Horse Nutrition – Can a Horse Eat Too Much Salt?
June 30, 2010 by cherryhillhorsekeeping
Copper Dun wrote:
Can a horse eat too much of the plain stable salt? Will it affect their coronary health as it is purported to do in humans?
Good question and cute play on words “stable salt” !
The answer is yes. Does it happen often? Well yes and no.
In the vast majority of cases, providing a horse with free choice salt blocks satisfies the horse’s salt needs. If a horse exercised heavily and frequently, he likely might not take in enough salt from a regular salt block. Options then include providing loose salt or adding salt to a horse’s feed. Both of these methods need to be planned carefully and monitored closely.
The way a horse could eat too much salt is if the horse is housed in individual quarters and is provided with a supplement block or mineral block, such as one with protein, molasses, or other flavor enhancer to carry the calcium, phosphorus, salt or minerals. Some horses gobble up these blocks, literally, eating a 40 pound block in a matter of a day or so. In a case like this, the horse has ingested excess salt and other nutrients. It might indicate that the horse and/or the horse’s ration is lacking in salt or a certain mineral OR it could, more likely, indicate that the horse just has a taste for the flavor enhancer or carrier in the block. Rescue and underweight horses might chow down on salt and mineral blocks at first if they had been deprived of those nutrients through neglect. With a block gobbler, the best management is to only allow the horse access to the block for a few hours each day and remove it for the rest of the time from the pen, stall or pasture. In these few situations, free choice is not a good thing.
Overeating of salt doesn’t happen very often with plain white salt blocks that are just sodium and chloride. It is usually the opposite – horses don’t get enough salt. But if a horse is housed and fed individually and you find his white block disappearing quickly, you might want to use the same tactic described above and also confer with your vet.
Another way a horse can get too much salt is if you add too much salt or electrolytes to his grain ration (perhaps in an attempt to give a hard working sport or performance horse the proper balance or electrolytes). Know what you are doing and confer with a nutritionist before force feeding salt or electrolytes.
If you pasture your horses and have only a few horses yet find the white blocks disappearing, it could be due to wildlife grazers (deer, elk, antelope) sharing the block with your horses.
Too much salt often leads to a higher water intake, frequent urinating and/or a loose stool. As far as excess salt being a coronary risk factor? I have no information or knowledge to answer that.
Hope some of this is helpful and come and visit again with more questions.