Supplementing With Salt for the Five Element Types
While almost every horse owner knows that salt is important part of a healthy horse’s diet, many are unaware of the multiple beneficial effects salt has on the body. Paul Pitchford, in his book “Healing With Whole Foods,” lists an amazing number of positive qualities:
1. Salt’s primary action is cooling and a moderate amount is beneficial to the kidneys. The moistening property of salt is especially appropriate in the winter, when the body tends to dry out.
2. Salt counteracts toxins in the body and can be used externally as well for skin eruptions.
3. Salt directs the body’s energy inward and downward which is appropriate for fall and winter when the center of the body needs to stay warm.
4. Salt strengthens digestion and can soften and remove abdominal swellings and intestinal obstructions. This softening property can also reduce hardened glands, muscles, and lymph nodes.
5. The alkalizing quality of salt helps balance the acid nature of high protein and carbohydrate diets.
6. Whole sea salt is slightly grey colored and contains many minerals. White salt and most commercially produced sea salt is highly refined and devoid of minerals.
As Pitchford’s list clearly demonstrates, salt is a highly necessary supplement. It is also an essential nutrient for all horses. Ideally unrefined sea salt, which is naturally balanced with other minerals, should be offered free choice year round. Unrefined sea salt offers a better choice than the more popular but not balanced trace mineral blocks, which do provide salt but are essentially no better than refined salt with added inorganic minerals. Owners should be cautious about the amount of salt they feed to horses with ulcers because salt increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the body, an effect that aids digestion but can irritate ulcers.
Along with the general guidelines given above for feeding salt, horse owners should consider the horse’s Five Element Personality type when deciding how to feed salt. Each type needs a different quality and quantity of salt.
Fire horses tend to sweat more than the other types, and should have salt along other electrolytes in their diet. Loose sea salt provided free choice is adequate most of the time. Salt tends to have an energetically grounding effect so I will often add electrolytes to a Fire horse’s feed horses during times of stress. Some Fire horses will over eat salt if confined in a stall, which could be in reaction to boredom or an effort to take in the grounding effects of the salt.
Earth horses have tendency toward dampness and fluid retention so salt should be kept to a minimum. Even formulated rations with added salt can be too much for some Earth horses, causing them to stock up or retain fluid in their muscles. Use electrolytes very sparingly when feeding these horses. Kelp can also be too salty for some Earth horses, and fresh water alga are preferable. Loose salt can be provided free choice, although even this option should be limited if the horse shows signs of fluid retention.
Metal horses benefit from the moistening effects of natural sea salt. For this reason I often supplement Metal horses with electrolytes during extremely dry weather. I have found that many Metal horses like the taste of salt and will relish salty treats such as corn chips. If the skin of a Metal horse looks excessively dry this could be a sign the horse is headed for anhydrosis (inability to sweat) and a good quality electrolyte should be added to the diet immediately.
Wood horses can benefit from the detoxifying nature of sea salt and I have used Epson salt soaks and poultices to relieve the hoof abscesses that occur so frequently in Wood horses. Salt-based solutions such a Draw make excellent body washes to soften the muscles of Wood horses. In addition these solutions can also be used on swollen lymph glands. I rarely feed additional salt or electrolytes to Wood horses.
Water horses do benefit from many of the properties of salt. They need the extra minerals in unrefined sea salt, and the grounding energy serves them well. I prefer for them to get their salt and other electrolytes from foods such as alfalfa, kelp, or fresh water alga. Water horses will occasionally over eat salt, which could be an effort to meet their mineral needs. Unfortunately, they will often later drink excessive amounts of water and the resulting excessive urination can quickly deplete the mineral reserves in the body. If this happens it is important to run blood tests to check for dehydration, and then gradually limit both salt and water while supplementing the feed with a quality electrolyte.
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About the Author
Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy.
Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
She has authored several books and publishes at her blog.