There are many oils that are commonly fed to horses. These include corn oil, soy oil, canola oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and vegetable oil (a blend of corn and soy bean oils). Hemp oil for horses is a relative newcomer to the group, but it has a traditional use as a healthy, beneficial oil that dates back to the Ming Dynasty.
Hemp oil (or hemp seed oil) is a unique oil, in that in contains all the identified essential fatty acids known as the omegas. It provides not only Omega 3 and Omega 6, but Omega 9 as well. But what really sets hemp oil for horses apart from the other oils is that it provides GLA: gamma linolenic acid.
GLA is a regulator of the prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances that act as chemical messengers inside the cell. Their physiological effects include regulation of inflammation. There are two predominant prostaglandins: PGE-1 the anti inflammatory prostaglandin and PGE-2 the pro inflammatory prostaglandin. GLA increases production of PGE-1, thus reducing the levels of PGE-2. Misoprostol, a common medication for horses with hind gut ulcers is a synthetic form of PGE-1.
The prostaglandins are also involved in the increased secretion of protective mucus in the GI tract, which makes hemp oil’s GLA an important ingredient for horses with ulcer issues.
Hemp seeds unlike corn, soy or canola are not genetically modified or engineered. These seeds were developed THC-free in Finland, and are grown predominately in Canada, the world’s largest producer of hemp oil.
Hemp Oil for Horses: Performance Benefits
Dr. Tim Ober, USET veterinarian, conducted a small study in Florida in 2009 on hemp oil for the high performance jumpers. What he found was that hemp oil helped to maintain muscle glycogen reserves, thus reducing muscle glycogen depletion and fatigue.
In a necroscopic study (Pellegini, 2005) of 545 horses, 44% of the non-performance horses and 65% of the performance horses had colonic ulcers.
The medications commonly prescribed for colonic ulcers in horses are: Sulcralfate and Misoprositol. These medications are highly effective and each has different actions in the body. Sulcralfate is a sucrose-aluminium complex that binds to the mucosa, creating a physical barrier that impairs the diffusion of hydrochloric acid, and helps to stimulate bicarbonate output (stomach buffer) with mucosal protection.
Misoprositol is a synthetic form of Prostaglandin 1 (PGE1), which can increase the amount of protective/anti inflammatory prostaglandins in the GI tract.
Hemp oil’s GLA can be used to slowly transition horses off of Misoprositol, and be used daily to maintain a healthy balance and protective balance of PGE1 in the GI tract.
The Processing of Oils:
Oils like coconut oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil and fish oil are predominately cold pressed. This method preserves the natural antioxidants like vitamin E and Vitamin A as beta carotene.Corn oil, soy oil, and canola oil are heat processed at temps as high as 180 degrees and then put through a hexane solvent bath. Hexane is a by-product of crude petroleum and is classified as a neurotoxin. The oils are then neutralized with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). The next stage of processing is bleaching which removes chlorophyll and the carotenoids. The final process is deodorization, which uses pressurized steam at 500 degrees or more. Because Nature’s antioxidants like vitamin E and Vitamin A are destroyed in this process, additives like BHT and BHA are then added to the oil to provide stability.
Cold pressed soy oil and canola oil are available at some health food stores.
Higher quality oils:
The higher the quality of an oil, the less you have to feed. Typically coconut and hemp oil for horses are fed at ½ the amount of corn or soy or canola oils. Hemp oil is typically fed at one ounce twice a day. High-performance horses may require 2-3 ounces twice a day.
Oils are important sources of energy for horses, and for the essential fatty acids. High-quality hemp oil for horses further provides GLA, antioxidants, and the ability to reduce muscle glycogen fatigue. Because it is not genetically modified, and is cold pressed, it can support superior health in horses.