As a horse owner we are almost pre-conditioned to know that feeding an oil to our horses is a good idea, but when we delve into the reasons why, most come up short beyond the fact it is good for their coat. We also find that when asked owners are not entirely sure which oil is best to feed and why. Most commonly they reach for a bottle of vegetable oil on the supermarket shelf when they want to increase calorie intake or add sheen to a coat, but is this the best way to do it?
When discussing oils you will hear the term Omega-3 and Omega-6 a lot, these are fatty acids and are important inclusions in the horses diet. Understanding these terms will help when reading the label to see which oil is best for your horse.
While Omega-3 fatty acids aid the anti-inflammatory response in the body and have positive health benefits, Omega-6 fatty acids aid the pro-inflammatory processes. Some human medical research suggests that excessive levels of Omega-6, relative to Omega-3, may increase the probability of a number of diseases. Therefore, it is advisable that while shopping for an oil suitable for your horse you look for one with at least twice as much Omega-3 as Omega-6.
Before we decide which type of oil to feed we need to understand why we feed oil and what the many benefits are. There are many advantages to feeding oil to horses. The energy content of oils is greater than that of cereals. Therefore, for those horses that are in hard work, have reduced appetite or suffer from metabolic conditions, such as laminitis, may benefit from an inclusion of oil in the diet.
Advantages to feeding an oil
Some advantages to feeding an oil are as follows:
Skin and Coat – feeding an oil is excellent for skin and coat condition, it is advisable for an oil to be fed to horses who suffer from conditions such as dry flaky skin or a dull coat. Omega-3 supplementation is thought to be beneficial with some allergy related conditions such as sweet itch, while the oil helps to avoid the irritated skin from drying out.
Respiratory Health – research carried out in 2014 proved favorable for the inclusion of Omega-3 in the diet for horses who suffer from inflammatory airway disease. The additional benefit of adding an oil to the feed resulted in the feed being coated by the oil reducing the inhalation of excess dust.
Digestive Health and Gastric Ulcers – including an oil in a horses diet is not only of benefit to help keep feces moist and maintain digestive transit, but it may also prove beneficial for horses who suffer from gastric ulcers, where a total diet low in starch and high in oil is advised.
Tying Up – recommendations for feeding horses who suffer from Tying -Up/PPSM include a low starch high oil diet, the inclusion of an oil in the ration of these horses can help in the management of these conditions without having to reduce calorie intake for performance horses.
Joint Health – there are multiple studies in both human and animal promoting the inclusion of a balanced Omega oil in the diet to help with joint inflammation.
Fertility – the inclusion of Omega-3 in the diet for both mares and stallions is of benefit for reproductive health. Multi species research indicates that supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids improves follicular growth, influences hormone concentrations, enhances embryo quality, and overall fertility.
Different types of oils commonly fed to horses and their levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6
So now you are armed with a little more knowledge on oils and their role within the diet its now time to choose one which will suit the needs of your horse.
Foran Equine’s Karron Oil is a high-quality linseed emulsion, emulsification improves the bioavailability of the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This increase in bioavailability allows for better absorption and utilization within the body. As shown above Linseed Oil is a great source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 and in the correct ratio; the omega balance in linseed oil is 4:1, which is the same ratio as in fresh pasture grass. This natural balance of omega oils is different in preserved forages such as hay, where omega 6 levels are higher. In stabled horses supplementing with linseed oil helps redress the omega 3:6 imbalance associated with reduced pasture turnout.