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Ep. 081: What Type of Salt Does My Horse Need?

Co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr discuss salt requirements for horses, including what type of salt they need.

Episode Notes

On this episode, co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr discuss salt requirements for horses, including:

  • What are the different types of salt and what kind does your horse need?
  • Do horses know when they need more salt (or other nutrients) in their diet? Can they self-regulate?
  • Feeding loose salt versus block salt – which is better for horses?

There are SO many different types of salt, it can be overwhelming knowing what exactly your horse needs. Come have a listen to get all your salt questions answered in this episode – and share with a friend!

Have a topic idea or feedback to share? We want to connect with you! Email


Episode Resources:

~3:02 - National Research Council. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


*Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*


Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.


Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. Dr. Cubitt, it is great to have you back with us today.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:34):

I am excited to be back. Great topic today.


Katy Starr (00:37):

Yeah, we have a very interesting topic that we're going to be covering today. We had one of our listeners reach out to us and wanted us to do a little bit of a deeper dive into salt, how it's used in the horse's body, how to use it, and which to use. There's a lot out there that kind of gets confusing for horse owners and so, I think this will be a great conversation for us to dive into today.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:02):

Absolutely. And doing my research for this podcast, I can understand our listener's confusion because so many questions arose just when I typed into Google different types of salt, for example. So.


Katy Starr (01:15):

Yeah. Yeah, that'll be a great conversation. So, before we get started, just a reminder to our listeners that any of the topics that we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation. So, be sure to always work with your veterinarian and your nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your horses' feed program, or you can reach out to us to talk directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren on any specifics that you would like to know for your situation. So, just to kind of get us started on today's conversation, Dr. Cubitt, what exactly is salt?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:51):

Well, when we talk about pure salt, we're talking about the two ingredients, sodium and chloride. So, plain white salt with nothing added to it is sodium and chloride together. Obviously, then we've got different forms of salt and salt with other minerals added to it. Typically, table salt that we can buy has iodine added to it and that was something that was added because there were some iodine deficiencies in some parts of the world. So, they add added iodine to the salt, but salt is just plain sodium and chloride, those two minerals.


Katy Starr (02:31):

So, how important exactly is salt in a horse's diet and what does it do for the body or what is it responsible for?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (02:39):

Sodium and chloride have so many different functions in the body. Immediately we think about electrolytes, we think about horses exercising heavily, replenishing any of those electrolytes that are lost in their sweat, but what are those electrolytes being used for in the body? And there's so many different functions. So, I'm actually looking in the NRC for horses, which is kind of the nutritionist bible, and we know that sodium and chloride are really important for cellular fluid balance for muscle contraction and release. So, you can go further and even things such as a transport of glucose out of the intestine and into the cell or out of the bloodstream and into the cell, utilizes sodium. So, you know, even other functions in the body that you do not relate to, electrolytes per se, actually have a strong connection to sodium and chloride. Now I know there are a lot of other electrolytes, but today we're focusing on sodium and chloride, being salt.


Katy Starr (03:45):

And so, electrolytes, I mean we speak about that being an electrolyte. So, what specifically, I guess maybe we should talk about what an electrolyte is versus you know, breaking it down, because there's a few different electrolytes. Electrolytes can serve a handful of different purposes.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (04:04):

So, the main electrolytes for horses are sodium and chloride, as we're talking about today, but also potassium, magnesium, and calcium. They're primary electrolytes and we know that they are utilized, as with sodium and chloride, for muscle contraction, muscle function, that contraction and release. Mainly though, all of our cells are full of fluid and that our bodies are full of fluid and that fluid moves in and out of different parts of your body. And the electrolytes, that's their primary role, is really fluid balance as well. Each one of those though, also have other functions. Like calcium, we know is really important for bone and cartilage. We know magnesium, in your, kind of, nervous system. Potassium helps primarily with those electrical signals, firing those muscles, contracting and releasing. So, they all have very individual roles, but together their primary role is, kind of, fluid balance in the body. Controlling that, controlling muscle contraction, nervous system, that kind of thing.


