Mineral and Salt Blocks for Horses: What's Necessary?

Do you know the difference in those colored blocks at the feed store and what they can and can’t do for your horses?

As busy horse owners, we want to take the best care of our animals with a minimal amount of time wasted. The salt and mineral blocks in the feed store seem like a great way to give our horses, donkeys, and mules the salt and nutrients they need in a convenient package.

We might be tempted to just get a block of every color and let the horses decide, but that’s not a great idea. Some blocks are meant for other species, and some don’t provide a sufficient quantity of other minerals to make a difference in the horse’s diet. So, let’s delve into the rainbow of available horse blocks and see what our horses actually need and what they don’t need!

Plain Salt Blocks

Horses need free-choice salt (sodium chloride), which is the one nutrient that normal horses seem to have a built-in mechanism to self-regulate intake on a daily basis. However, horses—such as those in competition or dealing with high heat and humidity—might not need additional salt in their diets.

The average adult horse weighing about 1,100 pounds needs about 25 grams of sodium chloride daily, which is about 1 ounce or 4 teaspoons of salt per day. If a horse is in heavy exercise, that requirement can exceed 50 grams of salt per day, which is about 2 ounces or nearly 8 teaspoons of salt. If horses get too much salt, they tend to excrete it through urine.

You can purchase salt in a variety of sizes and “flavors.” There are the plain white salt blocks, which come in the big, 50-pound sizes for herd use and smaller blocks for stall holders. You can even buy it as loose salt (like in your shaker at home) so you can sprinkle it on your horse’s feed. Some horses seem to prefer the taste of Himalayan types of salt. You will notice that the Himalayan salt blocks are a little more “rough cut” than the white blocks.

You do need to consider that since the white salt blocks are so hard, horses have to work a little to get enough salt through licking, so you might want to add some loose salt to the horse’s diet to meet their daily needs.

Other Colored Blocks for Horses

The red salt and mineral combination blocks are 99% salt. The mineral content will depend on the manufacturer, so you need to read the label. The added minerals might include copper, zinc, iron, and iodine. With the amount that the horse ingests on a daily basis, the horses generally aren’t really getting enough of those other minerals to make a difference in the diet.

In farm supply stores, you also will see blue blocks. They are designed for cattle and contain cobalt and are not recommended for horse consumption. Make sure that you read the labels on blocks to ensure they are safe for horses to consume. If they are multi-species or all species and include horses on the label, then they are designed to be safe for horses.

If a block is not labeled for horses, it could be because the block was manufactured in a facility that also makes cattle and other species of feed and supplements. There is the potential for products from those facilities to contain trace amounts of ingredients that are harmful to horses. Thus, it’s always best to use products labeled for horses.

Keep Your Horse Blocks Fresh

You should keep salt blocks fresh. When they are placed outside, keep them sheltered from the weather and dirt/mud if possible. Make them easily accessible, but keep an eye on them and replace them as needed.

Salt and mineral blocks are a tool that can be incorporated into a holistic nutritional program for your horses, donkeys, and mules.

Other Types of Blocks for Horses

A block unique to Tribute® is the Constant Comfort® block. This block has ingredients that are designed to help support the digestive tract, including seaweed-derived calcium and pre- and probiotics. Horses learn to nibble on the block to consume the seaweed-derived calcium and self-soothe their own stomachs at times when they need it. It’s often used in a stall, but it can be used in a run-in shed, as well.

Dr. Nicole Rambo of Tribute® Superior Equine Nutrition recently did a study where she specifically created some gastric stress to see what happened to the horses' free-choice intake of the Constant Comfort® gut health block. The research showed an increase in consumption when these horses experienced stress. Stress could be a horse being placed on stall rest or something in the herd dynamics or daily schedule that causes gastric upset. 

Check out The Equine Connection Podcast for recent podcasts on equine ulcers and discover how easily horses can be stressed out by all sorts of stuff, from exercise to herd dynamics.

Keep in mind that you might place a Constant Comfort® block in a stall and the horse might not even touch it for a while. But when something happens, it's there for the horse to “self-soothe” their gut.

Tribute® has other supplement blocks designed for horses, donkeys, and mules, as well. They are great to offer as “supplemental insurance,” but we recommend taking more control over your horse’s intake of daily vitamins and minerals. These needs are going to be best met through a ration balancer, at the very least.

Tribute® also produces a Fly Control Block that helps prevent the emergence of horn flies, house flies, face flies, and stable flies from the manure of treated horses. The active ingredient isn’t absorbed by the horse, but is eliminated with manure to stop the development of immature flies.

Listen to The Equine Connection Podcast

We highly recommend you listen to the podcast on What’s with Those Blocks, releasing 3/20/24, to learn even more and get additional tips from Dr. Rambo.

Tribute® Horse Products to Check Out

Constant Comfort® Block

  • Your horse’s stomach secretes acid continuously, so they need support all day and night – not just at feeding times. The Constant Comfort® Block is designed to help soothe and support your horse’s stomach 24/7 when offered free-choice. It contains Seaweed Derived Calcium to maintain proper stomach pH, as well as Equi-Ferm XL®, a pre- and probiotic that supports hindgut pH, overall digestive health and total diet digestibility. We recommend using the Constant Comfort® Block in conjunction with Constant Comfort® Plus.

Grass Assist™ Vitamin & Mineral Block

  • The Grass Assist™ block has been designed to supply your horse with nutrients that are typically low or imbalanced in grass or mixed grass hay. It offers your horse a source of organic trace minerals, generous levels of vitamins, higher levels of antioxidants Vitamin E and selenium, limiting amino acids, as well as biotin.

Tribute® Fly Control Block

  • The Tribute® Fly Control Block helps prevent the emergence of horn flies, house flies, face flies and stable flies from the manure of treated horses. The fly control ingredient in this block is ClariFly® (diflubenzuron), which is designed to pass through the horse and works by stopping the development of immature flies in manure (existing adult flies are not affected). The Tribute® Fly Control Block is safe for all horses, though should not be used with any other feed-through fly control supplements.
Article By: Kimberly S. Brown
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