(Some of) The Worst Persistent Myths Out There

Horses can’t get all the salt they need from a lick because they don’t have rough tongues.

Cows do have rougher tongues but that has nothing to do with getting salt from a lick/block.  If their tongues were rough enough to actually scrape salt off a block they would cut skin easily. They don’t.  All animals get salt from a block when their saliva melts it – just like licking a  lollipop. Cows don’t always get all they need either. It’s a matter of requirement versus how much time they spend licking. Since the horse will rarely take all they need at one time, shifts of body sodium and water can occur to correct imbalances in the blood and they lose the drive to eat salt but the tissues remain somewhat dehydrated. This puts them at increased risk of severe dehydration.

Oats are safe for EMS horses.

You  may hear the rationale that all the fiber from the hulls makes them safe, or being a “whole grain”. These things apply to humans, where the standard against which all other foods are assigned a glycemic index is white bread. With horses, the standard is oats. The glucose response to feeding oats is assigned a value of 100 and everything else assigned a rating relative to that. Only corn and sweet feed are slightly higher.

Letting a hot horse drink all they want will cause colic or laminitis.

Most old myths have a kernel of truth in them but this one is an exception. It’s also not true that water can’t be cold. Horses should be properly cooled down with walking to prevent muscle spasms and cold hosed to drop the body temperature but they must be allowed to drink all the water they want during this process. Horses that have their water restricted often end up not consuming enough to replace their losses. The reason is the same as described above for salt intake.Shifts of sodium and water between body tissues and blood restore the blood at the expense of  dehydrating the tissues.

A horse has to get at least a little bit of a bagged feed to get the vitamins and minerals he needs.

That many people think this is a tribute to the marketing of horse feeds, but it’s simply not true. A horse can get all the vitamins, minerals, protein and calories needed from their basic diet. Even horses that are getting bagged feeds are obtaining most of their nutrients from the hay, not the feed. “A little bit”, or anything less than the full recommended amount on the bag, also means you only get a little bit of the formulated amount of nutrients. If a feed has 50 mg of copper in 5  pounds, it will only have 10 mg in 1 pound – which is 1/10 of the bare minimum recommended intake. What is often true is that diets including no grain or unsupplemented grains may have deficiencies. Some of these can be corrected by changing the composition of the diet. Others will require targeted supplementation. In any case, a little bit of a bagged feed won’t solve the problem.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD


About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, www.drkellon.com, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition https://tinyurl.com/vdxfex5h .
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1 Response to (Some of) The Worst Persistent Myths Out There

  1. Judy Walter says:

    I am new to Dr. Kellon and her posts, and I am so pleased to have found her. It’s wonderful to find a new post, sit down at my computer in the morning, and learn something I didn’t know before. Thank you!


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