The benefits of feeding a horse a well-balanced diet that includes the appropriate formulation of the ‘mighty’ beneficial Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids is a topic most horse owners have heard about countless times.
A horse’s diet should be appropriately supplemented with a balanced nutritional approach considering its available forage and grain resources, and addressing age, performance level and overall health,
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The necessity for their presence in the equine diet may be known, though the complex chemistry class that details the how, what, where and why of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids may be “all Greek” to some folks. But there are some key details that every horse owner should pay attention to in order to protect their equine partner. Let’s keep it short and sweet. We all have horses to train!
Dietary fat provides energy, and provides proper cellular, hormonal and nerve function in animals. Reduction in inflammatory processes, resolution of certain behavioral issues are just two of the major benefits the Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids provide.
If we are feeling health vulnerable we may choose to purchase eggs that contain the fragile flaxseed ingredient to enhance our own intake of the mighty Omega-3 and 6. Similarly, we’ll sometimes pick up a horse feed supplement to add to our horse’s diet to combat our perceived need for our beloved equine to receive an Omega-3 and 6 boost. Especially if our horse has been poorly and needs an immune system adjustment.
Obviously a horse’s diet should be appropriately supplemented with a balanced nutritional approach that considers its available forage and grain resources, and addresses its age, performance level and overall health, rather than a hit and miss approach.
A quick check of the feed supplement label that identifies the abundant presence of Omega-3 and 6 is often as far as the busy horse owner will investigate. Who cares where the Omega’s come from as long as they are present and correct right?
Not quite. The ratio between the amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids included is also important. The most common ingredient that is utilized in feedstuffs to provide this dietary balance is flax seed, as it generally offers a ratio of 4:1 which is close to the desired balance. From a manufacturing standpoint however, flax seed is a consistently problematic ingredient.
Being the informed folks that we clever horse people are, we are also aware that oxygen is the enemy of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. So, we diligently take precautions to protect our feed supplement by re-wrapping foil packets after each use, replacing lids and keeping the tubs out of the sun, to avoid lipid oxidation (the technical name for rancidity).
The Antioxidant Antidote
Antioxidants are added to feedstuffs that contain fatty acids to help prevent the horrid taste and odor that emanate from a rancid product developing over time and to mitigate the likelihood of it becoming contaminated for use. If the Omega-3 and 6 is broken down, it will not secure the benefits to the horse’s health it has been formulated to provide. But the stark reality is that antioxidants cannot totally prevent lipid oxidation occurring in a product, they can only slow it down.
The feedstuff manufacturer that seeks to cut corners or is simply ignorant of the importance of adding the right antioxidant in the optimal quantities from a safe source (clean-label) is doomed to having the mighty Omega components suffer degradation. This lack of attention will necessarily negatively affect both the nutritional benefits and safety of the product. A chain reaction of lipid oxidation results in free radicals bombing about that can do all sorts of damage to the horse that ingests them.
Clean-label ingredients generally include Vitamin E (tocopherols) and the secondary metabolites found in high-phenolic plant extracts. To help bind free-radicals that are rendered when sourcing from ingredients for Omega-3’s and 6’s that contain high ash content, the manufacturer may add natural chelating agents such as citric acid or ascorbic acid.
Worries about the bioavailability of the valuable Omega-3 and 6 component and whether the antioxidant is properly performing in a compound are real. Not only does the right antioxidant need to be applied to the source of the Omega-3 and 6, it must also be added at the right time during the manufacturing process in order maximize its effectiveness. Notably, as early as possible during the process, continually throughout the process and for extra protection sprayed on at the end of the process.
Additionally, there is a concern as to whether other elements in the feedstuff are negatively reacting with the most commonly used source for Omega-3 in horse feed supplements and feedstuffs, the flax meal or flax seed. For example, adding a copper sulfate or oxide to a feed rather than a copper glycinate can cause major issues including even spontaneous combustion!
Why Should All This Chemistry Matter to You?
The takeaway message from this information for the horse owner is the importance of selecting a trusted, top-quality feed supplement to provide Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids that is not only well researched and formulated, but also safely manufactured. This is essential for a horse owner that wants to do the best by their horse.
There are many chemistry issues that we entrust to the manufacturer of the horse feedstuffs that our equines are forced to ingest. When you have confidence in the integrity of a brand as well as their quality control and manufacturing experience and resources you are more than one stride ahead in protecting your horse.
Aside from buying horse feed supplements that have the essential NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) seal, that indicates the product has undergone stringent and regular auditing of its ingredient quantities, reading labels for stabilized ingredients particularly in this category is a ‘must do’. Look for a heat stabilized flax meal, with a good shelf life (2 years). And don’t be shy to contact the manufacturer with any questions you may have about their products meeting these criteria. Though manufacturers will usually proudly proclaim the stability of ingredient in the label, where it can be readily identified if we take the time to look. Together with the NASC seal of approval, this makes it a lot easier to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’.
And remember, just because a feed supplement is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s the best option.
Do right by your horse, and you can be certain, he’ll do right by you. At least if you give him the helpful nutrition he needs.
About Grand Meadows:
Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.
For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.
Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at https://www.grandmeadows.com/
About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
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