The use of fat in horse feeding has a long history. Adding fat to horses' feed ensures that it helps animals gain weight and also improves coat quality.
Around a hundred years ago, corn oil was still an often used food supplement for horses to provide them with fat. It was readily available and the horses liked it. Flaxseed, boiled down to soften the skin, was also used to provide horses with both protein and fat.
Vegetable oil as standard
The use of vegetable oil as an energy source in horse feed has become standard today. In days-gone-by products containing animal fat were used - however, this is no longer the case, as mainly horses suffered from taste and perception problems as a result.
In terms of the energy value that vegetable oil provides, all common oils are relatively similar. Recently, however, it has become important to take into account the content of essential fatty acids in the oil, especially the content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, when choosing oils. As with many things, balance and quantity are important.
The optimal ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 oil
Because horses are grazing herbivores, they are used to a limited amount of fat (3-5%). The animals find Omega-3 fatty acids mainly in fresh pastures. In contrast, oils from grains and seeds tend to have higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids.
To date, scientists have unfortunately not yet been able to determine the optimal ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for our horses. However, research on different species suggests that an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio between 2:1 and 10:1 is acceptable. This also takes into account the higher Omega-3 content of feed and the higher Omega-6 content of cereals and some vegetable oils.
Benefits thanks to Omega-3
Supplementary feeding, however, repeatedly shows various advantages for horses and other animals, including for example:
Improved skin and hair quality
Decreased joint pain
The best sources
Flaxseed, flaxseed oil and soybean oil have proven to be excellent sources of Omega-3 for horses. Chia seeds and the oil made from them could also be a useful source.
Feeds and feed supplements that contain added oil to supplement the naturally contained fat generally have a balanced ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.