Using a Lick – Topping up on the good stuff

Licks are a little bit like marmite – some horses love them while others hate them! However, for those that are turned out through the summer and are not receiving any supplementary feed, they can provide a great way to top up on essential nutrients.

Soils in the UK are generally short of selenium, zinc and copper – and the grass that grows on them is lacking in these key elements, too. Licks in the field can help to provide these missing nutrients. The downside is gauging whether your horse, particularly if it is turned out with others, is actually using the lick. Obviously, offering a lick is better than nothing, but it is not a guarantee that its diet is balanced.

What about salt licks?

Himalayan rock salt is widely available as a lick for horses. Although it does contain a good range of nutrients, it is not balanced and should only be considered as a top-up. However, there are licks available that have been specifically formulated to contain a balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals – rather than just salt. If the recommended intake is consumed, the lick can be said to be providing a balanced diet.

Are molasses-based licks just a sugary treat?

Some licks are made with glucose syrup or molasses and do provide sugar. Horses or ponies prone to lamintis or suffering from Cushing’s disease or equine metabolic syndrome should avoid them.

Great boredom busters

Horse or ponies confined to box rest for long periods can suffer from boredom and a lick is a great way to provide a little stimulation. Provide low-sugar options as a lack of exercise can increase the risk of digestive upsets and muscle problems.

Licks for the youngsters

When horses are fed as a group, those down the social hierarchy are sometimes left with less feed to eat. Licks provide something of a back-up for those who miss out – but they are not a guarantee of a balanced diet. There are licks available that have been formulated specifically for breeding and youngstock. They have a higher concentration of essential nutrients for growth and development.

For further advice on licks, call the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 or chat live to a nutritionist.