Katy Starr (05:17):

So, what would you say, maybe are some common misconceptions or myths about salt and its role in horse nutrition?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (05:25):

I think that people look at different forms of salt and say, "Oh, my horse must have this particular form of salt or that particular form" and when I say form, I'm just talking about the physical look. Maybe it's you know, Himalayan salt or it's fine salt or it's a salt block or it's a colored salt and feeling like they need one of those over the other. And really, salt is just plain white sodium and chloride with nothing else added. We do know that there is research into the actual physical form and one can drive intake more than others. I think that it's not necessarily a myth, but it's an overlook. People will overlook providing free choice access to salt to their horses every day and feel like potentially they're getting everything they need out of the feed or the forage that they're providing. But as we get a little deeper in today's topic, we'll realize, and you know yourself, the intake of salt is really driven by the environmental conditions that the animal is under.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (06:32):

Is it hot outside? Are they sweating a lot? Are you doing a lot of exercise? Are you doing not much exercise? Are you lactating? All of these things will change the requirement for salt, unlike any other mineral. Selenium for example, that will change based on the growth phase of the animal or the exercise level or the age. But it doesn't change day to day. It's the same every day based on what physiological stage you're in. But salt, we have a generalized requirement for sodium and chloride. We don't have a requirement for salt. We have an individual requirement for sodium and an individual requirement for chloride. We know that, day to day, that can change based on the weather.


Katy Starr (07:21):

Right, that's a great point. So, we're speaking to sodium and chloride. So, I have salt in here. But let's say, what are the requirements for horses for sodium and chloride? And I mean you just talked about changing due to environmental factors, but what about, not that it's daily, but specifically to a horse's life stage or their activity level, how does that change based off of what their maintenance requirement is?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (07:48):

Well, this is one that I thought was very interesting. So, for a 1100-pound horse, that's pretty standard. If you look at the sodium and chloride requirements for a horse at maintenance, their sodium requirement is 10 grams a day and their chloride requirement is 40 grams a day. And then if we go to light exercise, you know, most of our listeners probably do in the light to moderate exercise, that general value requirement is 13.9. So, around 14 grams for a horse in light exercise and about 47 grams for a horse of chloride in light exercise. When you go to very heavy exercise, obviously it makes sense these horses are sweating more, they're exerting more, they're losing more electrolytes in those fluids. 41 grams of sodium versus 10 for a horse doing no exercise.


Katy Starr (08:44):

Wow. Yeah.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (08:45):

And 93 grams of chloride. They're not surprising to me. What I thought was interesting was when you go down to a lactating mare, the lactating mare has a 13 gram a day requirement of sodium and a 46 gram a day requirement of chloride. So, she has a requirement, even though she's not doing any exercise, similar to the horse at light exercise. So, you don't really think about lactation.


Katy Starr (09:14):

Lactating is like light exercise, .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:18):

Yeah, . I mean you and I have lactated. We know, some days it feels like heavy exercise.


Katy Starr (09:23):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:23):

But I thought that was interesting, because that's not really a category of horses that we think about needing an electrolyte. And especially, what if you've got that group of, you know, a broodmare operation in Texas, for example, where I know in America, we're foaling those horses out in January. February, if they're thoroughbreds. But what if we're moving, we've shifted that a little later, and they might be in that first six months of lactation during those summer months and losing a lot of sweat. You know, how are we replacing that?


Katy Starr (09:57):

Yeah, that's a really good thing to think about and consider. And it's interesting though, just how much it jumps. I know you said you weren't surprised but like from the light to heavy, what those requirements are. Just it seems like such a significant jump.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:11):

Significant. Mm-Hmm .


Katy Starr (10:13):

But I think that just goes to show just how much work those horses are putting in once they reach that heavy exercise point.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:18):

Mm-Hmm, .


Katy Starr (10:18):

So, yeah, that's really interesting. So, we talked about environmental factors briefly, right? So, how do environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, influence a horse's salt requirements? And like what is happening during that process for the horse?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:36):

Yeah, so you know when the temperature rises and your horse is trying to dissipate heat, they're going to sweat. And it's that evaporative cooling, the air flowing over their body, that's going to cool them down when they sweat. When any of us sweat, in that sweat is electrolytes. Those minerals that we just talked about earlier, sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, they're all being lost in that sweat. That is being excreted by our sweat glands for the air to move over and evaporatively cool us. Now, an animal in a very high humidity environment, they're still sweating. It's just not going anywhere. So, they will probably sweat even more because the body is really, kind of, going into overdrive trying to cool that animal down.


