together in their natural environment.
Salt is an electrolyte and one of its primary purposes is to attract and retain water as well as to balance our cell fluids. This is why athletes were often given salt tablets during training in hot weather. You and your horse will likely need more salt if youíre riding in hot weather.
However, today all salts are not created equally. The problem with most salt today is that itís been altered in some way. Trust man to try and make it better or more convenient. In the case of our human salt, someone decided that ďwhen it rains it poursĒ is better, so they made salt that doesnít clump together anymore. If youíre as old as I am, then you remember when rice or a piece of soda cracker was placed into the salt shaker to absorb moisture and keep the salt from clumping. Today they use silica to perform that job. Unfortunately, itís added to the salt, and we ingest it. Along that same line, someone invented a salt block for cattle.
Salt blocks for cattle served a great purpose. They would hold up to the environment and could be left out in the open where cattle grazed. They were so compact that they lasted a long time, too. Even in climates where we get lots of rain, a salt block will hold up all year long. But thereís a problem with the salt block when it comes to all livestock -- it was designed for cattle and not horses. Because it was convenient, it received widespread use for horses and in fact has become the main manner in which salt is given to horses -- and thatís a problem.
Cattle have rough tongues and have no problem licking salt from a salt block. Horses, on the other hand, donít have a rough tongue and have great difficulty in getting as much salt as their bodies require from a salt block. Look at any salt block thatís offered to horses and youíll see teeth marks and scrapes in it. Why do you think those are there? Some people think that happens because the horses love the salt so much that they try to be greedy and get more than they should. In fact, I once heard a person say ďthatís why you have to use a salt block for a horse, otherwise they would just eat it all.Ē Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is thisÖthe horse canít get all of the salt he needs from just licking a salt block, and sooner or later the horse will try and chew off more salt. This is hard on the horses teeth and jaw (it can even cause TMJ problems), and definitely an indication that your horse is struggling to get what he needs from the salt block.
Animals are great regulators of what their bodies need. If your horse is after the salt block constantly, and you are seeing teeth marks in it, then he really needs more of it to help balance his body. He needs it to help his cells function and to keep his electrolyte system in balance. Look at most electrolyte formulas and youíll see one of the main ingredients is salt/sodium.
Whatís the solution to this issue? Buy a Natural Trace Mineral salt thatís loose. Do NOT buy a white bleached salt, and do NOT use human table salt (remember there is a reason that it pours). Pour four to six ounces into a small container or feeder and bolt it to your horseís stall wall. Leave it alone and let your horse eat what he wants. Donít pour salt into his feed daily, as there is no way you can tell how much he really needs and you will upset his natural chemistry. Only your horse knows the balance he needs, let him find it. He will use different amounts each day Ė and you will see his consumption vary by the amount of work heís doing and the seasons.
You may find that in the beginning he goes through quite a bit trying to balance his system. Then heíll use less, and then youíll notice that he may not use any for several days or even a week. Then heíll dip back into it. During the heat of summer, heíll probably use more. But donít be surprised if he has an increased desire for it in winter, too. Because itís loose and granulated your horse will have easy access and can quit biting salt blocks that were made for cattle. Youíll be surprised how free access to a good quality trace mineral salt will help your horse function better in all of his activities.
If you donít have access to loose salt in your area, then go to the nutrition section of my web-site and you will find quality trace mineral salt there.