Are you using regular table salt? I hope not.
Typical table salts have been heavily processed, bleached, and heated. This high heat changes the chemical structure of sodium chloride, transforming it into an indigestible toxin.
Up to 80 minerals and essential trace minerals are removed. It also contains chemically engineered anti-caking agents called calcium silicate.
The above information can be found in a simple internet search about table salt.
On today’s Horse Mysteries Solved podcast, we talk about the ins and outs of salt for horses.
-What to avoid (blocks)
-what to use (loose salt)
-what to do if your horse eats too much salt and/or urinates excessively
-with fun commentary about what the og septic guy told me
To read Dr. Tucker’s article on this subject click here.
Hello friends. Dr. Renee Tucker here. Today we’re going to talk about salt. One of our listeners asked the question, hey, what’s the best salt?
What do you do if your horse eats too much salt and then urinates a lot? That’s kind of a large question. So actually we’ll start with some salt basics and then if you have any other questions, please feel free to always either comment or send an email to support Tucker biokinetic.com. Okay, do horses need salt? Yes, they do.
All mammals need salt to live, so we definitely need to offer salt. Now where would horses get salt in the wild? They actually go find it. It’s kind of strange. They find it buried in the ground in little salt deposits.
So when horses need salt, they go find it, perhaps by smell. I got a theory that maybe they can see it with some kind of UV vision, something cool like that. I’m not really sure, but it would be cool. Anyway. So they find the salt and then they dig it out with their hooves, right?
So they dig the soil off the salt and they dig into the salt deposit. So they have little chunks, little pieces that come up and then they eat whatever small pieces that they need and then they leave. Okay, so nowhere in nature do you see horses licking salt, kind of like a lollipop. Horses are not meant to lick, not for long periods of time. Their jaws are designed to grind, and you can see that because they have really large grinding muscles which are their masseter cheek muscles.
You know how their cheek muscles are almost the whole side of their face. They have lots of muscles for grinding side to side. They do not have a lot of chewing muscles or licking muscles. So certainly they can do it. Okay, but they’re not designed to do that all day.
You know who’s designed to do that all day? Cows. Cows are really good at chewing. They eat and they chew their cud all day long. And they’re good at licking too.
So here’s possibly a secret you may not know, but salt blocks and also salt mineral blocks are designed for cows. They’re designed for licking. They’re hard to difficult to lick and get stuff off of it. So it’s not that easy for horses to do that. Clearly they can do it if they really need the salt, but they’re not designed for horses.
Ideally, horses should get loose salt. All right, here’s a few more reasons why. Salt and salt mineral blocks are not a good choice for horses. Besides, they’re designed for cows and they’re difficult for horses to eat. When these are made, the different minerals settle while they’re processing in the block mold.
Okay? This means there’s different minerals and different settlement layers of the block. So not all the layers are accessible. At the same time, the salt and minerals are not top tier quality sorry. Let’s be real, okay?
They’re making them for cows, so they got the cheapest, low quality minerals they can find. And because they’re low quality, they may not be digestible or absorbable for horses. Side note here, you may not know that. I found this out a while back. If you go to a grocery store, just a regular grocery store, none of those minerals are absorbable.
Okay, now I’m on a tangent. Listen, guys, I used to live in Washington and had a, what you call it, where? Septic tank. Septic tank. So the guy comes out because they have to be inspected when you buy the house.
And he’s been doing septic tank inspections because it’s a law in Washington for, I don’t know, 40 years. And we tried it for quite a while. He was quite a character. But he managed to tell me, he says, you can always tell when someone’s taking those thor vitamins. I’m like what?
He goes, yeah, they’re like a pyramid stack of dissolved vitamins in a septic tank. And they just sit there and they end up clogging the septic tank because of the stupid vitamins that people are taking. Vitamins and minerals, and very little, if any, is dissolvable or absorbable digestible. None of those cheap store bought vitamins are any use, okay? That really just got kind of a mental picture in my mind how important it is to get good quality absorbable vitamins, all right?
And minerals, too, okay? There’s always a range of quality. The ones in the block are terrible. Please don’t feed yours, the salt blocks or minerals unless really, truly, that is absolutely your only option, okay? Lastly, the blocks themselves contain chemicals to keep the shape of the block and to form it and keep it consolidated and collected and not just fall apart as soon as they take it out of the mold.
Chemicals? No good. Okay, so what do we use instead of blocks? Simple, loose salt. Sometimes you have to ask your feed store to order it.
They may not have it. Ask them. They can get it. Easy. Ideally, you’d like to offer the loose salt separately from any other minerals.
Also make the salt free choice. That means the horse is free to choose. Get it? Free choice. Okay, so we don’t want to put this in the food every day because they should have it.
No, let the horse choose. Horses and animals know what they need, so if you give them the choice, you can trust them to do it, right. Many people want to know about the Himalayan pink salt licks. Those are those pinkish blocks with a rope through it that you tie on the stall. Those salts are usually just fine.
Here’s a thing to think about. Some horses tongues are dry. Okay, this sounds so weird, but strangely enough, I managed to feel a lot of horse tongues over the years, particularly when you’re checking teeth and stuff like that. Some horses tongues are dry. So if you rub your hands, dry hands on this Himalayan salt block, you get extremely little salt, right?
So, yeah, I know they could theoretically salivate and keep licking and licking and licking. Okay, that’s a lot of work. Remember we talked about horses aren’t designed to lick. Now, some horses tongues are moist enough, they will get salt off of those little licks, fairly low effort. And so that’s fine either way.
