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Horses Need More Than A Trace Of Minerals

Dr. Martin Adams, PAS – Equine Nutritionist for Southern States

Many people provide horses with a trace mineralized salt block with the assumption that this will provide all of the minerals that a horse needs. Unfortunately, when this occurs, not all mineral needs may be satisfied. The typical trace mineralized salt block provides only a fraction of a horse's trace mineral needs and does not provide the major mineral (except sodium and chloride) and vitamin needs. Most trace mineralized salt blocks contain 96% or more salt and contain only a "trace" of minerals.

Minerals are inorganic elements that are needed by all animals to remain healthy and productive. Some minerals are essential components of bone, teeth, blood cells, vitamins, hormones and amino acids. Minerals that are required in larger amounts, usually listed as a percentage of the horse's diet, are referred to as major minerals. These are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and sulfur.  Minerals required in small amounts are called trace minerals. The trace minerals required for horses are copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, cobalt, iodine and iron. Table 1 shows the percentage of a horse's mineral requirements that are met by consuming the recommended amount of a typical trace mineralized salt block containing selenium (some trace mineralized salt blocks don't contain selenium). As you can see, it provides only a small portion of the horse's trace mineral needs and does not provide any calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium or vitamins. To remain healthy, a horse requires major minerals and vitamins as well as adequate amounts of trace minerals.

Proper mineral supplementation is essential to a horse's health. Hay and grain contains some of the minerals required by the horse, but many areas are deficient or low in certain minerals, and the feedstuffs grown there will be inadequate in those minerals, especially the major minerals sodium and phosphorus and the trace minerals zinc, copper and selenium. Proper mineral supplementation may require more than just a trace mineralized salt block. To insure a horse's health, it is important to provide a well-balanced mineral supplement containing all essential minerals, especially when horses are not fed fortified grain and are fed forage-only diets (hay or pasture).

Southern States has several horse mineral products available: EquiMin Horse Mineral (granular product in 25-pound pail), EquiMin Horse Mineral Block (25-lb) and Southern States Horse Mineral (granular product in 50-lb bag). These supplements provide the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio, and all other essential minerals and vitamins in balanced amounts, for horses on grass or mixed (grass and legume) hay and pasture feeding programs.

Table 1. Percentage of a 1,200 Pound Horse's Mineral Requirements
Provided by a Typical Trace Mineral Salt Block containing Selenium
Consumed at the Recommended Rate*


Maintenance Mineral Requirement
(% of Diet)

























*Mineral requirements based on the National Research Council, Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 2007.

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