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Do Horses Need Extra Fat?

carol shwetz

dvm

Benefits of flaxseed supplementation include stimulation of the immune system, relief from arthritis, reduction of inflammation, and improved skin and hair coat.

Feeding sources of fat to horses is currently one of the most fashionable topics in modern horse-keeping nutrition. This is a rather peculiar topic since natural horse diets are very low in fat, typically less than three to four per cent by weight.

By nature, horses are not meant to deal with high fats in their diet. The grazing horse finds no plants containing concentrated fats in any terrain. Since horses lack a gall bladder they have a limited ability to process large amounts of fat. The gall bladder is a small pouch attached to the liver and is responsible for secreting stored bile. Bile is necessary for fat digestion.

Allowing horses to graze pastures that have come to maturity provides them with the three to four per cent fat content they require. As well, the grass hay that has been harvested following seed head maturity is a prime source of balanced fats in a horse’s diet.

Horses benefit tremendously from the healthy balance of essential fatty acids like omega-3, 6, and 9 in grass heads and seeds from various plants. These seed heads provide the ideal fat source for horses.

Supplementing a horse’s diet with flaxseed is another way to provide high-quality fats. Flax seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is found to enhance the overall health of horses.

Benefits of flaxseed supplementation include stimulation of the immune system, relief from arthritis, reduction of inflammation, and improved skin and hair coat.

Flaxseed is best fed in small amounts of not more than one-quarter to one-half cup per day. It is best to use in moderation. Raw flaxseed can be purchased in 40-to 50-pound bags at feed stores and is generally inexpensive.

Information that continues to evolve from human nutrition tells us that fats are a vital component to a healthy diet. It is becoming apparent that the type of fat as well as its amount are equally important. Vegetable oils such as corn oil, soya oil, and canola oil are refined processed products. A horse’s body and for that matter the human body has not seen these types of oils as a food source for millions of years. Does the body recognize these oils as nutritional sources? And if so how do these unfamiliar sources of fats and oils influence the body?

Recent advances in the studies of cellular pathways show that when the body uses processed fats, oils and sugars as building material for the cell’s wall the structure of the walls change. They become hard and receptors in the cell wall become less responsive to hormonal messengers. This then sets the stage for a myriad of metabolic derangements and chronic degenerative illnesses.

Perhaps this information from human medicine can be of value in keeping our horses healthy by recognizing that nature already has a plan and aligning with that plan is the wisest path.

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