While you may be looking for ways to decrease the amount of salt in your own diet, most horses can be allowed as much of the mineral as they want.
Salt provides electrolytes that play a critical role in most of the body’s electrochemical processes. If a horse does not get enough salt, his body balances his blood sodium levels by retaining less water. This can lead to dehydration, especiallyduring the summer months when electrolytes are already lost through sweating.
Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure that your horse receives all the salt he needs: Just provide access to a salt block. Horses have a natural appetite for salt and will seek it out when their internal supplies are low and (generally) not consume any more than they need.
In warm weather, a horse will take in between four and eight tablespoons of salt per day, but this amount may increase if he sweats heavily. Feeds and supplements also may contain salt, but you’ll still want to provide your horse with a block so he can make up any deficits. It doesn’t matter if the block is white or the red variety, which contains other minerals.
In rare cases, a horse may be overzealous about salt consumption. Consult with your veterinarian if you suspect that your horse may be spending too much time at the salt block. He could have a nutritional problem, or he might have developed a behavioral issue.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #441.