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Horses should have access to salt at all times. I provide each of my horses with two salt blocks. One is a plain white salt block that is simply table salt; sodium chloride. The other is a calcium/phosphorus trace mineral salt block. It is sometimes called a 12:12 block because it contains 12% calcium and 12% phosphorus or an equal ratio of calcium to phosphorus, which is good for most adult horses.

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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.
Cherry Hill

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It is starting to get hot, yes, even here in the foothills of the Northern Colorado Rockies. The horses are sweating more, drinking more and eating more salt.

Horses should have access to salt at all times. I provide each of my horses with two salt blocks. One is a plain white salt block that is simply table salt; sodium chloride. The other is a calcium/phosphorus trace mineral salt block. It is sometimes called a 12:12 block because it contains 12% calcium and 12% phosphorus or an equal ratio of calcium to phosphorus, which is good for most adult horses. Each of my horses shows a preference for one block or the other but all choose different blocks at different times.

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Keeping Your Horse Healthy – Part 1

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Mary keeps her two horses at the same boarding stable where you’ve just moved Jones, your new gelding.  Mary’s gelding Blaze has heaves, requires specialized shoeing that costs twice the normal fee, gets special feed for his dry skin, and each day has a 50/50 chance of being sound to ride.  Her mare Dolly is gorgeous but she’s constantly on a diet, is a chronic wood chewer and tail rubber and frequently colics.  The problems that Mary has with her horses have you in a panic every time Jones lies down or stumbles.

The bad news is that Blaze and Dolly might always have these problems and Mary will always have higher than normal feed, veterinary, and farrier bills.

The good news is that all of these problems are preventable with good health management.  If you are a keen observer and follow good horse management, Jones will stay in tiptop shape and your budget won’t bust!

Our horses depend on us to take good care of them.  We need to pay specific attention to feeding, sanitation, grooming, hoof care, veterinary care, and facilities management.

FEEDING

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacYour horse will quickly tell you that feeding is the number one priority!  In fact, a good appetite is the best sign that your horse is feeling well.  But if you left it up to your horse, he’d eat himself sick.  So you need to keep your horse at a healthy weight.  If he is too thin, he may lack energy, be weak, cold and less able to ward off illness.  If he is overweight, his limbs are unduly stressed and he’s more likely to founder.  Know your horse’s weight so you can feed and deworm him accurately.  Use a weight tape to encircle his heart girth.  Record his weight and monitor it frequently.  A long winter coat can be deceiving.

Hay is the mainstay of any horse’s diet.  Grass, the traditional “safe” horse hay, includes timothy, brome, and orchard grass.  Alfalfa hay which has higher protein, three times the calcium and more vitamins than grass hay, is often fed to young, growing horses and lactating broodmares.
Good hay is free of mold, dust, and weeds and has a bright green color and a fresh smell.  It is leafy, soft, and dry but not brittle.

Feed about 2 pounds of hay per day for every 100 pounds of body weight. A 1000 # horse would get 20 pounds split into two 10 pound feedings. Feed hay by weight not flakes. Two flakes of dense alfalfa hay could weigh as much as 14 pounds while two flakes of fluffy, loose grass might only weigh 4 pounds!

Grain should be fed only to horses that require it; many do not.  Young horses, horses in hard work, pregnant mares, and mares with foals usually need grain and supplements.  Oats provide fiber (from their hulls) and energy (from the kernel) and are the safest horse grain.  Corn has a very thin covering so does not provide much fiber but provides twice the energy content as the same volume of oats.  Commercial feeds come as pellets or grain mixes.  Pellets can contain both hay and grain.  “Sweet feed” grain mixes are usually made up of oats or barley and corn, molasses and a protein pellet.

Grain should be fed by weight, not volume.  A two pound coffee can holds 1.1 pounds of bran, 2.1 pounds of sweet feed, and 2.9 pounds of pelleted feed so feeding by “the can” is inaccurate.

To avoid competition, fighting, and unequal rations, feed each horse individually.  If a horse gobbles his grain, it can cause choking, inadequate chewing and poor feed utilization.  To slow him down, feed hay first, and then grain.  Add golf ball sized rocks to the grain and use a large shallow pan rather than a small, deep bucket.

Minerals Because soils, hay and grain vary widely in their mineral content, your horse needs free choice trace mineral salt.  Trace mineral salt is regular “table salt” (sodium chloride) with important minerals added.  An even better mineral block is a 12% Calcium/12% Phosphorus Trace Mineral Salt Block.

Water If a horse lacks water, he can lose his appetite and colic.  A horse drinks about 8-10 gallons of water a day usually an hour or two after eating hay.  But be sure a horse always has good quality, free-choice water.
In winter, a horse should not be expected to eat snow, as it would take too long and too much body heat for him to melt it.

When a horse is hot from exercise, only let him sip water.  Walk him in between sips.  When he has stabilized, feed him grass hay and allow him his fill of water.

Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage Pasture Since pasture provides excellent exercise and nutrients, make best use of it by grazing it when it is 4 to 6 inches tall.  As soon as it is grazed down, move the horse to another pasture.
Before turning a horse out to pasture the first time, give him a full feed of hay.  Limit grazing to one-half hour per day for the first two days; then one-half hour twice a day for two days; then one hour twice a day and so on.  Pasture horses can quickly become overweight or founder from too much lush pasture.

Feeding Safety Since the digestive system of horses is designed to handle small frequent meals, feed two to three times every day.  Feed at the same time every day.  Horses have a strong biological clock; feeding late or inconsistently can result in colic and unpleasant stable vices and bad habits.
Make all changes in feed gradually whether it’s a change in type or amount.  If your horse gets 2 pounds of grain per feeding and you want to increase, feed 2 ½ pounds for at least two days.  Then increase to 3 pounds.

If you are changing hay, feed ¾ “old” hay and ¼ of “new” hay for 2 days.  Then feed ½ old hay and ½ new hay for two days.  Then feed ¼ old hay and ¾ new hay for 2 days.  Finally, feed all new hay.
Don’t feed a horse immediately after hard work and don’t work a horse until at least one hour after a full feed.  If you feed 2 pounds of grain or more per feeding and your horse has not been exercised for a few days, warm him up slowly to avoid “tying up” his muscles.  If your horse will be out of work, decrease his grain ration.  When he comes back to work, increase grain gradually.

Feeding at ground level is natural and provides a horse with a good neck and back stretch.  But if a horse eats sand with his feed, it can accumulate at the bottom of his intestine and he could colic.  Use feeders or rubber mats in the feeding area and consider feeding psyllium to purge sand from the intestines.

Gateway SU-PER Psyllium

Feeders need to be clean and safe.  Moldy or spoiled feed can cause colic.  Sharp edges, broken parts, loose wires or nails can injure your horse’s head.  Tie hay nets securely and high enough so your horse can not get his leg caught in the net.

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