Oil and Horses

Although feeding fat to horses is often a topic of debate, recent research indicates that feeding fats containing Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) can provide support not only for skin and hooves, but mental, digestive, reproductive, pulmonary and joint function, as well.

Important for many biological processes in the body, EFAs are required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients, including Vitamins A, D, E, K and the carotenes. EFAs are also critical for the production of hormones and healthy cell membranes.  Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured or synthesized by the horse’s body from any other nutrients.

Horses on pasture eat living plants that contain fatty acids as part of their cell wall structure, as well as seed heads of grasses and other grains that also contain a large amount of essential fatty acids.  Unfortunately, typical equine diets today lack essential fatty acids because grains are processed and hay is dried, thereby damaging the natural fatty acid content that was once abundant.

Types of Fats:

Saturated: solid at room temp.  Mostly animal fats but include coconut and palm kernel oil.

Mono-Unsaturated: liquid at room temp.  Include vegetable fats, rice bran and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fats: liquid at room temp.  All EFA’s are polyunsaturated and include the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats.  

Omega 3: includes alpha linolenic acid – from vegetable fats such as flax and fish oil that contains the more biologically efficient EPA and DHA.

Omega 6: occurs naturally in virtually all vegetable oils, especially soybean oil.  Includes linoleic acid.

Refined vs. Unrefined:

Refined oils: processed and stripped of “impurities” (which can often be the source of valuable nutrients).  A Texas A&M University study, Alteration in the Inflammatory Response in Athletic Horses Fed Diets Containing Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, revealed that refined corn oil was shown to cause an increase in inflammation!

Un-Refined oils: contain natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta carotene, tocotrienols and other tocopherols.  They have a longer shelf life and are more easily digested.  A Texas A&M University study, Alteration in the Inflammatory Response in Athletic Horses Fed Diets Containing Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, revealed that crude unrefined soybean oil supports the body’s normal inflammatory responses in horses.


About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, www.drkellon.com, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition.
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1 Response to Oil and Horses

  1. Susan Hidalgo says:

    Great information. Respect the dedication to animal health. Just started my PPID horse on the fish cold pressed fish oils and E, hoping her joint issues are alleviated. Thanks susan

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