Salt vs. Electrolytes for Horses: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on August 27, 2023 by Allison Price

You are probably aware that electrolytes and salt are important for horses. Do you know which one to feed your horse and when? Are horses supposed to have salt, electrolytes or both? What is the difference? Good questions.

We must first understand that salt is an Electrolyte. However, it is not the only one horses require. Confused? Let’s clarify the confusion and talk about what elements are electrolytes and when your horse requires them. Also, what should you look for in an electrolyte supplement.

Salt vs. Electrolytes for Horses


What are Equine Electrolytes (Equivalent to Horse Electrolytes)?

This Scientific American article explains that electrolytes are chemicals which, when dissolved into water, create ions with an electric charge.

These ions can have either a negative or positive electrical charge. This is why we call them electro-lytes. The term “electrolyte”, in nutrition, is used to describe minerals that are dissolved in body fluids. This creates electrically charged ions.

These are the main electrolytes horses require:

  1. Sodium (Na)
  2. Chloride (Cl).
  3. Potassium (K)
  4. Magnesium (Mg).
  5. Calcium (Ca).

The three most important electrolytes that horses need are sodium, potassium, and chloride. When the two top electrolytes are combined, salt (or sodium chloride) is formed. Salt is an electrolyte and important for horses.

Why do horses need salt and other electrolytes?

What role do electrolytes and salt play in the horse’s body? Do they need to be used daily? What are their functions? Let’s take a look at them both.


The thirst response tells horses to drink. Salt triggers this. Horses are told to stop drinking when they have low sodium levels by their brains. This is done to prevent the body from losing more sodium. Horses are more likely to continue drinking if their sodium levels are stable.

Salt is important for horses to drink. It helps maintain sodium levels and encourages them to continue drinking. Horses that don’t receive salt supplementation may not be able to drink enough water and could become dehydrated.


Essential minerals called electrolytes play an important role in horse fluid retention, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Nearly every bodily function is affected by electrolytes.

Horses suffering from electrolyte deficiency will experience fatigue and reduced performance. Horses with electrolyte deficiencies will experience fatigue and decreased performance.

How do horses become deficient in electrolytes?

Each horse sweats, but some horses more than others. There are a lot of electrolytes in sweat. Horses that exercise a lot can lose as much as 4 gallons of sweat. This sweat contains about 30 teaspoons of salts.

According to Redmond Rock and by adding Redmond Rock Crumbled loose salt to his feed. Find out salt recommendations for horses, and how to avoid salt toxicosis.

Food Electrolytes

Additional electrolyte supplementation may be required if large amounts of salt are needed. If a horse experiences repeated or prolonged sweating, an electrolyte supplement should be administered in addition to the daily salt rations.

These are the situations where an electrolyte may be recommended by a veterinarian for horses (click here for Jessica Huntington’s complete post)

  • Before and during hauling.
  • Before and after an event.
  • After excessive sweating.
  • Hot, humid, or severe weather conditions.
  • The first signs of colic.
  • At the first sign that there is loose manure or diarrhea.

Note: Never give your horse electrolytes in water. Always ensure that your horse has access to fresh water.

How to Select an Electrolyte Supplement

You now know the importance and benefits of electrolytes. How can you select the right supplement for your horse? These are the most important things to consider when choosing an electrolyte.

  1. High salt content. The main ingredients should be sodium, chloride (salt), and potassium.
  2. Low sugar content. Sugar should and not be a main ingredient. 1
  3. Similar to sweat, an isotonic electrolyte provides electrolytes in the same concentrations as sweat. This PubMed article states that an isotonic, sweat-like electrolyte can be used to quickly restore fluid and plasma electrolyte imbalances in horses.

Redmond Equine Elektrolyte

Redmond Electrolyte Syringe is an electrolyte paste which quickly replenishes essential electrolytes and vitamins, and improves horse performance.

Redmond Electrolyte has:

  • As main ingredients, sodium and chloride (salt), and potassium.
  • More than 60 trace minerals for horses have been extracted from the Redmond mineral deposit.
  • Vitamins added to improve performance and health.
  • Low sugar content
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!