Katy Starr (11:33):

When we talk about giving our horses, you know, feeding our horses, you know, some of these minerals and adding them to the diet as we feel, you know, they need them. What would be the signs that a horse may be consuming too much salt in their diet and what can happen if they do have too much salt?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (11:51):

Typically, too much salt is not an issue in the equine diet, unless you're forcing it into them. I mean, you know yourself, you have a craving for salt, you eat some salty food, you put some salt on your food, and then you start to think, "Oh God, I'm starting to get a sore mouth", or "I'm really thirsty", and you change your own intake based on palatability. It's not like sugar, that some days I just feel like I could eat sugar 24 hours a day and maybe I'll get a stomach-ache, but it's not doing anything else for me. Versus salt, because when you consume salt, it's kind of sucking moisture out, you'll end up feeling it in your mouth. So, and you'll get really thirsty. So, intake of salt is, kind of, one of those palatability driven deals. The horse is not going to consume copious amounts because palatability would go down. Now, we do have some horses that get bored, I think, and will just chew on a salt block when they have nothing else to do. But as long as you have plenty of fresh, clean water available for them to drink and flush out that salt, we don't tend to have issues with horses over-dosing on salt.


Katy Starr (13:06):

So, if it's offered to them in whatever amount they need, that is one thing that horses can almost, kind of, regulate their salt intake a little bit?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:17):

So, sodium and chloride are the only two minerals that horses can self-regulate. You know, I've been to barns where literally people had little tubs vaulted to the wall in the stall and had individual minerals in each one of them and said, "My horse is very smart, and it knows what it needs, and it's going to go and taste all of those." And in the back of my mind I'm thinking, you know, I've never tried it, but I have heard that antifreeze is very sweet, and animals are drawn to it, and that would kill them. So, not quite sure.


Katy Starr (13:51):

We can't always make that assumption.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:53):

Yeah, you can't always make the correct decision there. Some things don't taste very good, even though they're good for us. We also know that. So, salt though, is the only mineral that horses will, you know, self-intake and self-regulate. And that's why a lot of our free choice minerals that are sold, they're actually really, it's that premise that makes them consumed and that drives consumption. And so, when people formulate free choice minerals, they actually formulate intake based on how a horse would consume salt. And so, those free choice minerals usually have very high amounts of salt in them.


Katy Starr (14:33):

So, what would be, maybe, the signs and potential consequences of a salt deficiency in horses?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (14:40):

Yeah. And that's when you're going to see more, and especially with an exercising horse, you can see issues with poor recovery, sore muscles, tight muscles. Even in the thoroughbred industry, when they're doing a lot of blood testing to make sure that your horses, you know, not got any drugs in its system, not giving horses electrolyte can actually really skew those results and show high levels of say, lactic acid or different things in the blood that you may not want to see, that might raise a red flag. So, it is actually very, very critical that you provide your horse with salt.


Katy Starr (15:22):

And would there be a connection then, knowing that salt, kind of, like absorbs moisture, that you could see a horse, could they potentially, if they weren't drinking enough water, get dehydrated from not consuming enough salt? Or is that not?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (15:40):

I would say, if you've got that pony that just stands there and eats the salt block and he doesn't have water available to him to, kind of, flush all that. You know, that when you eat a lot of salt it's sucking moisture out of your body. So, then you're very thirsty. So, if you didn't have water to consume then that could certainly cause some dehydration. So, you certainly just want to make sure that you have plenty of fluids available to horses, fresh, clean water when you're providing salt and we typically put them closer together.


Katy Starr (16:13):

Yeah, yeah. And I know you've said before that sometimes if you can't get a horse to drink water, you'll actually add salt or try to add it in there to try to encourage that.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (16:22):

Yes, you want to add salt to the food. Mm-Hmm or you can make up a salty slurry and put it in a syringe and put it in their mouth. But yeah, just adding a tablespoon or two of salt to their feed daily can drive intake of water.


