It’s true. Horses and all mammals need salt to live.

But how would horses get salt in the wild?

How do horses get salt in the wild?
They find it in the ground, while roaming around their territory. They find it under the ground and dig it out. Then they eat small pieces of it.

(Some say they smell the salt, which is probably true. I have a theory that they can also see it, using spectrums of light which we cannot use.)

Nowhere in nature do you see horses licking salt like a lollipop.

So, horses 1) know when they need salt and 2) eat it in small pieces.

Horses are not anatomically designed to do much licking. Their jaws are designed to grind, which is seen in the large masseter (cheek) muscles. Masseter muscles are nearly the entire side of their face!

Chewing (opening and closing the mouth) and licking both require muscles which are far smaller in the horse.

Which animal are mineral salt blocks designed for?

Cows are quite good at chewing. Cows chew their cud all day. They’re also good at licking.
Salt and salt/mineral blocks are designed for cows. They are not designed for horses.

Reasons salt/mineral blocks are NOT a good choice for horses:
1) Designed for cows
2) Difficult for horses to eat
They’ll try to chew or lick these if they need the salt, but their muscles fatigue quickly.
3) Blocks “settle” while they’re processing in the block mold. This means there are different minerals in different settlement layers of the block. Not all layers are accessible at the same time.
4) The salt and minerals are not top-tier quality. They’re low-quality cheap minerals.
5) Because they’re low quality, some may not even be digestible or absorbable for horses.
6) Blocks contain chemicals to form and keep their shape. Chemicals are bad.

What to use instead of blocks?

Simple loose salt is best. Ideally, offer the loose salt separate from any other minerals.

Make the salt “free-choice”. That means the horse is free to choose to eat it or not. Don’t put it in food or treats so the horse is forced to eat it.

Himalayan pink salt (the pink blocks with a rope) are fine to offer. However…

Some horses tongues are dry. Run your dry hands on those himalayan blocks. How much salt is on your hands? Very little. Many horses with dry tongues don’t even bother.

Some horses tongues are moist enough to get enough salt with these. It won’t hurt to try it with your horse.

When things go wrong with salt

Example: you have a horse that really needs salt. But she is only offered a salt-mineral mixture. If the horse has too much of any one of those minerals, she won’t eat the mix. Then the horse is salt deficient…even though you’re offering salt!

In another case, a horse offed only a salt-mineral mix is desperate for the salt. So they do eat the mix. But because the horse then has too much mineral(s), he or she starts drinking a lot of water to flush out the extra minerals.

Which also flushes out the salt. So then they need more salt. And they eat more minerals, and drink more water….vicious cycle.

And the poor owner is wondering why the horse urinates so much!
{If your horse has excessive urination–especially if it smells strongly–ask your vet for bloodwork and
urinalysis. Many vets avoid the urinalysis because they assume most owners will not do the work of catching the
urine. Yep, you have to catch it fresh yourself in a clean container, before it hits the floor. But the
urinalysis will give you very useful information.}

Best salt and mineral recommendation
My recommendation is to offer your horse free-choice, separate salt and separate minerals.
(I like the “Complete” mineral set from Advanced Biologic Concepts (no affiliation))

While a mineral mix is ok, offering each mineral in a combination that occurs naturally is best. For example, Calcium is often best with Phosphorus. Selenium often with Vitamin E. Etc.

The above mentioned “Complete” set contains about a dozen different mineral combinations, all in separate containers.

The key is to offer your horse each one. You’ll find that your horse will LOVE 2-3 of these. This means that he or she is normally getting the other minerals in feed or supplements.

So, you’ll only need to reorder those 2-3 for your horse.

It is a good idea to re-offer all the minerals each time the hay shipment changes, or even the weather shifts significantly.

By offering free choice salt and minerals, your horse can maintain his salt and mineral balance, just as he would in nature.

To listen to Renee’s Podcast on this topic, see Horse Mysteries Solved.

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