Minerals are an essential part of a horse’s diet, and are often overlooked by an owner as a necessity. Without minerals, horses cannot metabolize fats. proteins, or carbohydrates; their muscles and nerves do not function normally, and their bones become weak and are prone to injury. Minerals help the blood transport oxygen through the body, maintain the body’s acid/base and fluid balances, and are necessary components of virtually every enzyme the horse needs for basic metabolism. In the case of minerals, a little bit makes a significant impact.
To people’s surprise, when a horse is given access to free choice minerals, they began to make much better use of their feed ration and their coat appearance changes for the better.
Minerals are available in a red block or in a loose format. A high quality, loose mineral is the best choice for your horse. The loose format needs to be in a container with a roof if placed in the field. Several commercial containers are available, or you can make your own out of a blue plastic barrel.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT MINERALS MUST NOT BE ADDED TO THE FEED! This forces the horse to eat them. A horse’s body tells them how much they need to consume when a mineral is lacking. Just as too little mineral can damage a body, too much of certain ones can be detrimental also.
Salt is also an important component to keeping horses properly. Salt is available in a couple of different forms, with the easiest being a salt block. If you do not have access to a loose mineral, make sure there is a red mineral block available along with a salt block. A salt block needs to be present regardless of what type of mineral supplement you are using.
Before we fenced horses in or kept them in stalls, they roamed free range and found deposits of the mineral their bodies craved. They wore paths to these licks and fulfilled their nutritional requirements. Now that we have taken their ability to forage away, it is up to us to provide them with what they need.
One of the areas many people who know little about rehabbing the starved horse will overlook is how vital a high quality loose mineral is when re-feeding the very emaciated horse.