Sodium for horses

Sodium in the Horse's Diet
 - Sodium, chemical symbol Na, is a metal and the salts are white crystals that dissolve easily in water. 
- Sodium has 3 major roles in the horses’ body; in the nervous system, the transport system and as an electrolyte.

1. The nervous system

Sodium plays an important part in transmitting signals in the nerves of the horse. When a signal is transmitted through a nerve cell it creates a positive charge that passes through the cells in the nerves which allows the cells to send messages throughout the horse’s body.

2. Transportation

Sodium helps to transport important substances across membranes in the horse’s body. These substances tend to be water-soluble and include Glucose and Amino Acids. This is important to allow substances to be absorbed and utilised in the horse but also to allow the horse to exrete toxins.

3. As an Electrolyte

Common salt (Sodium Chloride) is found naturally in the bodily fluids. It is an important mineral for maintaining kidney function as it helps with the filtration of the blood and the production of urine.

Feeding salt before a ride can prevent your horse from becoming dehydrated as it can encourage water intake. This can be achieved by feeding electrolytes
, which is advised if your horse tends to sweat a lot during exercise, as this is how water and electrolytes can be lost. Advice is for there to be twice as much sodium than potassium and 1.2 times more chlorine as sodium in supplements given in the horses’ diet. Salt licks that are provided in stables are a good idea although most horses will not consume enough to encourage rehydration of the horse so extra supplementation in the feed is advised by some people.
Sodium Deficiency

Sodium deficiency is rare in horses, especially ones that are offered salt in their feed, as it is the one nutrient that the horse will seek out if they feel they are low in it, horses will even lick the sweat of people' or things that people have recently handled, that have been sweating as sweat contains a high level of sodium.

Signs that your horse may be deficient in Sodium include a decrease in skin condition, decreased water intake, loss of appetite and excessive licking of abnormal objects. Horses that have a severe deficiency in Sodium may also show issues with controlling their muscles, have an unsteady gate and may not be able to chew correctly.

Sodium Toxicity

It is very rare to have too much Sodium in the horse as it is passed out of the body through urine and sweat. The biggest problem would occur if the horse does not have constant access to water, or does not drink the water supplied, then the horse cannot excrete the Sodium properly.

To ensure that your horse is receiving the correct level of sodium we would advise speaking to a nutritionist or a feed/supplement company.