“Raw” salts are sometimes touted as better for horses’ health with a range of claims being made, including that your familiar white salt block or table salt is harmful or inadequate. However, they aren’t likely worth the added cost, and there’s nothing wrong with plain white salt.
Salt is a chemical composed of one molecule of sodium and one molecule of chlorine—sodium chloride, or NaCl. Halite is another term for salt in its natural form in mineral deposits on land. Himalayan salt is simply salt mined in the Himalayan mountains. It’s still salt.
There’s nothing wrong with processed salt. Processing, which basically involves the removal of contaminating minerals, was begun to provide as pure a salt as possible for research and industrial uses and to make the salt more suitable for use in processed foods.
The criticism leveled at “processed” salt comes on several fronts. One is that “chemicals” are used to manufacture it. Salt is a chemical, and all the other compounds found in raw salts are chemicals.
“Chemical additives” is another common scare tactic. Iodine, a nutritionally essential mineral, is added to some salts. You can purchase salt with or without iodine. Horses need iodine as much as people do, though. Unless the diet is composed of things grown close to the ocean, iodine will be deficient in most equine diets.
Other additives in table salt are present in low amounts. Their purpose is to keep the salt free flowing and inhibit moisture absorption to some extent. These include various calcium or magnesium salts, and silicates. All of these things are nontoxic and present in the environment naturally. Your horse would get far more of them from a mouthful of dirt than 1 or 2 oz. of salt.
You may hear that salts from ancient sea beds provide a full spectrum of minerals that have been depleted from our soils and foods. Well, the unrefined salts do contain a variety of minerals, but in extremely small amounts that just don’t make a difference to your horse nutritionally.
So what should you do? If you want to pay more for “fancy” salt, go ahead. You’re only hurting your wallet. Otherwsie, be sure your horse has free access to salt. This can be in the form of a salt block or you can place loose salt in his stall for him to lick at will.
If Your Horse Won’t Eat Salt . . .
Whether it’s because it irritates their tongue/mouth, or they just won’t spend the time monotonously licking, some horses don’t take all the salt they need from a block. The milder taste of natural salts may work, but you also could add loose table salt to meals or offer salt in the form of pelleted water-softener salt.
Your horse needs to consume a minimum of 1 to 2 oz of salt per day in summer, with up to 2 to 4 oz. with hard work in hot weather. Most horses have a natural appetite for salt, but those that won’t eat salt on their own can have salt added to their feed. Build up gradually to the full daily dose of salt, but be careful. Horses won’t eat feed that’s too salty.
You can read the entire story on salt types and purchases at Horse Journal.