I thought it appropriate to post this as the temperature has now dropped... so it should! Winter is here.
Winter can be a bit of a danger time for colic - specifically impaction colic due to some dehydration in horses. The reason being is that when the weather turns cold horses are likely to drink less.
Salt can help us to combat this problem. Salt helps to reduce muscle cramping in all animals. We seem to be a bit afraid of it as far as health warnings to do with high blood pressure etc. But we are not horses. Horses for one, spend most of their lives moving around!
Horses need about 5-10 grams of salt per 100 kilograms per day in order for their muscles to function properly. That is equivalent to 1-2 teaspoons of salt per every 100 kilograms everyday. Now it is hard to answer the question of how much salt should be added to their daily feeds as people feed different pre-mixed feeds and pellets containing varying amounts of salt. My hard feed for my horses is extremely basic. It includes oaten chaff, lucerne chaff (not always as it is high in sugars), speedibeet and if I want more energy or warmth then I add soaked barley. Plus - SALT!
The amount of salt I add varies too. They have access to a good quality mineral lick that suffices for their salt intake most of the time. When they are in work they are given 2 tablespoons of Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) and 2 tablespoons of Coarse salt per day. When they are not in work they have access to their mineral block which is usually quite sufficient. When the weather turns cold (like it just has) I also add salt, regardless of how much work they are receiving... because I want to make sure they keep up their water intake. I also make my feed quite wet (not sloppy) so they are gaining moisture into their systems at the time of feeding.
My aim is not to scare people but to make sure they are aware that their horses do require salt in their diet and to make sure they are getting enough water in their diets to prevent nasty impaction colic type situations.
Similarly, we also need to be mindful of heatstroke in horses through the winter. Just because we are cold doesn't necessarily mean that our horses are... they have a fur coat and a better system of maintaining homeostasis than we do.