Salt First, Then Consider Adding Electrolytes

by Dr. Juliet Getty

Make sure the "dog days of summer" don't bite your horse this year. Even at rest, your horse sweats more during hot weather, and he needs enough sodium (salt) to stay hydrated.

One ounce per day (two tablespoons) is adequate for maintenance during cool months, but hot, humid weather calls for at least two ounces per day, and more if your horse is in work of any kind.

Provide a plain, white salt block in close proximity, and make sure your horse licks it; many horses do not – salt crystals may create tiny scratches on the tongue. Even better is to offer salt free choice by pouring granulated table salt in a bucket. You can also add salt to each meal. Use iodized salt only if your horse is not receiving iodine from another source. As for mineralized salt blocks, horses often avoid these because of their bitter taste.

If your horse works more than two hours at a time, then consider supplementing with electrolytes, which you can provide after exercise by adding it to a gallon of water. But remember: Electrolytes alone will not protect against dehydration, and electrolyte supplements should be given only to a horse that is already in good sodium balance. Electrolytes are designed to replace what is lost from perspiration and should contain at least 13 grams of chloride, 6 grams of sodium, and 5 grams of potassium.

And always, be sure to keep fresh, clean water available.


For more on this subject, sign up for Dr. Getty’s August 11 TeleSeminar, “Things You Need to Know About Salt, Water, and using Electrolyte Supplements”. Dr. Juliet Getty has taught and consulted on equine nutrition for more than 20 years. Get more details at