Hand feeding horses in general and even more so under drought condition limits the uptake of Omega 3.  Pasture grass, not surprisingly is perfectly balanced to the horse’s need, averaging 4:1 of Omega 3:6.

Feeding many premixed equine feeds can be detrimental to your horse’s overall health.  Why?

Too much Omega 6

  • Is pro inflammatory (increase joint pain and allergy symptoms)
  • increases prostaglandin formation
  • predisposes a horse to degenerative joint disease
  • predisposes to laminitis
  • affects coat hair quality
  • can lead to arthritis
  • can lead to obesity
  • can lead to mood disorders – depression
  • can lead to osteoporosis
  • can hasten growth of cancer cells

 Premixed horse feeds are typically a combination of grains (wheat, oats, barley or rice), contain added sunflower seeds and vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower or canola oils) contain sugars (maltodextrin – sugars extracted from grains).  All these inputs will increase Omega 6 in your horse’s diet to dangerous levels.  Short term the results may look like quick weight gain and a temporary shiny coat (from supply of added minerals and high fat and protein content), but over time these results may inverse, and the opposite occur – along with many other potential health issues.

Choosing base feeds selectively based on their Omega 3:6 profiles and fortifying with a feed supplement much higher in Omega 3 to 6 (hemp, fish or cod liver oil) will help alter the imbalances from hard feeding in general.

Omega 3 to 6 ratios of common horse feed inputs
Red indicates feed options beneficial to rectifying imbalanced feeds
Third row measurements in mg per 28 grams

Flaxseed (linseed) has long been a favourite Omega 3 rich add on feed supplement, however flaxseed’s ALA must be converted first by a limited supply of enzymes into usable EPA and DHA. As a result, only a small fraction of its ALA, between 10-15% can be utilized. The remaining value of ALA gets burned up as energy or metabolized in other ways.  Quantities of Flaxseed thus must be higher than using hemp, fish or cod liver oil.

Health benefits of correct Omega 3 supply include:

  • reduction of inflammation
  • reduced prostaglandin (smooth muscles contraction, help control bleeding, enable clotting after injury)
  • improved coat colour and lustre
  • reduces risk of laminitis
  • improves blood clot formation
  • essential for cell functioning – maintaining cell membrane structure
  • assist central nervous system development
  • improve sperm shape, motility and concentration
  • likely strong positive connection with the mare’s reproductive system
  • improved content of Omega 3 in lactating mare’s milk – resulting in foals with stronger immune systems
  • boost immune system

Making your own base horse feeds is the only way to ensure you are safely feeding your horse sufficient Omega 3 to 6.  Commercially prepared blends typically use inputs that are available in bulk supply and very cheap.  See the article “Base Feeds” and the “Keep It Simple Diet” to learn how easy it is to work out your own base feed to meet dietary needs.