Sodium requirements

Another big issue which is more prominent in the heat, but which is also actually a problem year around, is sodium deficiency.  The typical domestic horse’s diet is low in sodium, but horses need a good supply of sodium for optimum health and performance.  Signs of sodium deficiency can include licking things that might have sweat on them such as hands or muck fork handles, as well as a reduced rate of eating and reduced water intake. An average sized horse needs at least 1 ounce of salt a day just to meet baseline sodium needs, and those needs shoot up to 2, 4, or even 6 ounces a day with heat, exercise, and sweating for any reason.

A salt block is a good place to start, but be aware that an average sized horse would have to go through a 2 pound block per month to meet baseline sodium needs and many horses don’t get enough salt from their salt blocks since the equine tongue isn’t as rough as the bovine tongue for which they were originally designed.  So beyond leaving out a white salt block at all times, it is best to add two Tablespoons a day of iodized table salt directly into their feed dish.  If the horse is in work or the weather is very hot, the sodium need is roughly double that amount, so add more salt to compensate.  Since the horse’s health and performance can suffer from sodium deficiency and any excess sodium is excreted anyway, it’s good insurance to add salt directly to the meal as well as leave out free choice salt blocks.  Feeding adequate salt is important and inexpensive, we buy it in 25 pound bags at Costco or Smart and Final.