Tony the cat checking in again.
Hope you all are enjoying the cool weather. I know I’m sure not! The good thing is I can curl up inside the office and keep warm, and sometimes I can even get some hugs from the girls, and their jackets sure are snuggly. Unfortunately for your horsey pals, the indoors are not an option, and since we’ve been talking about nutrition, I thought I’d talk to you a bit about fat in the horse’s diet, and how it can be helpful in getting them ready for this cold weather. The benefits of fat in a horse’s diet have only recently been recognized, and veterinarians and researchers are finding more and more positive things about fat in the equine diet each day. I’ll talk to you about the benefits of fat, where it can be found, and when you should consider adding fat to your horse’s diet.
Until recently, fat has not been given much attention in a horse’s diet because it has long been thought that carbohydrates were the preferable choice for energy. New research and studies have started to argue against this thought process. Horses can digest and tolerate fairly high levels of fat, and fat offers a way of feeding more calories while maintaining a more stable blood sugar level. These added calories not only mean more energy, but also more mass on a horse. This can be extremely important for a horse that has a hard time holding its weight. In the winter time this can be even more important both for the horse who doesn’t hold weight well, and a horse who is in training and needs a bit of extra fat to keep warm in the colder weather. A horse that is lower in weight is also low in body fat, which works with the hair to buffer the body against the cold. If your horse is already being fed the maximum amount of feed and hay that it can be fed, fat offers the option of adding calories without overwhelming the horse’s system.
Fats are available in a variety of forms in the equine diet. Most feeds do have a percentage of crude fat in them, but it is not in the highest forms available. With the new-found appreciation for fats, owners have been looking for ways to feed fats to their horses, which means that feed and supplement companies have also been looking for new ways to introduce fat into the horse’s diet. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to add fat into the equine diet is to add vegetable oil to the horse’s feed. Generally this has to be done gradually to ensure palatability, but it is an extremely effective way of adding fat to your horse’s diet. It’s also a great way to get their coats nice and glossy. You can also add raw or ground flax seed to the horse’s food to increase the fat intake. Flax seed can be found at most local feed stores, or even at your local health food store. Flax is also high in omega fatty acids. These are as good for your horse as they are for you! Fats are also available in supplement form in pellets and in powders, which can be purchased through any major company that carries supplements. Some of these alternative forms are better for the picky eater.
Fat can help the horse who lives outside and has trouble with weight in the winter, the horse who doesn’t want to eat a large volume of grain, and even the Senior horse with poor dentition. Remember that fat also offers the horse a way of having extra calories and extra energy without affecting their blood sugar, which means their system will stay more stable, but they’ll have the energy they need for daily activities. Scientists are continuing to research fats benefits on the horse’s body, but so far, the results are great. If you would like to find out if fats might be what your horse needs, or if you have any concerns about your horse’s diet, feel free to ask Dr. Lacher, Dr. Bourke or Danielle to come out to help you assess your horse’s diet and needs.
Until next time, may your litter box always be clean, and your food bowl full.