Feeding Healthy Fat to the Horse. It is NOT only for Hard Keepers

October 15, 2019

How do good fats benefit the horse? There are many benefits to supplementing good fat, including reduced joint and tissue inflammation and the development and maintenance of healthy immune and digestive systems. However, it really starts at the cellular level. Every cell in the body is surrounded by fat and this fat is a direct reflection of what is provided in the diet, which is why healthy fat is critical.

When quantities of omega-3 fatty acids are present in the diet, they are integrated into the membrane. 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. Therefore, by providing a good source of fat in the diet, we can directly influence cell development and function, and ultimately every system in the body. 

Can Feeding Healthy Fats Increase Calm Behavior in the Horse? 

Most horse owners know that carbohydrate rich grains contribute to energetic or “hot” behavior in some horses. Adding a supplement that provides energy from fat has been a way of producing “cool” energy in those horses that get hot from high sugar and/or high carbohydrate feeds. Research has shown that horses fed a high fat diet were less reactive than those fed traditional high carbohydrate/grain diets. In several studies, fat supplemented diets have even resulted in the decrease of stress hormone levels.

One of the reasons that fat may have a calming effect is because of lecithin. Lecithin is a fat emulsifier that is naturally produced in the liver. Lecithin breaks down the fat molecule into smaller particles so they can be absorbed through the cell membrane. Lecithin has been shown to increase production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter can help decrease the startle reflex and overall reactivity.

It is well known that a nervous temperament is one of the factors contributing to horses with recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (RER) or tying up. It is also well known that higher fat and fiber diets help in the management of horses with RER, possibly because of the “cool” energy or calming effect of a high fat diet. In addition, PSSM horses often do extremely well being fed a healthy higher fat diet.

The Horse’s Body needs Fat. 

Fats are used in the synthesis of steroid hormones and all fat-soluble vitamins (ADEK) are contained within fat. Forage fats are only about 55% digestible; fats from oil are 100% digestible. Supplemental fat in a healthy oil form is obviously far superior to other sources. Once the added fat is ingested by the horse, enzymes called lipases start breaking it down. A majority of fat digestion takes place in the small intestine. After absorption, fats move along to the tissue, liver or elsewhere. What doesn’t get absorbed in the small intestine travels to the hindgut.  This fat continues to protect the gut as it moves along through the digestive system.

A lot of factors like genetics and environment can affect behavior, but reducing starch/grain in the diet can definitely improve a horse’s mental health. Oils have more than twice the calories of grains without the starch overload. They are also easily absorbed from the small intestine. That means feeding less feed to achieve the same caloric density. 

Feeding additional fat can help keep weight on those horses that have been hard keepers. It can be added to the ration to help increase digestible energy without increasing the risk of starch overload. The added bonus is a decrease in excitability and nervousness. It is worth a try for those horses that could use help calming their nervousness. However, remember to allow the horse’s digestive system to adapt to these feeding changes over 7 to 14 days. The key to seeing results is consistent feeding of these healthy dietary fats. 

Healthy Fats with no Chemical Processing

Everything you feed that is pelleted or powdered is chemically and/or heat processed. Our products have no chemical processing. Our soybean oil is organic, non-gmo and even more importantly, cold expeller pressed to protect all the delicate essential fatty acids so the horse can utilize them. In addition the Equine Omega Complete product has 1,200 IU’s of all-natural vitamin E and wild caught, deep water, human grade fish oil, one of the very best sources of Omega 3s for the horse.

It should be noted that horses that are normal weight and in normal work should not gain weight on the maintenance dose of our products. That being said, if your horse needs additional healthy weight you can use our Equine Mega Gain product and/or a loading dose of our Equine Omega Complete product to help achieve a good healthy weight. Then a maintenance dose will help the horse maintain that healthy weight plus all the other benefits.

We invite you to share this information with all your horse educational groups on social media. If you would like to order, have questions or would like a first time order discount, call us at 855-366-8822 or email kathleen@o3animalhealth.com. You can also visit us here.

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