Understanding Fatty Acids for Equines

Fat is much more than storage for calories.

Most horses benefit from fat supplementation when not on pasture. Thinkstock

Fat is much more than storage for calories. The membrane of all cells contains fat. Fatty substances form a waterproof barrier in skin and hooves. Fats can help build and maintain weight while supporting healthy blood sugar levels, promote a shiny coat, excellent body condition and help keep hooves nourished and moisturized from the inside out. Some classes of hormone are derived from fat/cholesterol. Some fats help regulate the immune system.

Fats from your horse’s diet are digested and absorbed as fatty acids. Once inside the horse they are stored and transported as triglycerides which are three (tri) fatty acids attached to a backbone of glycerol.

A horse’s natural pasture diet is low in fat with about 4% on a dry matter basis (food consumed minus its water content is dry matter). Hay is much lower at 2% because the fragile Omega-3 fats in grass are lost with curing. Most horses benefit from some fat supplementation when not on pasture.

The horse can manufacture all the fat it needs for vital functions, however skin, coat and hoof quality may decline on low fat diets. The only fats considered a dietary necessity for any species are the essential fatty acids, Omega-3 Alpha-Linolenic and Omega-6 Linoleic. Using grass, the evolutionary diet, as a guide the horse should optimally get a ratio of Omega-3:Omega-6 of about 4:1.

All grains and most readily available vegetable and seed oils are higher in Omega-6 than -3. The only choices with high Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio are Flax or Chia. Chia and Flax Seed are typically supplemented at a rate of between 2 and 16 oz/day. If using a liquid oil give approximately 25 to 30% of this amount.

The Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio is believed to be important because in other species it influences the balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in immune responses. This makes it very difficult to avoid Omega-6 overload in horses that need added fat for weight or control of EPSM. There is now an option.

Uckele has a new fat source called CocoSun, available in liquid or powder. This combines extra virgin coconut oil with extra virgin, organic sunflower oil from a special strain high in Omega-9 (oleic acid). Oleic acid is also the major fatty acid in olive oil.

This can be fed with Flax without upsetting the Omega-3:6 ratio. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which the body prefers to burn rather than turn into fat stores, and the monounsaturated oleic acid has metabolic benefits.

Feeding fat optimally takes more thought than just grabbing some oil off a store shelf. Armed with the facts you can maximize the benefits you get from adding quality fats to the diet to support weight management, supple skin, a shiny coat, and healthy hooves.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, introduces their new COCO-EQ Fatty Acid Formula Family.

CocoSoya Oil and Granular. A tasty source of Omega 3, Omega 6 & Omega 9 fatty acids supports coat sheen and luster, skin and hooves, joints, and immune function.

CocoSun Oil and Granular. Non-GMO and soy free formula with all natural ingredients, rich in concentrated Omega 9 extra virgin sunflower oil and extra virgin coconut oil promotes a shiny coat and provides a cool-calorie energy source to build and maintain healthy weight without a blood sugar rise. 

CocoOmega Oil and Granular. Non-GMO and soy free formula supplies fatty acids in a balanced ratio that mimics the ratio of 4 to 1 Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids found in fresh forages for a shiny coat, strong nourished hooves, and brain and nervous system function. 

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition is an innovation-driven health company committed to being on the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years. Uckele takes pride in formulating and manufacturing a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances for equine athletes and companion animals to help achieve optimal health.






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