The possibilities to learn more about the benefits of Omega 3 to horses are endless. There are ongoing studies being conducted worldwide, England, Switzerland, Australia, Russia, Canada, Belgium, Italy, USA, and Sweden to name a few, on the benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids to humans, but also to horses. The following are some interesting facts that we hope you enjoy reading and learning about.
The data shows consistent and reproducible beneficial effects for man and animals of omega-3 fatty acids on bone metabolism, bone and joint diseases, gene expression, immuno-competence, and disease resistance. Omega 3 fatty acids have a central role in the maintenance of a healthy body and in the management and prevention of many ‘modern’ disease states.
As herbivores and nomadic grazers, horses are naturally adapted to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) compared to omega-6 fatty acids (LA). The little bit of fat found in forages, particularly fresh pasture, is naturally high in ALA (omega-3) whereas oils from grains and seeds tend to be higher in LA (omega-6).
Omega-3 Benefits Beyond Horses
Diets that include supplemental fat along with grain concentrates may have a skewed ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and may not be as beneficial as a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to provide numerous benefits to horses, pets, and humans including:
- Improved skin and hair coat quality
- Decreased joint pain in arthritic individuals
- Improved bone formation
- Reproductive benefits
- Prevention of gastric ulcers
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Alleviate allergic hyperactivity
- Support horses in heavy work
- Reduce exercise-induced bronchiole constriction
In a presentation at the Veterinary Sport Horse Symposium, Dr. Kyle Newman indicated supplementing horses with omega-3 fatty acids could have a positive effect on their health and endurance during exercise. Among the health benefits were lower blood pressure, inhibition of the cytokines involved in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, improved semen quality in stallions, and positive effects on fetal development.
~Kentucky Equine Research
Importantly for the racing thoroughbred, Omega 3 oils have been shown to have an important role in the structure and formation of the wall of the red blood cells – conferring upon them increased suppleness and flexibility. This red cell flexibility is advantageous during exercise – the more flexible the red blood cells the more easily and efficiently they pass through the narrow capillaries in the lungs and muscles, making oxygen uptake and delivery and waste product removal, more efficient. Human athletes on Omega 3 supplemented diets, report improved performance times and less delayed muscle soreness and this is attributed to better oxygen delivery, higher levels of anti-oxidants and the protective effect omega 3 oils have against inflammation.
Omega 3 deficiency is also involved in hoof problems such as shelly feet and in the incidence of allergic skin conditions. Other common deficiencies causing poor hoof quality include zinc, methionine, and biotin, but if the problem is related to insufficient omega-3 oils in the diet, supplementation is necessary. Feeding Omega 3 oils for 6 weeks to horses with Queensland itch led to a reduction in the severity of the itch and inflammation. Analysis of the hair found a concurrent decrease in the amount of omega 6 fatty acids in the hair of horses receiving the supplement and no negative side-effects occurred.
There are also benefits for horses at stud – after 6 weeks on an Omega 3 supplement, mares milk conferred increased immunity and resistance to infection. For the breeding stallion, a study presented at the Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners in 2003 showed that raising the intake of specific Omega 3 fatty acids improved the motion characteristics of cooled-stored and frozen-thawed semen. Spermatazoa from all species is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular, the omega 3 called docosahexanoic acid (DHA). A high ratio of DHA to omega 6 fatty acids results in enhanced fertility, whereas the reverse results in diminished fertility. Because animals are unable to synthesize omega 3 fatty acids, they must acquire them from the diet.
Unfortunately, most proprietary horse feeds are very high in precursors for omega-6 fatty acids, whereas the precursors for omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA, are very low.
Claimed Benefits of Omega 3 Oils
- Helps your horse’s joints and connective tissues to heal and recover from the stress of exercise – this improves the recovery rate after training and competition.
- Promotes a healthy, glossy coat.
- Stronger and faster growing feet useful for horses and ponies prone to laminitis and those with slow-growing feet or with feet that are difficult to keep shoes on.
- Boosts the horse’s immune system.
- Good for the respiratory system.
- Can help calm the temperament of excitable horses.
- Maintains supple joints.
- Assists the correct development of the equine nervous system, brain, muscles, and skeleton
- Repairs & maintains cellular walls.
- Anti-inflammatory – can act like “Bute.”
- Aids wound healing.
- Supports a healthy heart and blood circulation.
- Has anti-allergic properties.
- Encourages strong metabolism.