The ingredient list is your most important source of information when evaluating a feed or supplement for your horse. Often times, feed items are clumped together in one term. This is typically the case with added fat. Many manufacturers will list fat content as simply “vegetable oil,” leaving you, the consumer, with absolutely no idea of the source. The only thing this tells you is that the fat is not of animal origin. But there are so many vegetable oils available–the most commonly added ones are soybean, corn and coconut oils.
Coconut oil is easy to handle because it is solid (due to its highly saturated chemistry), but it is unclear if it is doing any long-term harm to your horse. The majority of fatty acids in soybean and corn oils are in the omega 6 variety, which is inflammatory in high amounts when not balanced with omega 3s.
Items within the ingredient list must be presented in a certain order. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the ingredient with the highest percentage of total weight must be listed first with all ingredients listed in descending order. However, under certain conditions, the manufacturer may list ingredients alphabetically, making it difficult to interpret concentrations.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility to know what is in your horse’s feed. Call the manufacturer for clarification. Don’t guess when it comes to your horse’s health.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an internationally respected, independent equine nutritionist who believes that optimizing horse health comes from understanding how the horse’s physiology and instincts determine the correct feeding and nutrition practices. She is available for private consultations and speaking engagements. And keep learning with Getty! At www.gettyequinenutrition.com, sign up for her informative, free monthly newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum; and purchase recordings of her informative teleseminars. For the growing community of horse owners and managers who allow their horses free choice forage feeding, Getty has set up a special forum as a place for support, celebrations, congratulations, and idea sharing. Share your experiences at jmgetty.blogspot.com.