Horses like to eat and every horse owner knows that a horse needs food and hay to survive, but there are two essential things that a horse needs worse than feed and hay. Salt and water are essential to a horse’s survival.Without these two things, a horse’s system will begin to suffer almost immediately.
A horse that is not getting enough salt in their diet will begin to chew on boards or fences or both, which is usually referred to as cribbing. Cribbing is one of the first signs of a salt deficiency. The amount of salt that a horse needs is based on their age and the amount of work that they are doing daily and the type of weather that they are in. Salt maintains the water volume in the horses body. It also allows muscles to contract normally, aids in normal heart rhythm, and transmits nerve impulses throughout the body.
Temperature and humidity can affect a horse’s salt intake as well. In hot weather and high humidity, a horse that is doing a large amount of work or training will use 5 times more salt than one that is just standing in a pasture. A non working horse only needs a little bit of salt each day, but a lactating mare and a working horse or a horse in training needs between 1 and 3 percent of salt daily.
The best way to provide the salt that a horse needs is to allow them free access to a salt block. A mineral block will work as well but they might get more of another mineral that they do not need with it. Mature grass and dry hay are very low in salt content so it is important to provide a salt block.
A horse needs water worse than it needs salt. A horse that is without water for a short period of time begins to feel the effects almost immediately. A horse needs a balance of salt and water daily. An adult horse’s body is comprised of about 65-75% water and even a 5% decline is this amount can effect the horse’s health. With a 10% loss of hydration, a horse will begin to have digestive issues and a 15% loss in hydration can actually be fatal. With a foal, the decline and health problems occur much faster. Always remember that just as humans drink more in the summer when it is hot and humid horses need more water as well. A non working horse needs about 2-3 times more water than they eat in dry matter. We always consider that if they are eating 8 pounds of feed then they will need a little more than a gallon of water.
Water is essential in a horse’s body as it aids in the many ways in the system. Water will not only regulate their body temperature, but it will also lubricate their joints, remove toxins from their system, and promote skin tone. As far as their systems go, a horse needs water for digestion and for normal blood supply. Many essential body functions are dependent on the water that a body gets.
Any horse owner will also tell you that it is important to have fresh, clean water daily available for your horses. A salt block should be considered an essential as well and then their feed and hay. It can be expensive to care for a horse, but they are well worth the money and effort that they require.
Source: personal knowledge