By: Deb Kitchenmaster
My dad handed me a priceless gift in October of 1988, sitting in a wheelchair on the front porch watching his farm machinery being auctioned off. Six months prior he was handed a report, he chose to believe, of the length of days he had remaining before saying a final good-bye to his family and friends. He had six months to get his house in order (as he put it) and get right with God. The auction was part of that order and the getting right with God happened as his heart opened to LOVE and RECEIVED salvation from Jesus who gave His life for him.
The “gift” that Dad handed me that October day was when he looked at me and said, “I worked years to get all that equipment. In just a few hours it’s gone. You know you can have ALL this stuff, but if you don’t have your health, none of this matters.” Dad had chosen a lifestyle of smoking cigarettes for twenty years only to replace that choice with the choice of chewing tobacco. Lifestyle and environment were factors to the overall health of beloved Dad, not to mention the connection between believing and living.
A friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Research led her to a connection with vitamin D deficiency. What a simple, inexpensive dietary need. The use of vitamins A & D together has a synergistic effect as vitamin A contributes to the absorption of vitamin D in the body, and vise versa. That was one piece of information she wished she had known about prior to her decline in health.
Horses have health concerns also. As domesticated animals, they look to us for their diet, lifestyle, and environmental needs. As vitamin D is necessary for optimum health to us, salt is to the optimum health of equines. More than 4 out of 6 exercised horses do NOT get adequate intake of salt from a salt block alone. It is ideal to offer salt free-choice in a loose form. Salt deficiency is rare in horses that are offered free-choice loose salt. One nutrient that horses KNOW when they are low on is salt, and they will seek it out – perhaps licking a sweating arm, for example, as sweat contains salt. Simple solution: provide free-choice loose salt in stall or pasture.
Why is salt important? Because of the important role it plays in the nervous system by facilitating the movement of signals throughout the system! When a signal moves through a neuron (a nervous system cell), it is creating what is called an action potential. An action potential is simply, yet powerfully, creating an extremely positive charge that moves from cell to cell. What happens inside a cell when an action potential starts? Salt, which is stored OUTSIDE the axon (a part of the cell), is pumped INTO the axon, while potassium is pumped OUTSIDE the axon, creating a voltage charge! This voltage charge creates the impulses that allow the cells to send signals throughout the horse’s body. Have you noticed all the “creating” going on inside at a cellular level? What a CREATOR! Abba Father, Savior, and Comforter!
Substances that are transported by salt include: glucose, amino acids, and other nutrients that cannot make it across the membranes. The more salt there is in an area, the more water will be drawn to that area. Access to clean; fresh water is vital for your horse! By regulating the content of salt in the kidneys, digestive system, and cellular fluid, the horse regulates how much water is present in those areas. Most feeds in the horse’s diet contain little salt, usually less than 0.1%. Two tablespoons equal one ounce. Horses need at least this amount daily in their diet. There will be times that a horse will need two to three times this amount. This is the reason loose free-choice is important to a horse because the horse KNOWS instinctively when salt is needed. Another dietary health provision would be access to loose free-choice 12/12 mineral (calcium/phosphorus). These minerals, along with salt, allow the horse the possibility of balancing the adrenal system, endocrine system, metabolism, and blood sugar.
If symptoms of Cushing’s disease or laminitis show up in your horse, please consider looking at salt intake and accessibility (loosely).
Pass the salt, please.