It is only in the past number of years that horse owners have been using fat or oil in their horse’s diets. As fat is relatively rare in forage for horses it may seem to many an unnatural source of energy. But recent research has noted the nutritional benefits for the equine athlete. With many conditions been associated with starch laden diets i.e. tying up, gastric issues, cushing’s, laminitis and joint problems in young horses. Other means of fuelling the horse for performance was undertaken.
It is accepted universally the advantages of feeding fat or oil by researchers, riders, vets and has focused the attention of leading researchers to investigate what is the best oil suitable for the equine. The main focus point of the investigation were the two principle Omegas, Omega 3 and Omega 6. The Omega 3 derives alpha-Iinolenic acid (ALA) and Omega6 originates from Linoleic acid (LA). Both (ALA) and (AL) are both considered “essential fatty acids” both vitally important and must be consumed as they are not created by the horse itself. Omega 3 can be divided again into another two groups (EPA) and (DHA).
Both EPA and DHA may not be found naturally in horses. But the main source is derived from cold water fish (fish oil). Another source which is more tasteful than fish oil is flaxseed (linseed) oil as an Omega3 source.
The main source of Omega 6 fatty acids is LA and these are commonly found from the oil of seeds and grain. Both corn oil and sunflower oil contain large amounts of LA
The Balancing Act 3 versus 6
For the true benefit of the oil for the body to use correctly, there must be a balance of the fatty acids. Both oils have different effects on the inflammatory process, cell membrane stability, and development of the nervous system, oxygen transfer and immune system
Research has pointed out the effects and benefits of Omega3 and Omega 6 ratio and how some practices have uncovered some unwanted trends.
The Omega Benefit
Equine researchers have recently studied the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and the effectiveness for performance horses and the studies revealed
: Performance horses were studied revealing reduced signs of pulmonary induced haemorrhage (EIPH) pulmonary inflammation and joint irritation
: Omega 3 fatty acid were found to help blood plasma and also red blood cells which may impact with the inflammation process
: Breeding stallions were also seen having benefits in the quality of the sperm and increase spermatozoa in the semen. Broodmares passed the essential fatty acid in their milk and foals were found to have better immune systems than foals without the Omega 3 diet
Where to Look for Omegas
All feeds have varying levels of Omega 3 & 6 from manufactures. Rich in Omega 6 are Corn Oil, Sunflower Oil Canola Oil, Safflower Oil, increased use with high grain diets may unbalance the diets Omega 3: 6 Ratio.
Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids: Fish oil from the cold water species and flaxseed. Fish oil is a direct source of EPA and DHA , but has been found difficult with its flavour with its equine clients. While Flaxseed on the other hand provides ALA which the horses can convert to EPA and DHA , with less problems on the taste test.
Pegus Horse Feed supplies 3 different sources of Omega 3 XLINT (flaxseed jelly) , Karron Oil and pure Linseed Oil.
Horses that are been fed high levels of grain in their diets, broodmares and performance horses are perfect for the re –addressing any ratio issues that may be occurring with current feed plan benefitting from supplementation of Omega 3 fatty . For more information on diet support contact www.pegus.ie diet request.