Who knew choosing a salt supplement for horses could be so confusing! There are so many choices now. Gone are the days of simply going to the feed store and grabbing a salt block or some loose stock salt for our livestock. Now we have things like Celtic sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, Redmond salt, not to mention coarse vs. fine ground or blocks! We all know we need to supplement salt, but how do we know which kind is best for our horses, provides needed minerals for optimal health, isn’t processed with chemicals/additives, and will provide the most bang for our buck?
I have always found the subject of equine nutrition to be the most confusing and contradictory subject I’ve ever tried to study. There are so many opinions on the subject. But I think most people will agree that salt is a must and there are basic minimum requirements for trace minerals that animals (just like people) must get in supplemental form simply because they are not available in the basic equine diet. Pastures/hay will vary widely in mineral content simply because of the different soil compositions and deficiencies. So what most of us tend to do is find something that has everything in it in the proper ratios (or what we hope are the proper ratios) and be done with it.
I joined on the Himalayan salt fad when it first started to become really popular with the “salt on a rope” blocks that were readily available at online horse supply companies. I did notice that my horses seemed to consume that more readily that the basic salt block that I had for them next to the water trough. In my studies and personal observations over the years, I was aware that animals in general tended to seek out specific plants, tree bark, minerals in the soil/rocks, when they had a deficiency in their diet. It was driven home to me several years ago when our horses (and the neighbor’s horses next door) began eating all the bark off the trees. I couldn’t figure it out for a while, until I realized that I had switched them back to just regular salt for a time. The behavior seemed to stop shortly after I got more of the Himalayan salt.
So I then started to think about the mineral content in the pink salts and the horses were probably much more interested in them because of that reason. I began asking my local horse friends what type of salt they feed out and most of them came back with either Himalayan or the Redmond salt. Almost all of them indicated that their horses preferred it to regular salt.
I decided to do a “taste test” under the theory that horses will seek out the things they need in their diet from their environment if it is offered to them. And when they no longer need it, they will not consume it as readily. I offered three different salts, each in it’s own bin, to my horses for a period of about a month – regular course ground stock salt, course ground Himalayan pink salt and medium ground Redmond salt. I chose the ground salt because its easier for my horses to consume than licking a block and it would be easier for me to gauge consumption.
I noticed that both horses initially seemed to prefer the Himalayan salt (maybe because it was familiar), but quickly switched over to the Redmond salt and almost exclusively chose that for the duration, with my mare occasionally going back to the Himalayan. They completely ignored the regular stock salt.
What’s The Difference?
Regular salt is usually heavily refined and mixed with anticaking agents, such as sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate, to prevent clumping. Not to mention the bleaching agents that make it that pristine white color. That’s right, real salt is usually not that beautiful white snowy color! Himalayan, Redmond and other natural sea salts are less processed, and usually do not contain any additives. They are also much higher in natural mineral content than regular stock salt. During the process of “refining”, most of the trace minerals are removed as “byproducts” and used for other things. Plus, under U.S. law, up to 2% of table salt can be additives (some of which are synthetic).
Redmond Sea Salt comes from a mineral rich salt deposit formed by an ancient sea in Utah located about 150 miles south of the Great Salt Lake. It contains 62 trace minerals, and is without additives, chemicals, or heat processing of any kind. Redmond salt’s pink hue is due to the abundance of naturally occurring trace minerals. Redmond salt contains approximately 93% sodium and chloride (versus 98% of regular salt) and the remaining 7% trace minerals. Interesting factoid found on the Redmond website…our own blood serum has approximately the same concentrations…hmmm.
Livestock specific information on Redmond salt can be found here – http://www.redmondagriculture.com/natural101/
Mineral Analysis of Redmond salt – http://www.norganics.com/label/Redmond10Analysis.pdf
Himalayan pink salt is from the Punjab region of Pakistan. It is mined at the Khewra Salt Mine in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab. It is known for its characteristically pink hue. Himalayan salt is chemically similar to table salt plus mineral impurities. There are approximately 84 minerals found in Himalayan salt. Veins of impurities (minerals) give the salt its pink/reddish color. It consists of 95–98% sodium chloride, 2–4% polyhalite (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen), 0.01% fluoride, 0.01% iodine, and micro-amounts of numerous trace minerals.
Minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt – https://themeadow.com/pages/minerals-in-himalayan-pink-salt-spectral-analysis
Pink Salt vs Sea Salt
Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water, while pink salts are ancient salt beds that are mined on land. Sea salt is very similar to regular salt, but can contain small amounts of minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. The darker the hue, the higher the impurity/trace mineral content. One thing to make note of though – due to the pollution of oceans, sea salt may also contain trace amounts of heavy metals like lead.
So are you still thoroughly confused by which salt is right for your situation? Well, my best advice is let your animals choose for themselves! Do the taste test and see which salt they prefer. They are usually the best judge of what will meet their individual needs. And if you are going to do the taste test, please report back here what you found! Or go over to the Heavenly Gaits Equine Facebook Page and tell us there – http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage.
The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition or illness. Nor is it meant replace proper veterinary care. It is meant for educational purposes only. Always consult your chosen veterinary professional before starting your horse or other animal on any therapy.
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork, using essential oils for animals and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the “whole horse”.
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