Salt for Horses: Salt Blocks vs. Loose Salt

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.

Loose salt for horses

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.




Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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9 Responses

  1. Joey says:

    Was wondering is there a different between cattle salt and salt for horses. I am talking about the loose salt.

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Joey–It should be all the same whether it’s for horses or cattle. Look for straight sodium chloride without any other added minerals.

  2. Amy Leveto Smith says:

    Thanks for the article. I have never heard this information about salt blocks being designed for cattle rather than horses. In my horses supplements, I provide some of the product “Apple-a-day” year round in order to facilitate water drinking. In your experience, is this type of loose salt ok or do you suggest another?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Amy–I’m not sure what ‘apple a day’ is. Are the ingredients listed on the package? I would recommend straight loose salt (iodized is okay since they need iodine as well) provided separately from minerals. I just started using natural sea salt which you can buy online.

      • Amy says:

        Thank you- here are the ingredients in “Apple-a-Day”

        The original apple electrolyte/mineral replacement prevents dehydration, replenishes electrolytes, aids appetite and water consumption. NO sugars — more electrolytes and trace minerals — less cost. Horses love the taste.

        Feed one ounce daily (half as much as most other brands).

        Salt, potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, calcium lactate, zinc sulfate, artifical apple flavor, manganese sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, cobalt sulfate.

        Guaranteed Analysis:
        Calcium, min..5.9%
        Calcium, max..6.9%
        Phosphorus, min..0.001%
        Salt, min..35%
        Salt, max..36.5%
        Sodium, min..19%
        Sodium, max..21%
        Potassium, min..12%
        Magnesium, min..0.5%
        Manganese, min..300 ppm
        Zinc, min..40 ppm
        Iron, min..2.8 ppm
        Copper, min..10 ppm
        Cobalt, min..0.3 ppm

        • Casie says:

          So it looks like a multi-mineral with salt included. It still wouldn’t hurt to provide some loose salt (you can add it to their feed) to cover your bases though. Especially on hot days.

  3. Alice says:

    Hi Casie
    Could you tell me where you buy your sea salt online, and how much it is?

  1. October 30, 2013

    […] Feed loose salt either free choice or in your horse’s feed ration to encourage drinking.  This should […]

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