Did you know omega fatty acids aren’t only for people?
They also play an important role in keeping your horse healthy. Omegas have several functions in our horse’s body, including keeping the immune system in balance, supporting gastrointestinal function, and protecting joints and ligaments, among other things.
The key with omegas is making sure you’re not unintentionally throwing them out of balance for your horse. To explain a little more, there are three types of omegas: 3, 6, and 9. Omega 3 and 6 are considered essential fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them on its own. Omega 9’s, however, are considered non-essential because the body is able to synthesize them from other nutrients which are consumed.
Researchers haven’t determined an exact ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids for horses, but somewhere around 2 to 5:1 of omega 3 to omega 6 is believed to be desirable. The most important thing to remember is that your horse should be getting MORE omega 3’s than omega 6’s in his overall diet.
Now for some good news: if your horse is on green grass, you likely don’t need to worry about supplementing omegas at all! However, during the winter when grass is dormant, or for horses who aren’t on pasture full-time, you may want to supplement omegas.
Foods High in Omega 3’s
- flaxseed or flaxseed oil
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
- camelina oil
Foods High in Omega 6’s
- vegetable or corn oil
- sunflower seeds
- rice bran
Though omega 6’s often get a bad rap, they aren’t all necessarily bad. Again, the problem stems more from an imbalance in the ratio. If more omega 6’s are consumed than omega 3’s, health issues, including inflammation, can arise. This commonly occurs with people because of the popularity of highly-processed and fried foods, but it can also happen with horses that are fed high-grain diets.
Again, the key with omegas is keeping a good ratio. Read feed tags and be aware of what you’re feeding. And always supplement wisely!
**Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com.