Horse Care Tips

Horse Mineral Management: What’s the Best Block to Feed?

Mineral block
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Written by Nancy G.

Best Mineral Blocks for Horses

Mineral blocks are a hotly debated commodity in the horse world. Some owners swear by them, while others can’t stand them. If you feed your horse grain, they may not need a mineral block (except for the fun of licking). If your horse has a forage-based diet, however, a mineral block may play a larger role.

Horses need a range of macro and micro minerals, some in specific quantities, to be healthy. Salt is the most important mineral and can be provided as part of a mineral block. Mineral blocks can be pink, brown, or red in color. Your horse can become deficient in any number of minerals, so it’s always best to work with your veterinarian to make sure your horse’s needs are met.

Essential Minerals for Horses

Just like all horses need salt, horses also need a mix of minerals to stay healthy.

Certain minerals need to be fed in specific quantities or ratios, so be sure to find a mineral block that is safe for horses.

Macro Minerals

Macro minerals are those needed in the largest quantities. They include sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Microminerals

Microminerals, sometimes called trace minerals, are needed in smaller amounts. They include iodine, cobalt, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium.

Mineral Ratios

Some minerals need to be fed in certain ratios to prevent deficiencies.

  • Calcium to Phosphorus: These should be fed in a 1:1 ratio (2:1 or 4:1 is also acceptable). These numbers are different for young, growing horses.
  • Zinc to Copper: These should be fed in a 4:1 ratio.
Horse licking mineral block

Photo Cred: Canva

What is the most important mineral for horses?

Salt is the most important mineral for horses with calcium and phosphorus coming in a close second. Learn more about the health benefits of salt here.

Are minerals included in my horse’s grain?

Yes! Feed companies work hard to offer the right balance of minerals for your horse’s diet. Mineral needs may vary based on the horse’s age and activity level. Be sure to feed the correct grain for your horse’s life stage.

Since minerals are usually included at the correct amount in grain rations, most horses don’t need additional minerals (though it’s always wise to check with your veterinarian).

Mineral Blocks for Horses

If your horse has a forage-based diet, a mineral block is a good option to help your horse get all the minerals they need. 

They’re usually at least 90% salt, however, so unless your horse licks the same amount of the block every day, they may not be getting all of the minerals they need. Consider supplementing your mineral block with a ration balancer.

What mineral block is best for horses?

The three most common choices are a Himalayan block (which offers a range of trace minerals as well as salt), a brown mineral block, and a red mineral block.

Each offers a slightly different flavor, so you may need to experiment and see which one your horse likes best.

Horse mineral block

Photo Cred: Canva

How to Feed Minerals to Horses

Most horses get enough minerals from hay and grain, which makes feeding minerals easy. In the case of a forage-based diet or a deficiency, there are a couple of options.

Free Choice vs. Top-dress

Free choice means putting a mineral block in your horse’s stall and/or turnout and allowing them to lick the block at will. Top-dressing would mean finding a loose mineral form (like this one) and adding it to your horse’s feed.

Top-dressing a loose mineral or powder can be tricky, as it’s easy for your horse to sort through the feed and avoid eating everything.

Signs of a Mineral Deficiency

There are as many signs as there are minerals, as each one supports your horse’s health in different ways. A few common signs of a mineral deficiency include a dull coat, cracked hooves, spooky or anxious behavior, weight or muscle loss, and low energy.

Can horses eat too much mineral block?

Nope. Mineral blocks are mostly salt, which horses can eat freely as long as they have continuous access to fresh, cool water. The amount of minerals in a block is generally low, so it’d be hard for a horse to overdo it.

Mineral block in feeder

Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I get my horse a mineral block?

If you feed your horse grain, which comes balanced with minerals, you probably don’t need to (though it’s best to check with your veterinarian). If your horse has a forage-based diet, they may benefit from a mineral block. Regardless, it’s best to include a ration balancer and view the mineral block as a supplement and not a significant source of nutrients.

Q: What type of salt block is best for horses?

There are a couple of kinds of salt blocks, which you can learn about here [link to salt article].

Q: Are Himalayan salt blocks good for horses?

Himalayan salt blocks can be a great addition to your horse’s diet as they offer a healthy source of salt along with some trace minerals.

Q: What does a mineral block do for horses?

A mineral block is largely a source of salt and fun for your horse (if they enjoy licking—not all horses like or even use mineral blocks). It can be an additional source of minerals, but don’t rely on them as the sole source of minerals in your horse’s diet.

Parting Thoughts

Minerals might seem like a complicated component of your horse’s diet, but in most cases, your horse’s grain is a sufficient source. Overall, mineral blocks can be a great source of salt and provide some additional minerals, all while giving your horse something fun to do.

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Source:

Choosing Salt and Mineral Blocks for Horses – The Horse

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About the author

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Nancy G.

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!

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