Katy Starr (16:34):

And I know we've talked about this on previous episodes, but since we're kind of in this conversation, how would we tell if our horse was dehydrated? What are some of the easiest ways to notice that?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (16:46):

So, the two easiest ones that our listeners can do are the skin pinch test on the neck. So, you kind of, there's a triangle in the horses at the base of their neck and you can pull the skin up, and typically it should snap back within a couple of seconds and if it doesn't then we know that there's not enough fluid in that kind of area between the skin and the flesh. And so, it's just slowly going back and so that horse would be dehydrated. And then the other one is the thumb test. So, if your horse doesn't mind you messing with their mouth, same thing about having enough fluid in your body, is you curl up their top lip and press on the skin above their top teeth and press, it's called capillary refill time. And again, when you take your thumb away, that red blood should quickly, very swiftly flow back to that air, that white thumbprint. And if it doesn't, within, I think, it's, you know, a second or two seconds or less, then you know that your horse is dehydrated. It's all just about how much fluid is in your animal. And if they don't have enough fluid then those things aren't going to happen.


Katy Starr (17:55):

Right. And talking about salt deficiency, obviously that tends to be a more common situation than the alternative. So, from your experience as an equine nutritionist, what type of situation do you come across where you notice a salt deficiency occurring? Like what seems to be the common cause for that, that you see with horse owners?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (18:17):

It's primarily performance horses.


Katy Starr (18:19):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (18:19):

And it's either not providing an electrolyte pre- and post-exercise, or not providing free choice salt for horses to eat.


Katy Starr (18:28):

Excellent. And so, kind of getting into what our listener was, kind of, asking about, Talya. So, shout out to her, thank you for being such a loyal listener on the Beyond the Barn podcast. But let's talk a little bit about maybe what the best type of salt is or even like what's okay or to feed her horses. That's kind of what she was getting at. So, you know.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (18:51):

Mm-Hmm. .


Katy Starr (18:51):

Colored salt versus plain white salt. And what are some of these differences? You know, we have Himalayan that you mentioned, red mineralized, iodized, Kosher, there's so many and it gets confusing.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (19:03):

There's so many, . There are so many. So, we'll start with the beginning. What you feed your horse is plain white salt. Can be plain white iodized salt, right? So, go to the store and you buy plain white iodized salt, it's sodium and chloride and if it's iodized it will have iodine added to the salt. That is all they need. When it comes to pink salt, blue salt, different salts with other additives. Blue, if you look at different minerals, they have different colors. Like iron is red, copper is blue. And so, when you change the color of the salt, you're typically adding one of those other. I think there's even a salt block that you feed the cattle that has selenium in it and maybe it's blue or purple or something, but you just want plain white salt. My, kind of, joke to people, if it's colored salt, it's dirty salt, right? Salt, all minerals are dirt. And say for Himalayan salt for example, it's pink in color, it's got a lot of other minerals in it. It's just dirty salt, nothing wrong, it's just not straight salt.


Katy Starr (20:10):

So, ideally, I guess in this situation, the important part is that the horses are able to get and consume salt. But what it sounds like is almost just keep it simple.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:20):

Keep it simple, absolutely.


Katy Starr (20:20):

Sometimes I think we can get a little bit caught up in this and that, but if we just keep it simple and just know this is what the horse needs, it'll make it easier on the horse and easier on yourself as a horse owner.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:34):

Absolutely. I would say one of the big fads is probably the Himalayan salt.


Katy Starr (20:38):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:39):

Right? And the one time that I do recommend that, and for those that may be not familiar with what it is, it's naturally a chunk, looks like a big pink crystal.


Katy Starr (20:49):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:50):

And a lot of times you could just either put that, or some companies even will drill a hole in it and put a rope on it so you can hang it in your stall. But it is naturally mined chunk of, its primarily salt, but the colors are other minerals added to it, which we have no control over because it's a naturally occurring substance.


