18 December, 2013
The problem: For decades, the inclusion of fat in horse diets has been a useful way to increase the caloric density of a ration. Popular fats include vegetable oils such as corn oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil. Whether it was top-dressed or fed as an ingredient in a premixed concentrate, feeding fat seemed to be a win-win situation; horses digest fat well and by eating fat-rich concentrates, they can consume smaller grain meals, which creates a more stable gastrointestinal tract and reduces colic risk.
Researchers now know that certain fats should be fed for optimal health. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids must be balanced within the body in order for both to be effective. Scientists have not pinpointed the optimal ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids for horses of various ages and uses, though they believe a ratio of 2-4:1 may be appropriate.
As it stands, horses fed a diet of forage and grain could be consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids. Heap on a cup or more of vegetable oil, which is typically rich in omega-6 fatty acids, and the ratio between the omegas becomes more steeply skewed.
The solution: Certain classes of horses require high-grain diets. It would, for example, be impossible for some performance horses to work or for some broodmares to nourish their foals without the energy provided by concentrates. From the stockpile of traditional feedstuffs, the only likely candidate for omega-3 supplementation is flaxseed, but there are specific metabolic disadvantages to feeding it, namely it’s not a direct source of EPA and DHA, the most beneficial of omega-3 fatty acids. The task: find a palatable source of omega-3 fatty acids for horses consuming high-grain diets and for those with conditions known to benefit from omega-3 supplementation such as subfertility in mares and stallions, chronic joint inflammation, allergic reactions, laminitis, and chronic skin conditions.
The technology: Only fish oils are direct sources of EPA and DHA, but many horses have an aversion to their taste. Advances in processing technology have overcome the palatability issue inherent with fish oil. The result: EO•3 is a stabilized and flavored EPA/DHA marine-derived oil. Flavor trials at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) have shown EO•3 to be extremely palatable when compared to other marine-derived oils. EO•3 is the most potent, effective source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids available. Analysis has shown that EO•3 has the highest percentage of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as well as the highest ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids when compared to other commonly fed oils.