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Pleun Broeren
12 maart 2024 Reading time 2 minutes

Omega oil for horses

Nowadays, more and more people are wondering whether it is necessary to supplement their horse's diet with supplements such as oils. Adding fats to the standard diet of a horse has several advantages, but is not always necessary and depends on other food sources. Certain essential fats may already be present in your horse's diet. Fresh grass, for example, is rich in omega 3 and concentrate often contains sufficient omega 6 (because it is the most common fatty acid in cereals).

Why omega oil for your horse?

 There are three different types of fatty acids: omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9. Omega 3 and omega 6 are considered essential fatty acids, which means that the body cannot produce them itself but is dependent on supply from the diet. These fatty acids have various health benefits for the horse's body. Fatty acids protect healthy tissues, cells and organs. They help with digestion, the production of red blood pigment and the absorption of proteins. Fatty acids also have an anti-inflammatory effect, help with the defence against infections, muscle building and recovery and contribute to a healthy coat and hooves. There are also studies which show that it contributes to the production of healthy sperm, making stallions more fertile on the basis of omega 3. In addition, foals are said to experience less stress after weaning by eating foods rich in fatty acids.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 for your horse: what to look out for?

As discussed above, there are three types of omega fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9. These different fatty acids each have a different effect. Omega 3 works as an antioxidant, has an anti-inflammatory effect and increases the resistance and general health of your horse. A horse with an inflammation such as summer eczema can certainly use an omega 3 supplement. Omega 6 fatty acids have a positive effect on the coat and joints of horses. A poor coat and reduced resistance are therefore signs of a deficiency in essential fatty acids. But a horse can also take in too much omega 6; a surplus can in fact have a pro-inflammatory effect, which is of course undesirable. Finally, omega 9 fatty acids contribute to a healthy hormone balance. A special fact about omega 9 is that horses can produce it themselves.

To ensure that your horse is getting the right ratio of fatty acids, it is important to map out which other feed your horse is getting. In general, a ratio of omega 3, 6 and 9 equal to 2:1:1 is recommended. Horses that eat more fresh grass, for example when they are outside in summer, naturally get more omega 3. When grass is dried into hay, most of the omega 3 is lost. Grain-based feeds such as muesli and pellets, on the other hand, often contain vegetable oils such as sunflower oil. Vegetable oils naturally contain a lot of omega 6, which can lead to your horse getting an excess of omega 6 and a shortage of omega 3. Linseed oil is a perfect alternative that is high in omega 3 and can therefore be used to balance the fatty acids.

Fish oil or omega oil for your horse

It depends on your horse and its current diet which type of oil supplement is most suitable.  A general omega oil containing omega 3, 6 and 9 could be a good choice. However, depending on the horse's diet, an oil with a higher percentage of omega 3 may be more appropriate. Horses that get a lot of concentrated feed and hardly have any or no fresh grass available in the winter months can have an omega 3 deficiency. These are mainly sport horses. Research has shown that sport horses that are given omega 3 supplements show positive effects. For instance, they measured lower cholesterol levels and a lower heart rate during exercise. In the longer term, this results in less acidification of the muscles and a better focus.

Linseed oil, rapeseed oil and fish oil are examples of oils that contain a higher percentage of omega 3. The advantage of fish oil is that it contains special forms of omega 3 acids (namely EPA and DHA) that can be used directly by the horse without first having to be converted in the body, which is much more efficient. An important disadvantage of fish oil for horses is that its tastiness is often a problem for our picky horses.

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