Katy Starr (21:10):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:10):

So, you know, there's a couple of words there that people cling onto. Well, it's natural, it must be good. So, one of the things that I have found though, is it can be high in selenium. Right? And so, I have had some horses in New England that had high levels were showing high levels of selenium and then we worked it out. It was coming from the Himalayan salt block. The one time that I do recommend a Himalayan salt block, it's actually really, really hard and so, for those horses that tend to like annihilate, just devour a salt block, I will recommend, well why don't you try a Himalayan salt? Because they can't eat it too quickly.


Katy Starr (21:49):

They got to work at it.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:50):

They got to work at it. But you know, a lot of the other salts and any salts that are recommended for cows, let's just stay away from those because they potentially could have other medications in them for cattle that we wouldn't want horses to be exposed to. I certainly would not want to feed a salt block that had added selenium in it to a horse knowing that, you know, there are some horses that just really overconsume salt blocks and then they would be overconsuming selenium as well.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (22:18):

But a lot of the other terms like kosher salt, fleur de sel, sea salt, these all come from cooking. These are more kitchen terminologies. And actually, if you Google and you look at the physical forms of all these salts, it’s really, table salt is quite fine. And then you'll look at kosher salt and sea salt having much larger granule or crystal size. Kosher salt comes from the Jewish community where when their meat is prepared it's butchered, drain all of the blood out of that meat and actually, put large granule salt over that piece of meat to really absorb out the moisture, the moisture being the blood. So, that then it is kosher. So, that terminology has nothing to do with the minerals or anything, it was just kind of the physical form of that salt and what it's used for gives it that name, it's a coarse grain salt. Fleur de sel is more of a French-type salt. And again, natural, can have some colors in it, fleur de sel actually means flowers, flowers of the sea.


Katy Starr (23:28):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:28):

So, the floral color.


Katy Starr (23:29):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:30):

And so, again it has those other minerals. So, in cooking for us, those other minerals might impart different flavors as well. You know there is black salt, I don't even know what it is in the black salt that gives it that black.


Katy Starr (23:44):

Oh, I've never even heard of black salt. Oh.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:46):

I know that there is Celtic sea salt. So, sea salt being harvested by evaporating sea water versus most of our salt is mined out of salt pans or, kind of, water tanks that then you put water in and then you kind of use the sun to collect it.


Katy Starr (24:01):

Collects it after the evaporation.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (24:02):

Sea salt, straight out of the sea. So, again, there's a lot of other nutrients and minerals in the sea that could be in that sea salt. But in cooking that gives it a certain type of flavor. Celtic sea salt has a gray color to it, so it comes from certain parts of the area. This website is saying that it comes from the coast of France and in that area, there are clay flats that it goes on. So, it's kind of little molecules of clay I guess, that are impurities in the salt. These are all impurities and in cooking all these impurities give us different, kind of, maybe health benefits for people or kind of flavors. But when we're talking about horses and their straight up requirement for salt, it's just plain old simple white salt.


Katy Starr (24:49):

That is interesting though. There's a lot of different things out there.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (24:52):

Okay, here it is. Black salt comes from the Himalayas, usually Pakistan. The salt is rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium. There you go see. Smells, it smells. So, for that horse that doesn't want to eat, you probably wouldn't want to use black salt.


Katy Starr (25:08):

. May avoid that at all costs. .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (25:10):

Yeah. Oh, there's even lava salt from Hawaii. So, all these things we don't even know about.


Katy Starr (25:15):

Well, and honestly now that we've talked through this, I have a much better understanding of what all of this means and like it makes a lot of sense now that we're talking about it. But it's not something I guess I would've assumed before. And so, I hope our listeners enjoy this too because I don't know if they knew about some of these different ones as well. So, and the purpose that they serve. So, yeah, that's really interesting. So, what about when we talk about how they consume them, loose versus block form. Is one better than the other or what is your preference as an equine nutritionist?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (25:50):

Well, if the world was perfect, then I would say every horse should have loose salt because horses don't have a rough tongue, so it's easier for them to consume loose salt. But in order to have loose salt available to horses free choice, then you're either putting it in their stall and hoping that they don't knock it over or you're putting it out in the field in some kind of fancy salt feeder, so that when it rains it doesn't just turn into salty water. Right? So, a lot of people will actually provide a compressed salt block and its plain white salt squeezed together, because there's moisture in salt too, and squeeze it together and form that compressed salt that we can then put out in the field. And if it gets rained on, it's not going to break down like that loose salt, but they won't consume it as much because they have to lick on it. And you know, if you were just licking plain salt like that, it's rough and it's going to be a little abrasive to their tongue. So, they won't consume as much. So, for your performance horses that are sweating, you know, working really hard, obviously you're providing an electrolyte that has sodium and chloride, but in those situations, I would definitely recommend you found a way to provide them loose salt free choice.


