The holidays are over but I’d like to reflect on something that struck me as I sat around my family’s dinner table Christmas Day. Salt! As I looked around, my family was busily talking, laughing and salting their food. Knowing my family, I had two sets of salt shakers on the table which were in heavy use. I tried not to take this as a review of my cooking! The striking part of this is the importance of sodium in our diets and the diets of our horses. Cell and proper organ function are critically linked to the consumption of salt or sodium. It is the backbone of sustaining blood and body fluids that transport oxygen and nutrients contributing to cell, brain, nervous system and muscle processes. Salt gets a bad rap, but is important to all diets in moderation.
Salt’s role in your horse’s body is like a super hero quietly going to work keeping all systems functioning and safe from the evils of deficiencies. The lack of adequate sodium could be compared to Superman’s kryptonite; cell processes and body function change and your horse will not be at its best. Our furry super heroes use their spidy-sense to instinctively know when their bodies are low on sodium and will search for it sometimes excessively licking our hands or chewing things.
Large pressed salt blocks used to be the standard dotting shared pastures, but they were developed for the course tongues of cattle that may lick these blocks to get their daily allowance. Horses’ tongues are smoother and softer so salt should be offered free choice loose or crushed to augment their diet. Offer salt in a bucket under cover in a shed in the pasture or in your horses stall to help satisfy their need. Just be sure to keep it dry. Electrolyte supplementation could also be considered to avoid dehydration and increase your horses thirst response.
Sodium is central in regulating many bodily functions. During an average day of hanging out with their buddies in a paddock or in their stall, horses excrete sodium through urine and manure making toxicity uncommon. Sweating during a workout increases daily loss of electrolytes. Put in prospective, some horses weigh in at 1000 to 1500 pounds or more; their salt and water consumption need to reflect this. Check your feed label and ask the advice of your veterinarian about salt intake for your horse’s activity level. Be careful to always offer an adequate water supply. As with all things you need to strike a balance. Without this balance of salt and water consumption your horse may struggle to process sodium through their system properly.
Big Dee’s has a full line of products to help you meet your horse’s daily mineral requirements.
This article was written by Kathy Kilbane – Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist