Are Fats Good For My Horse?
“Fat is Good for my Horse” – Really?
The GAIN Equine Nutrition range contains many products with high energy levels and a good proportion of that energy is coming from high quality vegetable oils. However, a question I am regularly asked is ‘why is fat good for my horse’? I hope the information here will help explain the benefits of the inclusion of fats/oils in equine diets.
At this point, it has been well documented how energy rich fats/oils have over two times as much energy as cereals and horses digest and absorb them well. They are broken down into fatty acids in the digestive system and are used to fuel slow steady work.
Fats/oils in the horses diet are also essential to ensure absorption of fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,K and fat in the diet provides the essential fatty acids that have functions ranging from supporting immune function to improving inflammatory response in horses.
What are the benefits of fat for my horse?
- Fats/oils are a safe and effective way to meet increased energy demands and to increase the energy density of the diet. On the feed label look at the Oil % when comparing products from different manufacturers.
- Fats/oils help to keep the horses coat and hooves in good condition. Many horse owners will notice a huge difference in the physical appearance of their horse when they switch from low oil to a high oil feed.
- It is a ‘cool’ energy source as less heat is generated when utilising fat/oils as an energy source versus starch/non structural carbohydrates. It is also ‘cool’ from the point of view that the energy from it is released at a slow steady rate make it suitable as an energy source for ‘hot headed’ or ‘fizzy’ horses.
- Horses fed fat or diets high in oil accumulate less lactic acid in their muscles when exercising intensely. This in turn helps to delay the onset of fatigue and also helps the muscles to recover more quickly from strenuous exercise.
- Horses with particular muscular disorders have been shown to respond well to high fat diets. Replacing much of the energy coming from starch or cereals with fats and ‘super’ fibres is very beneficial to horses who suffer from Tying Up and is effective for those who suffer from metabolic disorders. GAIN Freedom is the product in our range most suited for such horses/ponies.
Are there any drawbacks to feeding high fat/oil diets to horses?
When manufacturing high oil diets we need to ensure that there are adequate antioxidants present to prevent rancidity. Likewise if you want to topdress with fats/oils ensure you use a stabilised source. Once a high oil diet is introduced gradually to your horse or pony there should be no issues with digestive upsets. In the GAIN Equine Nutrition range we use only the highest quality sources of oil including soya and linseed oil, we also distribute a stabilised rice bran called ‘Infinity’ which contains almost 20% fat and is balanced for Ca:P ratios.
Joanne Hurley is a nutrition specialist with GAIN Equine Nutrition. She holds a Masters in Animal Nutrition and Production from UCD. She is based at GAIN Equine Nutrition Office in Purcellsinch Industrial Park, Co. Kilkenny