A Healthy Horse can be a Derby Horse: Essential Fatty Acids

May 4, 2019

O3 Animal Health

While there are multiple proven benefits of essential fatty acid (Omega) support for the horse, we wanted to highlight four particularly important benefits for the racehorse in light of the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

Increased Blood and Oxygen Flow

First, let’s look at the benefit of the increase blood and oxygen flow to the horse.

Omega-3 fatty acids increase the flexibility of red blood cell membranes. Flexible cell membranes may aid in efficiency of blood flow and delivery of oxygen during a hard work out. When horses exercise, heart rate and the density of the cells increase and blood becomes more viscous (thicker), making the flexibility of red blood cells that much more vital for proper oxygen delivery. Even top racehorses are conditioned aerobically, or “with oxygen,” at a slow and steady level.


Proper Cell Development and Function

Second there is the all important proper cell development and function.

Every cell in the equine body is surrounded by fat. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for incorporation into the cell membrane. When greater quantities of omega-3 fatty acids are present in the diet, they are integrated into the membrane at the expense of omega-6 fatty acids. As part of the cell membrane, omega-3 fatty acids increase fluidity, flexibility, permeability and the activity of enzymes that bind to the membrane. Omega-3 fatty acids have a key function in the formation, growth and regeneration of cells and in the transmission of cell signals throughout life.


Increased Energy Density

Even though horses do not naturally eat increased amounts of fat in the wild, fat is a highly digestible, safe energy source. Fat has 2.25 times the energy by weight as carbohydrate. It is an alternative energy source for racehorse rations that provides calories in a concentrated form. Feeding fat provides a means to eliminate a portion of carbohydrate from the diet as a source of calories. Increasing the energy density of a racehorse diet without feeding too much grain can be a challenge. Ideally, racehorses should receive small meals throughout the day and the amount of grain fed should not exceed the amount of forage offered. With its increased energy density, fat serves as a means to increase the amount of calories in a single meal without dramatically increasing volume.

Reduced Joint and Tissue Inflammation

Traumatic joint disease comprises a number of conditions that develop out of trauma. Racing is hard on the horses’ joints and can lead to a state of damaging inflammation. Prolonged exposure to inflammation perpetuates the cycle of cartilage destruction within the joint and can lead to arthritic conditions even in young horses. Deterioration of cartilage is often accompanied by changes in the bone and soft tissue.  Once inside the body, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have hormone-like properties. With the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the diet, particularly the long chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), overall production of pro-inflammatory molecules decreases while the production of anti-inflammatory molecules increases. In addition to proper rehab practices, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can reduce the overall inflammatory status and give the joint and its surrounding tissues time to heal.  Supplementing your horse with good fat can also prevent joint damage by counteracting the cycle of inflammation before it has time to cause any serious damage.

To view the other documented benefits of essential fatty acid, we welcome you to visit our website at www.o3animalhealth.com.

If you are a race trainer or breeder and are interested in a product test of our product, please get in touch by emailing kathleen@o3animalhealth.com

We would like to wish all the horses, breeders and owners best of luck in this years Kentucky Derby!

Always check with Past the Wire for the latest horse racing news…..

Nice score King! @jonathanstettin Well played with the 4 singled on one ticket. 2 times! Big congrats.

Michael R. Snow (@theWynnDough) View testimonials