There are many different fat sources for horses: oils, powders, fresh grass, nuts, specific seeds and plants. With so many different sources of fats, it is as important to know the quality of the fat source itself: how is it cultivated, how is it processed. These elements have a profound impact on whether that source of fat will increase stress on the GI tract and the body system at large, or whether it will decrease stress on the GI tract and the body system at large.
Choosing the right fat sources for horses:
Some horses need fat for energy, while some horses need the calories from fat to maintain or gain weight. Horses with specific metabolic imbalances like PSSM and EPSM need fat because they can’t metabolize carbohydrates. Some horses need additional Omega 3’s from fat, and/or vitamin E. Horses with hind gut ulcers need a fat source that provides GLA.
Fats for weight gain or weight maintenance (the hard keepers):
My favorite fat source for these horses is rice bran powder. I am picky about rice bran; I prefer organic, and always check to see what the arsenic levels are. If the rice is grown in California, it tends to be the lowest in arsenic levels. Rice bran also provides fiber and protein (up to 15%). Rice bran oil provides 100% fat. Rice bran, being high in phosphorus, needs to be balanced with a calcium source like timothy or alfalfa pellets/cubes. Rice bran also needs to be balanced with additional omega 3’s because it is high in omega 6’s. I generally don’t go to rice bran oil, as it is highly processed and solvent extracted. However, rice bran oil that is cold pressed is a good choice.
Fats for energy:
My top pick in this category is coconut meal or coconut oil. This is a medium-chain fat so is readily used by the body for muscle and organ energy. Among potential fat sources for horses, it’s a great choice for metabolic animals needing energy, because medium-chain fats are not stored in the body the way long-chain fats are (corn, soy, canola, vegetable oil, rice). The other benefit of coconut meal and coconut oil is lauric acid, which produces 2-mono-lauren, an important immune support component.
Fats for Omega 3:
Chia is my top choice for Omega 3 supplementation from seeds. Chia provides other benefits as well: slows the digestion of carbohydrates (which is especially important for metabolic horses and easy keepers), works like psyllium to remove sand from the GI tract, and provides the amino acid Proline, which is the major constituent of collagen.
Flax is of course a great source of omega 3’s and my second choice in omega 3 supplementation.
If I want to feed a high omega 3 oil my top pick is Camelina Oil.
Camelina oil, also known as “false flax”, not only provides the ideal 2:1 ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6, it also is one of the richest sources of vitamin E: alpha, beta, and gamma tocopherols. Camelina oil is cold pressed, meaning no solvent extraction.
Fat sources for horses with EPSM and PSSM:
A high fat diet is extremely important for horses with metabolic imbalances such as EPSM and PSSM. Some nutritionists recommend cups of corn oil per day. I prefer higher quality oils that have not been processed into the nutritional wasteland. Higher quality oils don’t need to be fed in the high amounts necessary with lower-quality, solvent-extracted oils like corn, vegetable, rice, and soy.
My choice is Camelina oil or Hemp seed oil combined with coconut meal (Cool Stance) or a combination of coconut meal and GMO-free rice bran called Renew Gold.
Hemp seed oil for hind gut ulcers:
Hemp seed oil is one of the few plant sources of GLA (Gamma linolenic acid). The other sources are borage and primrose oil.
GLA plays an important role in the regulation of prostaglandins: lipid compounds that regulate inflammation, hormones, cell growth, and cause constriction or dilation in vascular smooth muscle cells. Misoprotol, a drug commonly used to treat hind gut ulcers is a synthetic prostaglandin. GLA helps regulate prostaglandins by increasing the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin PGE1. Hemp seed oil is cold pressed, and free of solvents.
Vitamin E supplementation:
Once again, Camelina oil stands out for its high content of the vitamin E family of tocopherols. Almonds (sliced or ground), and sunflower seeds are also good choices of vitamin E. Wheat germ oil that is cold pressed is another choice. I often rotate Vitamin E sources to give horses some variety.
I avoid these fat sources for horses:
Corn oil: genetically modified, processed with high heat that causes oxidative damage to the essential fatty acids, and denatures nutrient content; extracted with the neurotoxin hexane. Deodorizing and bleaching the oil after processing reduces the rancid odor.
Soy oil: genetically modified, processed with high heat that causes oxidative damage to the essential fatty acids and destroys nutrient content; extracted with the neurotoxin hexane. Deodorizing and bleaching the oil after processing reduces the rancid odor. Soy is higher in phytoestrogens than almost any other food source. These soy phytoestrogens can disrupt endocrine function.
Vegetable oil: is a blend of genetically modified corn, and genetically modified soy. Processed with high heat that causes oxidative damage to the essential fatty acids, and destroys nutrient content; extracted with the neurotoxin hexane. Deodorizing and bleaching the oil after processing reduces the rancid odor.
Canola oil: genetically modified, processed with high heat that causes oxidative damage to the essential fatty acids, and denatures nutrient content; extracted with the neurotoxin hexane. Deodorizing and bleaching the oil after processing reduces the rancid odor.
Rice grown in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri contains high arsenic content.
Wheat germ oil, solvent extracted: the solvent is hexane and the processing includes high heat. If the label says “Vitamin E fortified” or “added”, that is a clear indication of the denaturing of the oil by solvent extraction. The vitamin E is added after processing since the processing destroys the vitamin E present in the wheat germ itself. Cold pressed and organic wheat germ oil is available.
Quality matters in fat sources for horses:
Cold pressed oils, rice bran from California, sun or kiln-dried coconut meal can be more expensive. However, the effect of higher quality food means less stress to the GI tract; in many cases reduced amounts are needed per feeding, and the horses get the benefits of all the nutrients and co-factors inherent in each of the oils and healthy-fat foods.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.