Whether you are adding oil for weight gain or you would just like to add a healthy shine to your horse's coat there are a lot of different key factors that come into play that you should consider when adding an oil. It isn't just a quick run to the grocery store or feed store to pick something up that may work. Oils, if not researched, can do serious damage to your horse's health. Adding different oils can bring more calories into play without bringing the attitude change that sugars and starches can cause.
When it comes to oils there are oils that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and oils that are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Both have different good and bad qualities. Do your research before making decisions!
There are many people out there that try to stay away from the oils that are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. The Omega 6 oils are an inflammatory and can cause more damage than good in some cases. It can also cause an injured horse to experience more pain and heal slowly.
The primary source of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is LA derived from the oils of seeds and grains. Corn, sunflower, and safflower oil contain abundant quantities of LA. Arachidonic acid (AA) is an intermediate in the metabolism of LA to the various cytokines termed "pro-inflamatory"
"The Omega 6 fatty acids found in fat will produce prostaglandins that send pain signals from tissue to the brain, and that encourage the inflammation of injured tissue. This is a necessary response in a horse if it hurts itself, as it tells the horse to take it easy on the injury and the inflammation serves to protect unaffected surrounding tissue. But too much of this reaction can mean that a horse experiences too much pain upon injury, and that the inflammation lasts a long time."
Omega 3 oils are the preferred oils when it comes to adding oils to your horses feed. The Omega 3 fatty acids in fat produce prostaglandins that send tissue repair signals and that increase the anti-inflammatory response. The prostaglandins, in effect, quicken the healing process.
"Omega 3 oils modulate cell wall flexibility, immune function, inflammatory
Responses and are a potent source of anti-oxidants. Clinical investigations in man and animals have demonstrated a reduction in cholesterol, clotting abnormalities and blood pressure when Omega 3 oils are returned to the diet. Other studies highlight the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids in reducing pain and inflammation in patients with degenerative joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout and spondyloarthritis. "
That said - After doing a lot of my own research as well as talking to multiple vets, Nutrena, and Purina I've come to the conclusion that neither oil is really "Bad" or "Good" for a horse IF you make sure to balance the oils. That is the absolute biggest key factor that comes into play when adding oils to your horse's diet. Too much of either fatty acid could be a bad thing, both Omega 3 and 6 oils are found to have good effects on a horse's diet.. You just have to make sure you balance the 3 and 6 ratio.
One of the things that really threw me is that a TON of horse owners use and have great results with Rice Bran Oil, myself included, and after researching rice bran oil a little I found out that it is high in Omega 6 fatty acids. So why is it so beneficial for horses if too many Omega 6 fatty acids are "Bad" for a horse...and this turned out to be my answer after talking to different sources.. Roughage, a horse with really good roughage is already getting a higher amount of Omega 3 fatty acids than their in take of Omega 6 fatty acids. I hadn't thought of that.. So, here I am staying away from Omega 6 oils because they are "bad", feeding oils that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, and actually doing the opposite of what I wanted to do..I was feeding too many Omega 3 and not enough of Omega 6.. Huh, I hadn't thought about that.
As long as your horse is getting high quality roughage it is great to feed rice bran or another oil with high Omega 6 ratio than Omega 3. While that is great news for a lot of people there are people everywhere that just can't get that good quality roughage, those people need to stay away from the Omega 6 oils and make sure they have their horses on a complete feed while adding an Omega 3 oil if they want to add an oil to their horse's diet.
I will say, out of every single source I spoke to they ALL said to stay away from corn oil and Sunflower seed oil..It is terrible for horses.
The oils that were reccommended to me are-
Rice Bran oil
Flax Seed oil
Fish oil - Which is said to be the best, but not for picky eaters
If you are going to add an oil to your horses feed I would consult your vet before making ANY decisions. Just because one oil works great for one horse does not mean it's going to work great for another. Each horse has it's own dietary needs that have to be met. You have to consider your feed, supplements, roughage, the all over health of your horse, and what exactly your end goal is for adding the oil.
I'm adding charts for my "visual" people out there..and just because I like them :)
I'm going to add a few link to articles and pages with good information that were very beneficial to me.
Oils for Horses
Performance Feeding - EO-3
Please feel free to add any information, articles, research, or opinions you have!