Horse owners want to make sure they keep their four-legged friend as happy and healthy as possible, whether that means keeping their hooves well-looked after or getting the knots out of their manes. Another way to keep your horse healthy is to provide them with horse salt licks. To find out more about the benefits of these, read on.
What are salt licks?
Salt licks are blocks of salt for horses to lick to boost their sodium intake. There is a variety of salt licks available, from Himalayan salt licks with their characteristic pink colour to flavoured ones that are designed to taste like fruit, vegetables or herbs to encourage the horse to lick them.
According to the National Research Council, horses at rest need 25g of sodium chloride per day, while those involved in heavy work might require as much as 200g.
What are the benefits of salt licks?
Although horses will receive some salt from their supplements and grain, they may need more to keep their electrolyte levels stable. If these dip, this sends a signal to the horse to stop drinking water as the body tries to retain as much sodium as possible, leading to dehydration.
However, keeping electrolytes high will encourage the horse to drink more and stay hydrated, particularly during times of heavy work or in hot weather.
Maintain good eating habits
Some horses with a sodium deficiency will also begin to eat or lick strange things, such as dirt, as they try to attain the nutrients they need. They might also eat slower or cut down on how much they consume, while their skin vitality will decline and their co-ordination will suffer.
The salt also provides chloride to keep nerve and muscle functioning at its best, helping to metabolise the proteins, carbohydrates and fats they consume, as well as aiding the movement of nerve impulses through the body.
Salt blocks might be preferential to loose salt for several reasons, including the fact that they can be used as a play toy in their stable as well as providing nutritional benefits.
Horse and Hound recognises salt licks are “frequently used as part of a stable toy to prevent boredom”. Hanging from a string, the horse can knock it with its nose and have fun moving it around, while it is resting in its stable.
Manage consumption of salt
One of the advantages of using a salt lick, as opposed to adding loose salt directly to the feed or bucket, is that owners can make sure their pet does not consume too much sodium chloride. They are more likely to digest a greater amount of salt when it has been distributed throughout their grain than with a salt lick.
Additionally, while loose salt will need to be replenished with feeds, which may not be something the stable provides, a salt block simply needs replacing every couple of months.