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DrumRunner 07-27-2012 11:55 AM

Adding Oils to Your Horse's Feed.
I've been thinking about this thread for a few weeks now and this is just going to be a general information thread about what I've learned through personal experience and information that I've gotten from both Purina and Nutrena nutritionists when it comes to adding oils to your horse's feed.

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!

trailhorserider 07-27-2012 12:22 PM

What a nice bit of information you have put together. Thank you!

One question though. I wonder what makes a forage "high quality" in terms of Omega 3 oils? Like for instance, I feed alfalfa. Is that high in Omega 3's?

I had never even thought about the Omega 3's in the hay. Duh! What a good point you make.

It looks like from your chart I would be better off feeding rapeseed oil (which I believe is Canola oil). I am currently feeding soybean oil.

DrumRunner 07-27-2012 12:26 PM

Thank you! I've really been thinking about this thread for a while now and I'm glad I've finally put it together.. I'll probably add more as I go, especially about the roughage quality.. But you're right. I would think that alfalfa would be high in Omega 3 because it's such a "rich" quality hay.. I think a lot of the "high quality" roughage can be based on the different kinds but as well as the freshness and other top qualities of the hay itself.

Laugh. New question for the nutritionists!

verona1016 07-27-2012 03:48 PM

I read somewhere that the omega-3 in grass deteriorates very rapidly once cut and dried into hay. I can't remember where I saw this originally, but did find this article from the The Horse:


A two-year study conducted by Lori K. Warren, PhD, assistant professor of equine nutrition, University of Florida, found that bahiagrass (a warm-season grass common to Florida and the southeast) contained more omega-3 than omega-6 (40-55% of the fat in fresh pasture and 18-35% of the fat in hay is made up of omega-3).
For horses whose forage comes primarily from hay, I think it would be more important to stick with oils with higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratios, while for horses primarily on fresh pasture, it would be less important.

DrumRunner 07-27-2012 04:00 PM

Yeah, I don't doubt that at all. I've sent Purina and Nutrena an email to see what they have to say about it and I'm also going to get in touch with different vets as well as hay farmers in my area. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say about it.

Joe4d 07-27-2012 04:49 PM

I think quite often people tend to chase their tails. Being cheap and buying low quality feeds and hay, then spending a bunch of money on doodads and supplements. Be way better off just buying decent feed to begin with. Quite a few differnt feeds on the market already are low starch/ sugar, higher fats based on flax seed oils, ( the Omega 3 kinds) Sorta takes out the guess work.

Summit Equine Nutrition 07-29-2012 06:16 PM

Most hays tend to be low in omega fatty acids because they are not heat stable and therefore do not survive hay curing. So while good quality fresh pasture is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids I would not rely on hay as a source of omega's. This is similarly true of vitamin E.


Clair Thunes PhD
Independent Equine Nutritionist

DrumRunner 08-02-2012 02:50 PM

Thanks for adding that information Summit, any other details you would like to add about the Omegas? How do you feel about oils when it comes to the different ways oils can add or take away from a horse's diet? Really, I just want to pick your brain.. I'm really curious about all of this.. and if I were able I would LOVE to finish my current degree then possibly study to become an equine nutritionist as well..

AQHA 08-02-2012 02:57 PM


Originally Posted by Summit Equine Nutrition (Post 1621215)
Most hays tend to be low in omega fatty acids because they are not heat stable and therefore do not survive hay curing. So while good quality fresh pasture is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids I would not rely on hay as a source of omega's. This is similarly true of vitamin E.


Clair Thunes PhD
Independent Equine Nutritionist

So then.... how much oil do we need to supply each day?

DrumRunner 08-02-2012 03:00 PM

I'm actually not sure if we'll get a response? She hasn't been online since this post and this is her only post... I'm still waiting to hear back from Nutrena..

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