Salt blocks and your horse

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Many horse owners unwittingly sabotage their mineral supplement program by providing plain white or yellow salt blocks in place of, or in addition to, loose mineral supplements or mineral blocks. Unfortunately, most who do this think they are doing the right thing by their horse. This article is meant to educate horse owners on proper mineral management and nutrition.

Consumption of a mineral supplement is regulated by several different factors including: salt content, hardness, molasses content, and “other” factors. Salt is added to a mineral mix not only to meet the salt needs of the horse, but also to mask other bad tasting ingredients and to maintain proper consumption. For instance, phosphorus is very unpalatable. Salt, along with other ingredients are often added to cover the unpleasant taste and to boost consumption to desired levels.

Horses, like people, can consume more salt than they need. Excessive salt intake can interfere with consumption of more balanced mineral supplements, thus depriving horses of necessary minerals and vitamins.

Salt is added to a mineral mix to encourage consumption, but is also sometimes added to limit consumption. As an example, think about an order of french fries, doesn’t some added salt make it taste better and encourage you to eat more? What happens if you accidentally spill an open salt shaker on these same french fries? When they have too much salt, you will tend to eat less of them and may forgo eating them at all. The same principles apply for mineral supplements for horses.

Now you ask, what does this have to do with salt blocks? When white, blue or yellow salt blocks or red trace mineral salt blocks are provided along with a complete mineral supplement, your horse may get all of his or her salt from the salt blocks and consume none of the complete mineral supplement. Or, more likely, he or she will consume some of both. While your horse does get some mineral supplement in this instance, he or she will not receive the amount required to meet his or her nutritional needs. When you buy a mineral supplement, you will find a set of feeding instructions on the label. The desired consumption rate listed on the label is the rate that is formulated to deliver the full compliment of mineral and vitamin supplement. For example, if the desired consumption of a mineral is 4 oz. per head per day, the presence of a salt block may decrease consumption of this mineral to 1 or 2 oz per head per day. Let’s also say that this mineral is designed to deliver 100% of the daily-recommended allowances for trace minerals. In this case, your horse would only receive half of its trace mineral needs by this feeding scenario and over an extended period of time could develop mineral deficiencies.

In all cases, it is important that you read and follow the label directions for any equine supplement. NEVER provide additional sources of salt to horses receiving free choice mineral supplements unless the product label specifically instructs you to do so. In rare instances, some supplements do recommend that you provide additional salt.

The cost of a good complete mineral supplement represents a significant cost. You invest this money with the knowledge that your investment will pay off in improved health and performance for your horse. To add salt blocks that decrease the effectiveness of your complete mineral supplement significantly decreases the value of your investment.

Use of STOCKADE® branded equine supplement blocks will provide a balance of essential nutrients, including mineral and vitamins needed for health and performance.

STOCKADE offers a variety of equine supplements that help horses attain maximum health and performance by providing essential nutrients lacking in hay and pasture. By offering a variety of product forms and nutrient levels, horse owners can mix and match to create a customized supplement program. Call 1-800-835-0306 to learn more about available supplements.

No matter which mineral supplement you choose to utilize, protect your investment dollars by reading and following the label feeding directions. Monitor consumption to make sure that your horses are receiving desired amounts. Avoid allowing your horse access to outside sources of salt unless the directions specifically states to do so.