Salt for Horses in High Temperatures

Salt for Horses in High Temperatures

Horses' sodium and chloride requirements can increase in very hot climates or under exercise conditions where sweat losses increase greatly.

Photo: The Horse Staff

High temperatures and high humidity create higher stress conditions for people and for horses. Horses require about one to two ounces of salt per day to provide help meet their requirement for sodium and chloride under normal temperature conditions, but this requirement can increase to four to six ounces of salt per day in very hot climates or under exercise conditions where sweat losses increase greatly.

Inadequate salt in the diet can result in abnormal eating behavior such as licking or chewing objects which have salt on them or licking/eating dirt. Water intake can also decrease, increasing the risk of impaction colic. In more extreme cases, horses will stop eating and could experience muscle incoordination.

A good option to maintain your horse's year around salt intake is to offer salt available free-choice, either in stalls or in a covered mineral feeder. Salt intake from loose salt has been observed to be higher than from salt blocks due to the ease of consumption; it can be challenge for a horse to lick enough salt off a salt block to consume the higher levels required during high heat and humidity.

It is absolutely essential that fresh water at an appropriate temperature be available at all times as well. Horses tend to consume less water if the water temperature is too high, even if they should be drinking more water in the warm, humid conditions.

Many commercial feeds contain 0.5-1.0% salt, but they could still benefit from having salt available free choice. A salt block is better than not having any salt available free choice, but might not be as effective in maintaining salt intake as loose salt added to feed when high intakes are required in hot, humid weather.

Providing salt free-choice is a good management tool that can help your horse eat and drink well all year long.

Reprinted with permission from The Feed Room, by Nutrena.

About the Author

Roy A. Johnson, MS

Roy A. Johnson, MS, is an equine technology manager for Cargill Animal Nutrition. In his role, he is responsibile for the development of horse feeds for U.S. business, including feeds for Nutrena, ACCO, Agway, and private label brands. A former professional horse trainer, farm manager, and horse judging coach, Johnson was an assistant professor in the Agricultural Production Division at the University of Minnesota-Wasecae before joining Cargill. Johnson has also participated in a successful Thoroughbred racing partnership.

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