Many horse owners do not fully appreciate the significance of providing adequate salt to their equine companions.  In terms of cost to benefit ratio, it would be hard to think of another nutrient with such a low cost that provides the benefits of salt. 

This can not be emphasized enough, your horse will not consume too much salt.  To my knowledge, no horse has ever been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) from excessive salt intake.  The larger problem is the lack of salt intake.

The fact is, many horses are sodium/salt deficient.

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a macromineral and a vital component of the equine diet and serves many functions in the horse’s body. As an electrolyte, it supports healthy nerve and muscle function and encourages your horse to drink so that it doesn’t get dehydrated or develop intestinal discomfort.

Some signs of salt deficiency can include abnormal licking of soil or other objects, anorexia, lethargy, unsteady gait or loss of skin vitality.

Knowing how important salt is for your horse, why don’t most horses receive enough salt in their diets? Let’s delve more into why this could be

How Much Salt Does a Horse Need Daily?

A 500 kg (1100 lb) horse at maintenance on a cool day doing no work requires about 10 grams of sodium and 40 grams of chloride (1). Feeding 30 grams of salt a day will provide around 11 grams of sodium, which is enough to meet the maintenance needs of a 500 kg horse. This is around 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce.  The rest of the chloride will be supplied by the hay.

With an increase in work level and environmental temperature comes an increase in sweat production, which is responsible for large changes in an exercising horse’s salt requirements. Maintenance requirements can easily double or triple when exercise levels and temperature conditions increase.

Therefore, salt supplementation should be done in reference to sweat production and environmental temperature.

Calculate Your Horse’s Salt Requirement


Sodium required: grams/day

Chloride required: grams/day

Salt required*: grams/day

*Recommended minimum salt intake based on fulfilling sodium requirement.

Isn’t my Hay and Grain Supplying Enough Salt?

Feeding hay and grain on their own will not supply your horse with the salt it needs to thrive. In fact, hay and grass contain very little sodium and most commercial grains do not contain enough salt to meet basal maintenance requirements, so the addition of it either as a top-dress in feed or offered free-choice is essential.

The only way to know exactly how much sodium and chloride are contained in your hay and grain is to get a hay analysis done and read the guaranteed analysis on all commercial feeds and supplements. Commercial feeds normally contain around 0.5-1.0% salt.

If you are top-dressing salt in your horse’s ration for the first time, it’s likely that your horse will need time to get used to it. Some horses will not eat their feed if it’s too salty.

A good suggestion is to start with 1 teaspoon per kilogram of feed and then gradually increase the amount to reach your horse’s maintenance requirement.

Mad About Horses
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