Minerals Horses Get from Forages

Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Allison Price

close-up photography of two red horses eating grasses

The horse ‘s normal feeding habit is to eat small quantities of roughage always. A “forage” only diet is deficient in many necessary vitamins and minerals. And horses must be supplemented to fulfill these needs for nutrients. For the efficiency, development, immune function and reproduction of all horses… the ingestion of minerals and vitamins is essential.

It is vital to have a well-balanced mineral supplement. That contains all the necessary minerals. This is to ensure your horse is in best health. Especially when horses are not fed fortified grain. And are being fed forage only diets (hay or pasture). When we see plenty of pasture growth during the spring, it is important that we do not rely on pasture alone… to provide all the nutritional needs of the horse.

Trace mineral and vitamin supplementation is also easy to miss. Especially when horses are gaining weight on pasture and hay. It must always be noted that just because a horse is in best body condition or even overweight… it does not mean that all the nutrients they need are being supplied. It simply means that adequate calories are being provided. Minerals are inorganic components that all animals need. For them to stay healthy and productive.

Some minerals are basic elements of bone, teeth, blood cells, and vitamins. As well as hormones and amino acids. Minerals needed in greater quantities are being referred to as major minerals. Generally described as a percentage of the horse’s diet. These involve calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and sulphur. Minerals that are being required in small quantities are called trace minerals.

Copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium are the trace minerals needed for horses. As well as cobalt, iodine and iron. A horse needs major minerals and vitamins. As well as enough quantities of trace minerals to stay healthy. Many individuals provide a trace mineral salt block for horses. With the expectation that this will provide all the minerals a horse need.

Unfortunately, not all mineral requirements can be met when this happens. The standard trace mineralized salt block provides… just a fraction of the trace mineral needs of a horse.

And does not provide the main mineral and vitamin needs. Excluding sodium and chloride. The majority of trace mineralized blocks of salt contain 96% or more salt. And contain only a limited amount of minerals.

brown horse eating on ground near trees

Importance of Minerals for Quality Horse Nutrition

A horse ‘s true health could mean more than just a pasture and some oats when it comes to enjoyment and quality of life. While most horses get most of their nutrients from pasture and feed… many do not receive the requisite mineral nutrition for best health.

It is important to note that forage and hay mineral content is determined by… the mineral composition of the soil where they are being produced. Thus, if the soil lacks the mineral, the plant that grows there will not have the mineral. Since soil types can vary from farm to farm and no single type of soil has all the minerals… a horse requires, mineral supplements are important.

Horses mainly need salt, calcium and phosphorus as minerals. Salt is being lost by sweat and urine. So, the horse should still have free choice at its disposal. For healthy teeth and bones, calcium and phosphorus are a need. The greatest need is when the bulk of its height rises in the first year of a horse’s life. So, to sustain elevated levels in their milk… lactating mares need higher concentrations of calcium and phosphorus.

There should be at least a 1:1 ratio of calcium and phosphorus. Since grains are low in calcium and high in phosphorus, some grains are enough. To meet the requirements for phosphorus. But not the need for calcium. To develop the 1:1 ratio, more calcium is required.

There is a high ratio of calcium to phosphorus in most hays. But the nutritional value of the hay… depends on the amount of fertilizer added to the pasture and hay handling. The proper calcium-phosphorus ratio can be achieved by using a mixture of grain and hay. Low quality forage, of course, may result in mineral deficiencies.

The minerals magnesium and potassium are also essential to the well-being of a horse. For muscle and nervous tissue function, magnesium is a need. While potassium helps maintain the pH balance of the cell. And inner cellular fluid pressure.

More minerals (needed in very limited quantities) are available. These can make a difference in the health of a horse.

These trace minerals are needed to maintain healthy, productive horses.


Cobalt deficiency is rare. But it has been shown that cobalt supplementation enhances digestion. And thus, increases nutrition from consumed forages.


Copper is important to help the horse fight against bacteria and viruses. And preserve the health of the connective tissue and hoof.


To regulate metabolism and development, iodine is essential.


For blood hemoglobin, iron is essential.


Selenium is essential for reproduction, growth, and the immune system.


Zinc stimulates the growth of muscles, strong hooves and fur, and reproduction.

To ensure quality health… well balanced mineral supplements should be given for your horse. The horse is a grazing animal with a digestive system that is peculiar. It has a comparatively tiny stomach. And a large hindgut that contains fibrous matter to be digested by bacteria. Meat should also be the first food of choice. But forages do not provide horses with adequate quantities of minerals. So, supplements are a must.

Trace mineralized salt in block form will not meet the nutritional needs of the horse. These blocks are mainly salt. And contain low trace mineral amounts. The horse takes small quantities of the supplement. And even smaller quantities of trace minerals because of their high salt content.

  • Determine the sum of hay and grain your horse consumes. 
  • Read the bag mark for the study of the grain. 
  • Have the forage tested and measured nutritionally. 
  • Then decide the minerals and quantities that your horse lacks. 
  • Buy a mineral supplement that is closest to the nutrient requirements required.

Minerals are essential ingredients required for the good health of your horse. Take the time to consider the quantities needed by your horse. You can increase the efficiency of your horse when you do. And help avoid health issues.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!