April 28, 2023
Many horse owners have already discovered the health benefits of bentonite clay for horses. Others may be wondering what all the buzz is about. Humans and animals have used bentonite for centuries to treat many maladies. So, what is it, what does it do, and how can it help your horse?
This article will help you better understand the properties of bentonite, its efficacy and safety, and help you feel confident using it inside and out. Let’s get the scoop on bentonite—the clay that’s literally as old as dirt—so you and your horse can experience its remarkable, even life-changing health benefits!
Bentonite, also known as montmorillonite, is an age-old healing clay. It has incredible—and incredibly diverse—curative properties. Some call it Mother Nature’s pharmacy. We call it the “clay of a thousand uses.”
Bentonite and montmorillonite belong to a family of clays called smectites. They form when volcanic ash weathers and ages—usually in seawater—and are found in deposits throughout the world. Both bentonite and montmorillonite are named after the geographic regions where they were originally found: Benton, Wyoming, and Montmorillon, France. The names are used interchangeably, and we’ll do the same throughout this article.
There are two primary forms of bentonite: sodium and calcium. Both contain crystalline clay minerals, a significant amount of sodium or calcium, and a smaller percentage of many other trace minerals.
So, what is the difference between sodium and calcium bentonite? Calcium bentonite is a non-swelling clay, while sodium bentonite has a high swell capacity. It can absorb and expand up to 20 times its original dry volume size when exposed to water, allowing it to draw pollutants into its internal structure.
The clays also have slightly different pHs. Calcium bentonite is neutral, with a pH of 7-8. Sodium bentonite is more alkaline, with a pH of 9-10, giving it the ability to neutralize acidic environments. Choosing sodium bentonite for horses as an internal or external supplement is a smart choice.
Through the ages, humans and animals have been drawn to clay both for its external and internal therapeutic abilities. Bentonite has three unique physical properties that provide health-promoting benefits: the ability to absorb large amounts of moisture, adsorb toxins, and deliver dozens of micronutrients. Let’s look closer at why these properties are important for horse health.
Bentonite, particularly sodium bentonite, is a swelling clay that excels at absorbing. When used externally—such as in a horse poultice, wound cream, or hoof pack—it effectively draws out excess fluid, infection, bacteria, toxins, and contaminants. It also improves circulation to the area, increasing blood flow and oxygen to cells and speeding up healing.
Because of its fine particle size and loosely bound ions, bentonite also has an uncanny ability to seek out, bind, and eliminate heavy metals, damaging toxins and pollutants inside the body—like those unwanted and often undetected aflatoxins and mycotoxins in horse feed.
This National Institutes of Health (NIH) article notes, “Animal feeding studies have demonstrated that clay additives, such as bentonites, can bind aflatoxins in ingested feed and reduce or eliminate the toxicity.”
When clay is ingested, it travels through the body looking for bad guys—toxins, impurities, pathogens—to bind to. Clay particles are like magnets. They have a negatively charged surface, while most toxins and impurities carry a positive charge.
Clay is constantly hunting for that other half—positively charged impurities or toxins—to bind to, to become charged. Once united, those molecules stay together, allowing toxins to be carried out of the body. This process is known as “adsorption.”
Bentonite clay has a third valuable characteristic: it’s packed with beneficial trace minerals. That’s because its absorbing ability allows it to soak up and capture valuable nutrients in the environment where it lives.
For example, the sodium bentonite in Redmond Daily Gold horse digestive supplement was born from volcanic ash that settled into an ancient seabed in Utah, USA. It contains a huge spectrum of bioavailable sea minerals horses need for better health. (See the complete list of trace minerals in Redmond bentonite clay.)
We’ve covered the unique physical properties of bentonite. Now let’s explore the health benefits horses can receive from ingesting clay or having it applied topically.
Humans and animals have intentionally eaten earthy substances like clay since ancient times. Every horse eats soil and clay in some amount every day. It’s a natural part of their diet! But some horses specifically seek it out. Ever wondered why?
This NIH study sheds some light. The study found when bentonite is ingested internally, it can:
Redmond customers who use Daily Gold (pure sodium bentonite clay digestive supplement) for horses also report it:
A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science showed bentonite mineral clay buffered acid and improved diverse microbiome in dairy cows fed a high-starch diet. These diets, which are rich in grains, increase gut dysbiosis and systemic health disorders in horses and cows.
