Did you know that your horse’s blood is the same mineral consistency as natural ocean water? Nearly 100% of sodium is absorbed in the large intestine, and stored in fluid surrounding cells (60%), within cells (10%) and in bones (30%).
All salt comes from the ocean. Sadly, the salt you feed your horse may be of little nutrient value, originate from polluted waters and be further depleted by strip mining or harsh processing techniques such as chemical bleaching and high heat drying.
Sodium, a primary positively-charged electrolyte along with potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphoric acid, is one of 90 potential elements naturally contained in unrefined sea salt. Horses seek mineral salt in their natural environment but often require supplementation due to toxic or imbalanced soil and pastures, hot climates, and following intense exercise or competition. Serve only feed-grade sources intended for animal consumption.
White Salt is the familiar processed white iodized table salt, commonly used by humans. Unrefined Sea Salts include salt originating from salt mines in Asia, salt from ocean water near Europe, and mineral rock from underground tunnel mines in Utah. Loose Salt can be offered free choice when stored under cover in divided compartments with dried kelp (bladderwrack) and dolomite. It can be added to grain when it’s lacking from your horse’s diet, as identified by blood samples taken before and after exercise. Mineral Rocks can remain in open pasture without dissolving in rain water. Salt/Mineral Blocks can become cold in winter which may reduce their consumption. A salt block is better than no salt at all; a mineral block may not be a wise choice for all horses in areas with excess iron in the soil.
Other forms of salt:
* Sodium free-salt (potassium chloride) non healthy
* Lite salt (more potassium chloride, less sodium chloride)
* Food sodium sources including carrot, kelp, beet, celery and artichoke
Note: It is normal for horses to consume extra salt for a few days then back off. If you observe them eating large amounts, they may be deficient or simply bored.
HHH: Offer free choice unrefined sea salt to your horse’s diet to:
* aid blood sugar control and improve insulin sensitivity
* alleviate dehydration
* balance hormones
* encourage healthy weight
* help retain magnesium from feed
* improve overall heath including hoof health and hair coat
* increase thermogenesis in cold weather
* lower adrenaline spikes
* maintain pH
* neutralize acid/alkaline
* provide a natural antihistamine
* regulate your horse’s water between cells and other fluids
* reverse acidosis
* speed up a slow metabolism
* support a weakened thyroid
* suppress stress
HHH: Sodium deficiency (Hyponatremia) reduces your horse’s performance and may:
* blur vision
* cause sodium cravings, often indicating adrenal insufficiency
* contribute to flatulence
* decrease water intake
* encourage dirt consumption, tree/fence chewing, licking objects exposed to salt
* impair concentration and memory
* increase the risk of impaction colic
* lead to confusion or apathy
* result in muscle shrinkage, cramping, and incoordination
HHH: Correct sodium levels optimize multiple equine system functions:
* cardiovascular system to support increased blood viscosity thickness, increased blood pressure to alleviate hypotension, or help to regulate osmotic BP
* digestive system for food metabolization support and to alleviate diarrhea or constipation
* excretory system to correct kidney function when sodium is not excessive
* immune system to help reduce fevers
* lymphatic system to optimize correct sodium levels and as a component of Lymph
* musculoskeletal system to balance or correct function and contraction of muscles
* nervous system to facilitate cell membrane nerve impulses which may also alleviate heat stroke
HHH: Be informed!
* Ask your hay provider for an analysis of major and trace minerals in your horse’s diet.
* Avoid colors, binders or additives like dextrose (sugar) and heat-processed salt stripped of natural trace minerals.
* Balance is needed of positively charged electrolyte cations and negatively charged anions.
* Bile salt requires sodium as an essential component of sodium taurocholate.
* Consult your vet before increasing equine salt levels in cases of kidney disease or hypertension.
* DO NOT FEED anti-caking industrial prussiate sodium, sodium ferrocyanide, sodium hexacyanoferrate, or tetrasodium hexacyanoferrate.
* Epsom Salt is not salt. It is two minerals, magnesium and sulphate, known to flush toxins, and to soak tired muscles or fungal hooves.
* Excess sodium causes edema (swelling) because the body transfers water to balance the sodium.
* High sodium results in potassium depletion.
* Horses may resist the altered taste of electrolyte water.
* Read your horse’s feed labels. Commercial feeds normally contain 0.5-1.0% salt.
* Texture of salt is not an indication of nutrition.
* Your horse should consume at least double the normal (1-2 ounces) salt intake during pregnancy, after heavy exercise or in hot weather to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat evaporation.
If your horse has an iodine deficiency , he could never get enough iodine from iodized salt.
Take your horse’s salt needs seriously. Seek neither deficiency nor overconsumption. Consider your horse’s age, size, environment, diet and work requirements. Offer free choice unrefined loose or rock natural sea salt. Make sure unlimited clean water access is available.
Shari Frederick, BS, NMD, a nutritional educator and licensed aesthetician, assists horseowners in making healthier, more natural choices in horse care. She is an independent author, international lecturer and self-styled naturalist. At her Happy Horse Haven Rescue in Texas, detoxification and liver/kidney/immune supports are the FIRST steps in rehab for nearly every arriving horse. Visit Shari’s websites, sharifrederick.org and horseshaveheart.org .