Salt lick vs Loose minerals
I was discussing my horses feed needs with my friend that is taking care of them for us. We came to one part that we could not agree on, so I am coming to the experts. I have always had nothing but a salt lick for my horses. She prefers loose minerals. Which is better? Or do they need both? What are the benefits of having them? I know salt licks will help them from getting dehydrated. But, at this point that is about all I know.
Honestly they should have access to both a plain salt block as well as a mineral block, as if they need plain salt, often times they won't get it from the mineral block because they do not need the minerals at that point, so the taste turns them off. I gave my horse a large plain salt block, and a small mineral block, and she does use both of them when she feels the need, but she has the option of either getting minerals when she needs, and salt, or just getting salt. I personally don't like using loose minerals, because then I don't know for sure if I am really over feeding, or underfeeding the minerals. Giving my horse both blocks means that she has the access that she needs when she feels that she needs them, so there is very little worry that she's going to be having problems in that department. I have read a few nutrition books that have all said that horses need access to both blocks. You should read Understanding Equine Nutrition, by Karen Briggs. Great book.
I prefer loose mineral, myself, and "most" of those have enough salt in them for daily needs, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
I just don't know that a horse will always get enough off of the hard blocks...there is a salt lick at the place that I board that all the horses can get during turnout 5 total, and there is still well over 3/4 of the thing left (that one was put out there in June!)...the loose mineral that I keep in my mare's paddock, however, gets refilled fairly often...I usually put about 3 C. out for her, and have to check it weekly. Most loose minerals are designed to feed free choice, OR if you're overly concerned for the horse to get a set amount each day, one can feed it daily in feed as well, usually it's no more than 2 oz. I simply feed free choice.
That said, regarding salt itself, if you feel your horse needs a bit to replenish his body after a hard work out, get something like AppleDex or something like that; you can put that in his feed, and it will replenish his electrolyte balance and encourage him to drink.
It's better if you can have both a mineral block and salt block available to them. I personally don't like loose minerals because all my horses are outside 24/7 and I have nowhere to put the loose minerals to protect them from the elements. Between the occasional rain and the frequent wind, I would likely lose more minerals than my horses ate LOL.
There is no one good answer for this as it is on an individual needs basis that you should decide what to give. Some horses won't lick a salt block and some obsessively go at it (and this does NOT necessarily indicate a "need" for something, sometimes they do it out of boredom or habit). For these horses I would suggest using loose minerals. Also, some horses need to drink more water due to kidney disease. They can be encouraged to do so by adding loose salt to their feed, even if they are pretty good about licking a block. The most important thing is to make sure you're using a mineral mix appropriate for your area, check with your vet if you are unsure. I would also add that some blocks are more palatable than others, so if you prefer a block but your horses don't seem interested, try a couple different types (but NEVER use a ruminant block). My gelding's preference is for that Himalayan salt. I thought it was a gimmick but he really loves them and won't touch any other kind.
Depends on situation. I add loose minerals to the feed, but I also keep white salt block in shed for them to lick on (takes 2-3 months to finish). My problem with the mineral block is the one person's horses liked it so much that they went through it in couple days. Not good of course. I know it's not typical, but I don't feel like checking it out.
And if your pony is picky, they have flavored ones too! My girl LOVES the peppermint flavored one ;)
I prefer loose trace minerals and loose white salt if I can find it. My vet told me they don't get enough from blocks and they can blister their tongues trying to get all they need from it. It also depends on where you live. I live in a selenium deficient area, so trace minerals are extra important. But normally you should have both available for them.
Thanks for the info on the loose minerals, I had always been told that loose minerals were just put in the feed, not fed free choice. Yes with a salt block and/or mineral block, some horses will become obsessive about licking it to give themselves something to do, which is why you want to check on them, see how much the block has been used, and make sure that the horse isn't just standing there playing with it all day. If so, then some other way of giving minerals will have to be found. You should definitely ask what types of minerals your horse may need based on where you are located, and what type of feed your horse is getting. I think that it does also depend on the individual horse, mine won't touch anything like loose minerals, but she doesn't mind using the mineral block when she needs it.
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