Omega-3 in Horses
Any good horsemen adamantly believes that horses need shiny, healthy coats. At horse shows, I was asked by many people how our horses were so shiny! Whenever I body clipped one of my dark bay horses, his coat never lost it’s dark color. Us grooms tend to groan inwardly when we clip dark bay or black horses. A majority of the time, the horses clip out mousy-colored with a dull tinge to them. But I noticed a significant difference when I fed my horses oil high in Omega-3 fatty acids. The horses’ clipped coats were the shiniest they had ever been. When working for Val Renihan and Amanda Steege, we fed an Omega-3 oil as well and every horse’s coat looked amazing.
We all know that consistent grooming skills are a must for a shiny, healthy coat. But it is also crucial that you understand how certain feed affects your horses. That is the mark of a well-rounded horseman. Ask yourself: are your horses getting enough nutritional value through forage and grain, perhaps they need a supplement to help?
” Are your horses getting enough nutritional value through forage and grain, perhaps they need a supplement to help?”
To Supplement, or Not to Supplement?
It’s impossible to say that every horse doesn’t need help in some way nutritionally. This would be like saying every person eats healthy—we all know that isn’t necessarily true! Different areas of our country have higher quality hay than others, and some have access to better feed companies. Many horse supplement companies put the pressure on for consumers to buy their products. Do you comprehend what your horse is missing in his diet before you choose the correct supplement? It’s hard to follow all of the complexities of the nutritional labels on every container without asking for help.
From personal experience, I saw incredible results with horse supplements and oils containing vitamin E and Omega-3. Are you aware of the benefits and differences of Omega-3 and Omega-6? Let’s dive a little bit deeper into some specifics.
What is an Omega-3 Fatty Acid?
Omega-3 fatty acids are known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They contain a double bond on the third carbon atom within the long chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They provide structure to cell walls and membranes within the body’s tissues and produce eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are used by the body to inhibit inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are organized into three different categories: alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs), docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs), and eicosapentaenoic acids (EPAs). Horses cannot produce ALA naturally on their own. Therefore, they must receive them from their diet or further supplementation, such as camelina oil. Meanwhile, fresh green grass is the most abundant source of Omega-3 fatty acids for horses.
What is an Omega-6 Fatty Acid?
Omega-6 fatty acids are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They have a double bond on the sixth carbon atom within its chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Omega-6 can be sourced from corn, vegetable, and sunflower oils. Horses only need one type of Omega-6 in their diet: linolenic acids (LA). Most commercial feed contains corn and soybean oils, both of which are high in Omega-6. Because of this, your horse is probably receiving more Omega-6 than Omega-3 (more grain than quality hay). This puts them at an Omega-3 deficit and an imbalance.
Similarities of Omega-3s and Omega-6s:
Both Omega-3 and -6 are categorized as “essential oils” because they must be acquired through a horse’s diet and nutrition. The equine bodies cannot create these fatty acids naturally. As natural herbivores, horses are accustomed to a natural diet of forages rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (fresh grass). Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most daily grain rations. Certain brands of feed have more Omega-6 fatty acids than others.
One of the biggest benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids is that they are an anti-inflammatory agent. Unfortunately, Omega-6 fatty acids have the opposite effect. They are considered a pro-inflammatory agent, meaning they promote inflammation within the body. Creating more inflammation is not a result that any horse owner wants.
Recently, several studies of Omega-3 fatty acids were conducted to detect the benefits of their anti-inflammatory properties inside a horse’s joints. The results of a University of Colorado study showed that the supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids helped the production of healthier synovial fluid within a joint, which in turn gives way to better elasticity in that joint. The bloodwork also showed that the inflammatory response in the horses supplemented with Omega-3 was significantly lower than those that were not supplemented. Any supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties without containing an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) is especially helpful to competition horses. High-performance and competitive horses put added stress on joints and ligaments when they practice or compete.
More Pros of Omega-3
Supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids promotes a shiny, healthy coat and can boost the horse’s immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help with skin irritation or allergies and help prevent equine stomach ulcers. They encourage a strong metabolism, support a healthy circulatory system, and aid horses with slow-growing or weak feet. Supplementing with Omega-3 can also aid in the repair of red blood cells and cell walls. This allows red blood cells to pass more efficiently through narrow capillaries in the lungs and muscles. In turn, making oxygen uptake, delivery, and waste removal within the body much faster. All of this leads to quicker muscle and body recovery time after exercise.
Why is Omega-3 more important than Omega-6?
Many moons ago, horses freely roamed the countryside as they pleased. Wild herds of horses spent their days migrating across the land and grazing on the forage provided by Mother Nature. When people decided to domesticate them, we found alternative ways to supplement their food sources. Companies began producing grain and farmers cut hay rations from the hayfields for horses.
Did you know cut hay loses most of its vitamin A, E, and Omega-3 when stored for long periods of time? You should be wary to rely solely on cut hay for your horse’s Omega-3 intake. If your hay is shipped from different places, it may have lost some nutritional value when it reaches your horse. The most common intake of Omega-3 for horses is through consuming fresh green grass. Most competition horses do not get as much turnout as their live-out counterparts. This puts the competition horses at a disadvantage for Omega-3 intake. If you live in an area with poor grass and poor hay quality, or your horse does not have a lot of turnout with fresh grass, he may be low in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Something Smells Fishy
Many horse owners think that supplementing their horses’ diets with fish oil is beneficial. In reality, you are supplementing with the incorrect Omega-3. Fish oils are high in two Omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA. It is not recommended to feed horses fish oil. Fish oil is not a natural form of Omega-3 fatty acid that a horse would consume in the wild. They may still be Omega-3 deficient if you are supplementing with fish oil; as you are not providing them enough ALA. However, Camelina sativa contains some of the highest concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of ALA, available on the market today. Camelina sativa is the main ingredient in all of our ExcelEQ oils.
Finding the Balance
There is limited research into the perfect ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 in horses. Though, researchers agree that the balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is too high in most cases. Most horses receive more Omega-6 in their diet than Omega-3 because they eat more grain than fresh grass. One of the main plant-based sources of Omega-3 is Camelina sativa, which is the main ingredient in all Excel Supplements. Our ExcelEQ oils have a ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 at 2:1. This is the perfect balance of both fatty acids.
In addition, both ExcelEQ oils contain vitamin E. An added bonus of Camelina oil is that vitamin E acts as a stabilizer to ensure 2-year shelf life. It does not spoil quickly! Here at Excel Supplements, we control the entire production process from cultivating the seeds through shipping to your door. Excel Supplements are USEF and FEI show safe because we do not outsource ingredients or products from other companies. With this much process precision, we are able to ensure that the products you receive are of the utmost quality. All ExcelEQ oils contain all-natural, quality plant-based ingredients. ExcelEQ oils are a great choice if you are looking to balance your horse’s Omega-3 ratios!