A study by West Virginia University found that Redmond sodium bentonite neutralizes hindgut acid in cattle just as effectively as sodium bicarbonate, with these added health benefits:
Bentonite clay is also used externally on horses. Mix it with water to make a paste or poultice or purchase it already hydrated and mixed. Apply the clay generously to your horse’s skin or hooves to:
We’ve covered some of the valuable health benefits of bentonite clay for horses. But are there any dangers or negative side effects to be aware of? While there are no known serious side effects to using therapeutic amounts of bentonite clay, some people and animals have gotten sick from consuming too much. Those instances are rare, however, when following recommended guidelines for use.
This advice from the previously cited NIH study seems fair: "Generally, it sounds that like any other drug, big doses of bentonite can have some side effects and thereby it is necessary to use a therapeutic dose of this mineral in diseases."
If you have concerns about feeding clay to your horse, the answers below may help resolve them. If you have questions that aren’t covered, contact us at Redmond! We’re happy to help.
Bentonite does often contain lead—which is found abundantly in all parts of our environment. However, how much lead is present in bentonite differs by the deposit the clay originates from.
The U.S. Pharmacopoeia limits for lead in bentonite clay products is 40 parts per million (ppm). Check with the manufacturer to determine how much lead is in your horse’s bentonite product.
If you feed Redmond Daily Gold or any other Redmond bentonite product, you can feel confident lead toxicity is not a risk. Redmond clay contains lead levels of around 0.38 ppm. That is far below the allowed amount!
Did You Know? It’s an interesting juxtaposition that bentonite contains lead but is also effective at removing heavy metals, including lead, from the body. Note this from the NIH study: “In pigs, the feeding supplementation of montmorillonite for 100 days reduced lead concentration in blood, brain, liver, bone, kidney and hair.” The study concluded, “Generally, it seems that bentonite is a reliable treatment for metal poisoning.”
Since clay excels at absorbing, where do its capabilities end? Can it also absorb vitamins and minerals in a horse’s body?
The same NIH article cited above provides insight: “While bentonite can absorb many organic and inorganic materials in (the) GI tract, it is reported not to affect mineral metabolism and absorption.”
The article concludes that bentonite actually improves nutrient absorption by increasing good gut flora activity.
Q. Will Bentonite Bind Other Equine Supplements or Pharmaceuticals?
Other supplements containing natural ingredients are safe to feed with bentonite—and their absorption may even be enhanced. However, erring on the side of caution, when giving your horse pharmaceuticals that may contain chemicals, we do recommend feeding them opposite of ingested bentonite supplements.
Are you ready to share the health benefits of bentonite clay with your horse? Redmond has your partner covered from head to hoof! Our proprietary sodium bentonite clay is sourced exclusively from a protected deposit in Utah, USA. It has powerful therapeutic properties to boost your horse’s health inside and out. Explore our bentonite product lineup below.
Promote optimal daily gut stability and wellbeing. Daily Gold digestive supplement is available in bentonite clay powder or pellets to best meet your horse's preference.
The Stress Relief Syringe is also easy to administer and excellent for relieving acute digestive episodes or soothing before traveling or competing.
Alleviate pain and promote peak performance. Red Edge horse poultice never dries out in the bucket. And the fragrant peppermint scent will delight you and your horse!
Promote swift and complete healing. First Aid for Horses wound cream is a must-have in your barn and saddlebag to protect and heal horse injuries.
Learn all about Redmond's ancient bentonite clay deposit and how Daily Gold helps horses.
Incorporating natural bentonite clay supplements into your horse's care routine is a simple yet effective way to support overall well-being. From improving digestion to promoting a healthy coat and rapid healing, bentonite offers a range of incredible benefits that can enhance your horse's quality of life. Click below to purchase Redmond products today and experience the benefits of bentonite for horses!
© Redmond Equine 2023. All rights reserved.
Spring Horse Care: 11 Tips to Get Ready for...
Poultice for Horses: How to Reduce Swelling in...
A Redmond Story: Rebecca's Horses Showed Signs of...