Fat In the Equine Diet
Horses have evolved to consume mainly fibre and their diets would contain very little fat if they were left to their own devices. However, in these modern times of horse ownership, the demands that we put on our horses requires a greater level of energy and we want to ensure that they maintain good condition all year round, rather than dropping off in the Winter.
Horses are able to tolerate a diet containing 15% fat, though usually they would get much less than this. For many of us, oil is an important component of our horse’s diets. We feed our horses oil for various reason including:
- To provide energy
- To maintain condition
- To promote weight gain
- To improve skin and coat health
- To ensure they’re getting sufficient omega fatty acids.
Omegas & Horses
Omega fatty acids are an important constituent of the diet and horse’s cannot make them themselves, so they must be ingested through the diet. Most equine diets are quite high in Omega -6 fatty acids and low in Omega 3 fatty acids. This presents a problem because Omega-6 fatty acids contain elements that increase inflammation. It is important that there are sufficient omega-3 fatty acids in the diet to balance the omega-6 and reduce inflammation (and in turn, associated health concerns). Oils are a good source of omega fatty acids but the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 is very important.
Traditionally, horse owners have reached for a cheap and easy to source oil such as vegetable or corn oil and happily fed it to their horses, not realising the imbalance in omegas they were providing. Corn oil in particular is very high in Omega-6 and contains almost no Omega-3, having a problematic inflammatory impact. For an almost perfect balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, linseed/flax oil has proven itself to be the oil of choice. In addition to having an ideal omega balance, linseed oil is very palatable for horses and also very digestible for the equine gut.
Linseed Oil for Horses
For horses, linseed oil is an ideal fat source because of its nutritional profile. It’s also versatile in how it can be fed. Beyond being ingested as an oil, it can be provided in the form of micronised linseed, a crushed form of flax seeds. There are considered a high oil feed material. It is a palatable, easy to feed meal which make a great base for the diet of an older or condition compromised horse. Whatever form it is fed in, the fat from flaxseeds is the ‘gold standard’ and will provide a range of health benefits beyond boosting condition and supporting weight gain/ maintenance.
Oils You Shouldn’t Feed Your Horse
There are so many oils available to feed to horses, but they aren’t all what they seem. As mentioned above, corn oil and vegetable oil are particularly high in omega-6, contributing to an imbalance in the diet. Soya oil is cheap but many horses are very sensitive to soya and it can cause ‘fizzy’ behaviour (it’s also very high in omega-6). It can be tempting to reach for cod liver oil in an attempt to ensure high levels of omega-3 are being fed, however it’s important to remember that horses are herbivores. Therefore, fish derived sources of fat, including cod liver oil should be avoided.
Though it can be on the expensive side, linseed oil is the most suitable and beneficial oil for horses - and a little goes a long way! In order to ensure the highest level of nutrients in the oil, try to find cold pressed linseed oil rather than one that has ben heat treated.
Alpha Gold contains cold pressed linseed oil and provides an ideal combination of fats, formulated into a powerful joint supplement suitable for all horses.