Go Plastic In Salt-Block Holders

Obviously, your horse needs free access to salt. Doing this efficiently, however, is not always as clear. Free-choice loose salt requires a separate feeder that must be both readily accessible and protected from the elements or located a sufficient distance from your horse’s water so he doesn’t turn it into clumps or sludge. Large, pasture-size blocks are durable and last a long time, but they are difficult to move and even more difficult to locate in a spot reasonably protected from the weather.

The simplest solution is to use small four-pound salt blocks (or bricks). These can be placed in the feed tub, although saliva and/or water can cause small puddles of salty fluid in the tub that could throw your horse off feed or irritate her mouth. Some horses also take pride in being able to pick up these bricks and throw them on the stall floor. A salt-block holder mounted to the wall is an attractive, neat and clean solution — usually.

Most salt-block holders are heavy-gauge wire, either painted or covered with vinyl. They are inexpensive and fairly easy to mount, especially if they come with screw holes. The problem is they don’t last. We searched around for other options and compared these to the common, inexpensive wire holders we’re all familiar with.

Nonmetallic Holders
The Safe-T Salt Lick Holder (Equine Specialties, 902/876-8888, $14.95) is a heavy, molded plastic one-piece holder with a solid back with two holes for securing screws (recessed), scooped-out sides and short securing wings in the front of the block. The smooth, rounded edges and slick surface discouraged attempts at chewing. It survived our trial virtually unscathed. The salt blocks fit snugly and stayed in place. Best of all, we found no rust, no corrosion, and no mineral deposits on the plastic. It’s also a snap to clean.

The Horseshoe Salt Block Holder (by NuTrip, available from State Line, 800/228-9208, $9.95) is a hard-molded plastic horseshoe-shaped holder that looks somewhat like an upside down horseshoe bridle rack. You’ve got to put it together, but it’s easy.

It didn’t rust or corrode, and the edges were well rounded for safety. The only problem we had was when the salt supply got low, the horse was able to get his mouth around the outer horseshoe and start pulling (if your horse isn’t destructive, this may not be an issue for you). We mounted this unit in the stall of a three-year-old who was notorious for tearing down/bending the standard wire brick holders — and the horseshoe salt-block holder survived.

Stainless Steel Holders
Undeniably longer lasting than the everyday metal variety, stainless steel salt-block holders do not rust. However, we found they will develop a layer of mineral deposit. They are also more costly than plastic.

Like the molded plastic holder, the Tuff-Nuff and Stainless Steel Salt Block Holder are difficult for a horse to damage with his teeth. In fact, our horses didn’t try to “work on” these holders as much as they did the simple metal ones.

The Tuff-Nuff holder (Tuff-Nuff, 513/722-2333, $17.95) is a 12-gauge stainless-steel “sleeve” with a solid back against the wall, secured by four screws, with an open front. The block is secured by the groove in the salt block riding on two short wings with a ring-like bottom. All edges are rounded with no protruding parts to catch on halters or injure the horse.

The 16-gauge Stainless Steel Salt Block Holder from the Stainless Steel Salt Block Holder Company, Inc, (800/431-3444, $19.95) includes stainless steel screws. It also has a solid back where the securing screws are located and a solid bottom. This model is a three-sided “box,” front surface open for licking. It is impressively made.

The Easy-Up Ultimate Salt Block Holder (Schneider’s, 800/365-1311, $5.95) looks a lot like the familiar wire holders — and you may find a few blocks a difficult fit — but it’s got them beat hands-down on durability. Because of its stainless-steel construction, it won’t rust (we did get mineral deposits) and is more resistant to horses who enjoy trying to deform their salt-block holders.

Economy Wire Holders
The main advantage to vinyl- and paint-covered metal wire holders is economy. With some at $2 or less, you can’t beat the price. However, their useful life is so short we’d call them “disposable.” None of our wire salt-block holders lasted as long as the salt block inside them. The paint or coating cracks easily and rust sets in rapidly.

The wire holders are also vulnerable to horse attack — easily twisted, bent or ripped down by any horse with half a mind to do so. No matter how you look at it, when you need to replace these holders — and the salt brick inside them — every six to eight weeks or so you really aren’t saving any money.

Another problem with this “open” design is that some bricks don’t fit perfectly, so you must bend and spring the holder to manipulate the salt into place.

We purchased models from Jeffers (800/533-3377), Schneiders (800/365-1311) and State Line Tack (800/228-9208) for between $1.85 and $4.45 and hung them up in our test horses’ stalls. The difference among them was negligible, and the results from our field testing virtually identical. Also, not all of these holders come with screw holes, which make securing them infinitely easier.

Miscellaneous Metal
KV Vet’s Salt Block Holder (800/423-8211, $9.69) is definitely the heavy-duty model of plain metal salt holders. Made of 1/2” by 1/8” angle iron, it has predrilled holes for mounting. While the horse is not likely to do any structural damage to this tough holder, the black paint chipped off easily, causing it to rust rapidly.

Bottom Line
While not a big-ticket item, a salt-lick holder is a necessity. Many horses have gone without salt for longer than they should have because their holder rusted out and was not replaced immediately or left up but the horse refused to eat the rusty salt.

For those on a budget, we recommend Schneiders’ Easy-Up holder. At $5.95 for stainless-steel, we think it’s an easy Best Buy.

However, for $9 more, our overall favorite and recommendation is the plastic Safe-T Salt Lick Holder from Equine Specialties, which didn’t have mineral deposits and was a snap to clean and use.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Mounting Tip For Installing Holders.”