It won’t hurt to get one and stick it on the stall. But just keep in mind, if they don’t seem to do anything with it, maybe they have the dry tongue. There’s nothing wrong with horses that have a dry tongue, okay? They’re fine. It’s just a range of normal.
And just like your dry hands won’t get salt off of those, hardly at all, unless you lick your hands, then with your wet tongue. See how that works? Got to have some moisture to pick up that salt. Okay, so here’s a couple of examples when things go wrong with salt stuff. Let’s say you have a horse who really needs salt, but let’s go with a mare.
She’s only offered a salt mineral mixture so that’s salt and minerals together, no choices of I only want salt. All right? So if the horse has too much of any one of those minerals in her body, she will avoid eating a salt mineral mix. So then the horse is salt deficient, even though you’re offering salt and you think, well, she doesn’t need it because she’s not eating it. You see how that could work.
In the other case, kind of the opposite case, the horse is offered only a salt mineral mix. And this gelding is desperate for the salt, just has to have it. So they do eat the mix so they can get that salt they’re desperate for. However, then the horse may have too much of one or more of the minerals. Then he starts drinking a lot of water to flush out the minerals.
So what flushes out with the minerals to the salt, then they need more salt, then they eat more minerals. Then they’re on this vicious little hamster wheel eating all the minerals and all the salt mineral mix, drinking water over and over and over and the terrible vicious cycle. And the poor owner ends up wondering, why is my horse peeing so much? All right? And it gets a little bit confusing because you don’t really know quite what to do when you have a horse who’s excessively peeing.
Now, if you do happen to have a horse who is excessively urinating, especially if it smells very strongly of ammonia, do get your veterinarian to get some blood work and then also do a urinalysis. Most horses will start I’m sorry, most veterinarians will start with the blood work. All right? And that makes sense. Blood work is fairly easy to draw.
Blood work tells you if the kidneys are working, sort of. Let me give you a little behind the scenes tip here. Kidney blood work, super useful, for real. However, it only tells you something when the kidneys, both kidneys are 75% damaged, okay? So if you get blood work and the kidney enzymes that you’re looking at look good, well, that’s helpful.
However, your kidneys could be 50% damaged, and it will not show up on blood work. You get me? Okay. So, again, blood work is useful. It’s good for baseline.
It’s good when horse is really, really sick. However, if horse just pain a lot, you might not find anything on the blood work. So it’s important, in my opinion, to do a urinalysis. Now, a lot of vets might avoid that somewhat because they have to ask the owner to catch the pee. Yes.
So as the owner, you would be in charge of watching your horse, waiting for them to pee, and then just catching the urine in a clean container. This could be a super clean bucket, even a gallon plastic bag. It’s kind of a pain, but it’s really not that difficult. I think you guys know your horse well enough to catch some pee. It can be tricky, depending on if they’re out all day on 20 acres and you’re following them around.
Just kidding. I’m just picturing that right now. It’ll be fun. Anyways, that’s why veterinarians don’t really push urinalysis. They like to start with blood work first.
But if your horse is peeing so much and smells terribly strong, please get the urinalysis. It’s very helpful. It tells you what’s in the urine. And we know it’s supposed to be in the urine. So if things aren’t filtering right, you can see that by checking the urine.
Okay, then everyone wants to know what’s the best salt and mineral to use. Most importantly is loose salt offered separately from the minerals. Now you can use a mineral mix. I really, really love the free choice separate minerals. Okay.
This is the one I’m familiar with. It’s ABCs, which stands for Advanced Biological Concepts. I have no affiliation with them. I just think this is a cool idea. And I’ve seen lots of horses use this, and the owners really like it.
So ABC sells what they call a complete set, which has I don’t know how many, but like a dozen mineral combinations in their natural way, they go together. So, for example, calcium is often best with phosphorus, and then selenium goes with vitamin E, stuff like this. But this set comes with about a dozen different ones in different containers. So what you do is then you offer each container separately to your horse. People do this in different ways.
Some people mount separate containers that are open topped along the stall or in an aisle way. I have seen a person who put all the containers and connected them all to a giant board, and she didn’t want to leave it outside, but she would drag it outside on a nice day so the horses could choose. And she marked them and she measured it all and she made a graph. Super cool. Anyways, you may not have time for the graph making, but they’re cool.
What you’ll find if you try this is that generally your horses will just love two or three out of this dozen. They will eat all of it. This is good. Then, you know, for your area, what you’re hay feeding, all that stuff, what it’s deficient in. So then you just order only those two or three.
But it’s nice to have the complete set just as an example. I one time had a lady call me who got this, and she said that worked really good for, I don’t know, two or three months. But then it stopped working. I’m like, what do you mean it stopped working? She says, well, they stopped eating it after two or three months.
I’m like that’s, actually. Perfect. So once a horse’s minerals are balanced, they don’t need any extra. So another good reason to get some type of set of minerals is to find out if they’re balanced, because they’ll tell you. And also, anytime you get a new batch of hay in, whether you’re making it yourself or buying it, it’s a great idea then, to offer the minerals.
Let’s see what this batch of hay is like. What if I buy it from these people? What’s the mineral balance like? Sure, you can get it tested, or you can buy a set of minerals and see what the horses tell you. All right, that’s my very favorite.
But if you can just offer free choice loose salt and free choice separate minerals, your horse will maintain his or horse salt and mineral balance all by themselves. You don’t have to worry about offering this and giving that, and this is balanced and oh, my gosh, I gave too much of this type of hay. So maybe I should balance it with this supplement. No, just let the horse do it. It’s much easier.
Okay, let me know if you have any questions, and I will talk to you guys later. Bye.
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