Salt for Horses in High Temps

If you’re horse showing in the heat, these tips can help your horse stay hydrated.

If you’re horse showing in the heat, these tips can help your horse stay hydrated.

A horses daily salt requirements can more than double during the hot summer months. Journal photo.
A horse’s daily salt requirements can more than double during the hot summer months. Journal photo.

By Roy Johnson for AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

High temperatures and high humidity in much of the U.S. can create higher stress conditions for people and for horses. I have judged some horse shows in outdoor arenas with temperatures well in the 90s with heat index values 100+, and I can see the impact on the horses as the show progresses.

Horses require about 1-2 ounces of salt per day to meet their requirement for sodium and chloride under normal temperature conditions. This requirement can increase to 4-6 ounces of salt per day in hot climates or under exercise where losses in sweat increase greatly. Inadequate salt in the diet can result in abnormal eating behavior such as licking or chewing objects that have salt on them or licking/eating dirt. Water intake may also decrease, increasing the risk of impaction colic. In more extreme cases, horses will stop eating and may experience muscle incoordination.

Keep your horse – and your wallet – in top shape this show season by joining the American Quarter Horse Association. AQHA members receive discounts and special offers on products and services that are essential to living in the Quarter Horse world.

A good option to maintain year round salt intake is to offer loose 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 that from salt blocks, due to the ease of consumption. It is a challenge for a horse to lick enough salt off a salt block to consume the higher levels required during high heat and humidity.

If horses are salt starved, it may be a good idea to limit the amount of salt put out for them initially until they have adjusted their intake. 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.

When you join the American Quarter Horse Association, you’ll gain access to a broad network of people who love the breed just as much as you do. Whether you thrive in the show ring or are looking for a trail buddy, an AQHA membership offers something for everyone.

Commercial feeds normally contain 0.5-1.0 percent salt, so horses on this type of feed will typically consume less free-choice salt than horses not receiving salt in their feed. They may still benefit from having loose salt available free choice. A salt block is better than not having any salt available free choice but may not be as effective in maintaining salt intake when high intakes are required in hot, humid weather.

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

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3 thoughts on “Salt for Horses in High Temps”

  1. The vets at Michigan State say that white salt is always best for horses because it doesn’t have any added minerals like brown/red salt. The added minerals can build up and create kidney stones in some horses. That happened to one of my aunt’s geldings; the horse had an awful time passing the kidney stones to the point where surgery was considered. Now all the horses in our extended family get white salt only.

  2. I give both my horse and pony a selenium block in their stall, and one in the pasture. Michigan is deficient in selenium. They get these blocks year-round, and I typically buy 3 a year. My mare takes in so much water its ridiculous! Pony does ok for intake. They aren’t stalled often, are out as much as possible, but of course will go after the blocks in their stalls more due to boredom. I prefer that over eating the barn down 🙂

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