Horse Care

A Pinch or a Pound? How to Feed Loose Salt to Horses

Horses salt block
Written by Natalie Gasper

Salt Servings for Size, Season, and Workload

Arguably the most important mineral for horses, salt is easy for horse owners to overlook. A salt block, the most common salt solution, might not always be enough. But what else can you do?

Salt is a necessary nutrient for your horse to maintain perfect health. There are minimum daily requirements, which vary based on size, season, and workload. When adding salt to your horse’s diet, it’s also important to have an adequate supply of fresh water.

horse salt block

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Salt: An Essential Mineral

Salt is a mineral superpower. It’s an electrolyte, which means it helps your horse stay hydrated and maintain their pH levels.

How much salt does a horse need each day?

How much salt a horse needs depends on three factors: the horse’s size, the horse’s workload, and the season. An 1100-pound horse in no work during a cool season needs 1oz (or two tablespoons) of salt a day. During summer, 2 ounces. With regular riding or lunging, up to 4 ounces a day.

Is salt included in my horse’s grain?

Many horse grains will include at least some salt, so be sure to read the label to see how much additional salt your horse will need. Depending on your horse’s workload, it may be necessary to provide additional salt as well.

How to Feed Salt to Horses

There are two main ways to feed salt to horses: free choice and top-dress.

Free Choice — Free choice means providing a salt block in your horse’s field or stall and allowing your horse to lick at will.

Top-dress — Top-dressing means adding salt to your horse’s grain. Add one tablespoon am and pm to your horse’s grain (or more, depending on the season and your horse’s workload).

Horse in stall with salt

Photo Cred: Canva

The Many Forms of Salt

Salt is available in many different types and forms.

Salt Form Description Features/Benefits Where to Buy
Salt Block 50-lb block of plain white salt Weather resistant, ideal for free-choice feeding Amazon
Table Salt Granulated white salt Perfect for top-dressing, a good source of iodine Amazon
Himalayan Salt Lick 1- to 7-pound blocks, pink in color Natural source of salt, minerals, and trace elements, good for hanging in stalls State Line Tack
Himalayan Salt Granules Granulated pink Himalayan salt Great for top-dressing, good source of minerals and trace elements State Line Tack
Sea Salt Course granules with an array of trace elements Less processed than table salt, ideal for top-dressing Amazon

What kind of salt do horses prefer?

Some horses love using salt blocks! If you want to test for preference, you can buy a small, plain white salt block and a small Himalayan salt block and see which one your horse uses more.

If you plan to top-dress, table salt works fine (and is usually the cheapest). If your horse is a picky eater, however, and refuses to eat table salt, you can try using sea salt or Himalayan salt granules.

Horse salt lick

Photo Cred: Canva

Signs of a Salt Deficiency

Aside from dehydration, which isn’t always easy to spot (especially in horses with no or little work), the most common sign of a salt deficiency is pica, or when your horse eats or licks unusual objects (like dirt).

How do I know if my horse needs salt?

There are a few signs that may indicate your horse has a salt deficiency.

If your horse isn’t drinking a lot of water, if they are eating or licking dirt, or if your horse’s coat is in poor condition, it’s a sign to start feeding salt.

It’s also a good idea to feed salt in the summer to prevent dehydration or heat stress.

Can a horse have too much salt?

Nope! Provided a horse has free access to fresh, cool water, a horse really can’t have too much salt. Any excess is filtered out in the urine.

It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian about how much salt your horse needs to stay healthy.


Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the symptoms of too much salt in a horse?

If a horse is fed salt and not provided ample water, you may see signs like weakness, diarrhea, or colic.

Q: What is the best loose salt for horses?

The best loose salt is the kind your horse will eat. Most are fine with table salt, but some horses may prefer the flavor or texture of sea salt or granulated Himalayan salt.

Q: Where do you put a salt lick for horses?

Ideally, horses have access to salt 24-7 (unless they hate salt blocks, in which case top-dressing alone is fine). Hang a block in your horse’s stall and put a larger one in any turnout sheds in order to prevent the block from being washed away by the rain.

Q: Can you give table salt to horses?

Absolutely! Table salt is the most readily available source of salt for your horse and arguably the easiest to top-dress.

Parting Thoughts

Making sure your horse has enough salt is as easy as adding one tablespoon to their grain in both the morning and afternoon. If it’s summer or your horse has a decent workload, make it two tablespoons.

Whether you offer free choice salt or opt for top-dressing, always make sure your horse has access to plenty of fresh, cool water.

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About the author


Natalie Gasper

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

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