Most horse owners probably don’t give much thought to feeding salt to their horse. Just dump a salt lick in the pasture, and they’re good, right? Well, did you know that salt blocks were actually designed for cattle, which have rough tongues that can easily lick the block? While a salt block is better than no salt for the horse, there is a better way to ensure your meeting your horse’s sodium and chloride needs–loose salt.
Horses have smoother tongues and may not actually get their needed amount of salt from a block. They may end up biting the block in an attempt to get more, which can lead to teeth and jaw problems. Horses need about 1-2 ounces of salt per day, and if they’re in work or sweating from hot weather, that amount may increase to 4-6 ounces. A horse that is salt- deficient may lick or chew on objects or may actually lick or eat dirt.
Feeding salt during cold weather is especially important. Salt intake promotes drinking–which in turn keeps the digestive tract moving smoothly. By providing salt in your horse’s daily feed or free choice, you will be reducing your horses chances of developing colic–which is more prevalent in cold weather.
When buying loose salt, make sure you are getting the kind that is intended for animal consumption (and not for de-icing). Some commercial feeds include salt, but it’s always a good idea to provide extra loose salt free-choice. If you do feed salt free-choice, make sure to keep it in a covered area and re-fill it often.