How Much Salt Your Horse Needs Per Day

Add a Dash of Salt to Your Horse’s Diet

Updated February 20, 2024
A spoon full of salt.

Salt (sodium chloride or NaCl) is an essential part of your horse’s diet. Salt is an inorganic compound composed of approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It supports healthy nerve and muscle function and encourages your horse to drink, helping to avoid dehydration.

Do Horses Need Salt?

Your horse’s body does not produce salt, but he needs this important mineral for him to live a healthy life. Some of the roles and benefits of salt for horses include:

  • Electrolyte Balance: Sodium and chloride are electrolytes that help maintain the balance of fluids within your horse's body. This balance is crucial for many bodily functions, including nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
  • Hydration: Your horse's thirst mechanism is regulated, in part, by sodium. Adequate salt intake encourages horses to drink enough water, which can help prevent dehydration and other health issues that can result.
  • Muscle Function: Sodium is essential for proper muscle contraction, including the muscles involved in keeping the heart pumping.
  • Nerve Function: Vital for the transmission of nerve impulses, sodium plays a key role in the communication between nerve cells to facilitate various functions in the body.
  • Balancing Blood pH: Chloride helps to balance blood pH and water flow (osmotic pressure) in and out of the cells.
  • Digestive System: Chloride is involved in the production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCI). This is important for the digestion of protein in the horse's gastrointestinal tract, as well as for immunity since HCI helps protect against harmful microbes.

Due to many salt-related myths, a lot of horse owners overlook this important nutrient— a survey of horse owners showed that over 60% of horses aren’t getting enough sodium.

How Much Salt to Feed a Horse Per Day

Salt is the only mineral that horses have an instinctive appetite for. The Nutrient Requirements of Horses (NRC) states that a 1,100 lb adult horse in no work requires 10 grams of sodium daily. This amount can be met by giving at least one ounce of salt per day (two tablespoons or 30 ml).

Depending on your horse’s workload, size, and the weather, his sodium requirements could increase. If you live in a hot climate or have your horse in intense training, he may require more salt to compensate for increased sweating and electrolyte loss. Keep in mind, each horse is unique and your individual horse’s salt requirements may vary from his stallmate’s. If you’re not sure how much to give, talk with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist to help you determine if any adjustments should be made.

Types of Salt You Can Feed Your Horse

Salt is available in many different forms, from plain table salt to mineralized salt licks. Here are some considerations for each kind:

  • White Table Salt: The most simple and economical type to give your horse. It can be compressed into a white salt block or served as loose salt for serving sizes that’re easier to control and track.
  • Iodized Salt: Widely available and a common household item. When choosing a product that is iodized, be sure to check how much iodine is also in your horse’s feed and supplements.
  • Sea Salt: Produced by evaporating water from oceans or lakes.
  • Mined Rock Salts: Obtained from mining in certain areas, such as the Himalayan mountain range, this type of salt contains a variety of trace minerals and horses generally find them palatable.

    Himalayan salt block lick for horses hanging in stall.

Since some horses don’t like the strong taste of table salt, we created apple-banana flavored SmartSalt Pellets which provide your horse’s necessary daily one ounce of NaCl and are approved by our pickiest of eaters!

Symptoms of Salt Deficiency in Horses

A deficiency in salt most often happens when sodium is low or missing in your horse’s meals or if he’s worked hard in hot, humid weather. If your horse isn’t receiving the necessary amount of salt each day, there may be several different impacts on his body, which could show signs like:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle spasms
  • Lack of energy or weakness
  • Anhidrosis (non-sweating)
  • Poor performance or exercise intolerance
  • Licking or eating unusual, non-food items such as dirt (geophagia)
  • Decreased milk production in lactating mares

Too Much Salt in the Diet

Horses can self-regulate how much salt they take in based on their body’s needs, so consuming too much is very rare. It is far more common that horses are sodium deficient. Also, since salt is water-soluble, horses can balance an increased amount by drinking more water to flush out the excess amounts.

Providing access to fresh, clean water at all times is key in preventing salt toxicity (hypernatremia). High levels of salt can happen if:

  • Access to fresh, clean water is restricted or not provided
  • A horse drinks salt water when fresh water is unavailable
  • Overfeeding salt to a horse that has been salt-deficient

Excessive amounts of salt may cause digestive problems (like diarrhea), ataxia, changes in behavior, and other issues. Your veterinarian is your best resource if you suspect your horse has ingested too much salt.

Salty FAQs

black horse drinking out of water trough in pasture

Don’t horses get enough salt from hay and grain?

Hay, pasture, and commercial feeds provide minimal amounts of salt. So, top-dressing meals with salt or an electrolyte supplement can help your horse get what he needs for healthy nerve and muscle function, along with encouraging him to stay hydrated.

Is a salt block enough to meet my horse’s needs?

While a salt lick can be a great addition in the stall or paddock, it's not guaranteed that all horses will use them appropriately. Some may not lick them at all, while others might excessively lick or even bite off chunks, making it unclear whether they’re getting the proper amount every day. Salt supplements offer a reliable way to provide the essential macro-minerals, sodium and chloride, ensuring your horse consistently meets his daily requirements.

Not every salt block is created equal. Read this article to learn more about why you should stick to giving your horse salt designed for equine use.

Are electrolyte supplements and salt supplements the same thing?

No, these two supplements are similar, but different in their purposes and formulas. A daily salt supplement helps to ensure your horse is getting a consistent amount and fulfilling his nutritional requirements. Electrolyte supplements are designed to mimic the minerals lost when your horse sweats. This includes sodium and chloride, but often not enough to fulfill his daily requirements. Read this article to understand all the differences between salt and electrolyte supplements and how you can feed both throughout the year.

Do horses need salt in the winter?

Yes, salt is essential no matter what season it is. Many horses drink less in the winter because the water is cold. Salt helps encourage your horse to drink, which is vital to keeping him hydrated all year long.

Key Takeaway

  • Salt is essential for your horse’s overall health, and he’s likely not getting enough from hay and grain alone. 

SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.