Katy Starr (27:08):

Okay, excellent. And when we talk about loose, is that something that ideally you could just offer like in a tub or whatever by itself?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (27:20):

Mm-Hmm .


Katy Starr (27:20):

Would you mix it with other supplements? Or I guess if you have it, could you, if it's with a concentrate, would you also feed it aside from the concentrate that had added salt to it?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (27:32):

You know, so if you're buying feeds, commercial feeds from any company that's available, there is going to be some salt already mixed into that feed. But again, because when we design those feeds, we don't know the environmental conditions the horses are going to be under when they're eating it. You know, we have a generalized guide that we go on for the amount of salt that we're going to put in those feeds. So, typically we want to add extra, if I was just going to add it free choice, then I would just have it in a separate container by itself for horses to lick on as they wish. And that's all that they're consuming. And their requirement for salt is driving their intake, not any other taste of something you've mixed it with. If you don't feel like your horse consumes enough salt, some horses are just picky and maybe they need salt, but they don't eat it, then you can definitely put a couple of tablespoons depending on how big they are, like a thousand-pound horse and heavy exercise, you might put a couple of tablespoons on their feed per day and mix it in, and then they'll consume it that way. I don't recommend putting salt or electrolytes in a water bucket because that then would potentially decrease their intake of water, change the taste of the water, and you really need to make sure that they're drinking plenty of water. So.


Katy Starr (28:48):

Then you have two problems on your hands, .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (28:50):

Exactly, yeah. You're either putting in the feed or you're letting them just eat it by itself.


Katy Starr (28:56):

Excellent, okay. And if you are, and this could be a "it depends" kind of situation, I understand that. But if feeding just a good hay and a ration balancer, could a horse potentially get all of the salt that they need in one day? And I guess I'm speaking in terms of maybe a more of a maintenance horse in this situation, right? Or would they require something more?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (29:18):

So, I did a little bit of homework because we do know that these electrolytes, these minerals are readily available in the forages that we feed our horses. I mean, I did mention one electrolyte potassium, and we all know that in some quarter horse lineages, potassium is something we have to stay away from. So, we know that we have to stay away from alfalfa or things with molasses in it. So, you know, again, we certainly think about these minerals in forages and in feeds for other circumstances. But then when it comes to electrolytes, we often think, "Oh well we always need to supply an electrolyte supplement because there's no other way for them to get those electrolytes", but absolutely these minerals are in forages. In the Standlee forages for example, we did some digging, and we went back into the lab results and found the average, for the last three years, for the amount of chloride in the Timothy pellets is 0.82%.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (30:17):

And so, I was like, okay, well if I work out, if a horse was eating 15 pounds of the Timothy pellets a day, that would be 1.5% of their body weight in forage or fiber, then they would get 56 grams of chloride from 15 pounds of Timothy pellets. And that horse, that horse doing light exercise, their requirement is 46.6 grams of chloride. So, that one would be met by using those Timothy pellets. Now, most people aren't feeding 15 pounds of Standlee Timothy pellets, they're probably using it more as a supplemental forage source. But that was just an example to show you. When you're doing no exercise, light exercise, you certainly with good quality forage, you may be able to supply a lot of the electrolytes that your horse needs, if they're not in the extremes. If it's not living in Texas and they're sweating profusely all day. But that being said, those situations I would provide good quality forage and free choice, loose salt. And I wouldn't be concerned about feeding an additional electrolyte supplement because I know that animal, doing maintenance to light exercise, not living in the extremes, from the hay that I'm feeding them and the free choice salt, they're getting all the electrolyte they need.


Katy Starr (31:33):

Excellent. I like when we talk about these in real world application form, like for a horse owner to be able to understand, you know, these are the requirements that we see when we think about how we are building our horses diets, the things that they're consuming and eating, forage being that base, right? That's what they're designed to eat, so that's what we build a horse's diet around. And so, understanding what's actually in that forage to begin with, in terms of sodium and chloride or any other nutrients, I think that's really interesting that we can then go from there, take and see if we can add a ration balancer, if a concentrate is needed, or in this case, you know, adding some plain loose salt. It's great to be able to kind of understand that and kind of apply it in real world. So.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (32:20):

And step back and kind of look at the holistic approach of, hay doesn't just provide fiber, energy, and protein. What else is it providing? We know that certain types of hay are providing more calcium, and calcium isn't just important for the bones, it's also an electrolyte, magnesium, potassium, those kinds of things. So, feeding horses and looking at the diet, it's why it's so complicated and why some of us take many, many years getting a PhD really just to know all the things you don't know. But it's such a complicated web and there's so much interaction between all parts of the diet. So, it really is important to have people on your team that you trust to help you kind of sift through that spider web. It's very easy to double up, overdue on certain nutrients, especially when you know that that's a nutrient of concern that you want to add to the diet. But we need to be very aware and familiar with all of the different ways that the horse might be getting that in its natural diet to start with. Start there, and then if we feel like the horse might still be deficient, that's when we find supplemental sources of those nutrients.


Katy Starr (33:31):

Well, you can avoid two major things there, right? Potential toxicity if you're getting too much in their diet of any kind of nutrient.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (33:38):

And bankruptcy, !


Katy Starr (33:39):

And it's saving money, right? If you're overfeeding something that they really don't need or they're not using.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (33:45):

Don't need, mm-hmm .


Katy Starr (33:46):

You know, those are some common struggles with horse owners. So, let's, you know when we're talking about ways to kind of just be the most efficient that we can with our horses and making sure they're getting what they need. I think that's great. So, as we wrap this episode up, Dr. Cubitt, what would you say are a few key takeaways that you would like to leave our listeners with on the topic of salt for our horses?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (34:09):

I think that I would recommend that every horse should have access to free choice salt. In a block, in a loose form, and when I say the word salt, I just mean plain old white iodized salt. And I say iodized because again, a lot of our forages can be a little deficient in iodine. So, using iodized salt can be beneficial, but you can get yourself very confused about all the different types of salt. Remember that a lot of that terminology refers to more, kind of, cooking terminology and flavors of salt that might be beneficial in our kitchen, but really has no presence in the barn, in the feed room, right? Salt is salt, it's just sodium and chloride. So, all horses should have access to plain white salt.


Katy Starr (34:58):

Excellent, thank you. And one thing I did want to do before we jumped off of this episode today, we've gotten some really great reviews in lately for the podcast. And so, I wanted to share one with you, Dr. Cubitt. And we had actually, ChickenSteward16 says, "Excellent educational podcast. I love this podcast. I listen to it every week. It's extremely educational and done in a way that anyone can understand, even if they don't have a nutritional background. The podcast covers tons of topics relevant to most horse owners. So, if you own or even just feed horses, you should listen to this podcast."


Dr. Tania Cubitt (35:37):

I love it. I love it. And you know what I love the most? Is that they're talking about something that you and I both pride ourselves in, and that's taking the science to a level that is reachable to everybody. Like we want everybody to be able to understand what we're talking about. So, I'm really proud to hear that review.


Katy Starr (35:57):

Yeah, that's our whole goal when it comes to doing this podcast and spending time with our listeners, you know, biweekly or however often we're getting on here to especially speak on nutrition. And so, we're so grateful to be here. And if this is a podcast that you love and you're with us consistently, please jump over and leave us a review on Apple, or you can rate us on Spotify. And that just helps others know, you know, why should I listen to this podcast? You know, what is it going to do for me? And this is why we're here, is to be able to serve our listeners and those that own horses and other livestock, and we love it. So, Dr. Cubitt, thanks for being with us today to talk about salt and I hope our listeners all enjoy today's conversation. If you have other topic ideas that you would like us to dive into, please reach out to us at And Dr. Cubitt, thanks for being here with us.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (36:54):

Thank you.


Katy Starr (36:56):

Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.


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