We received several questions about feeding oil after our March 2003 shedding article, including oils vs. meals, whether to feed grocery-store corn oil and if you can cause founder by overfeeding it. To help you decide what’s best for your horse, we formulated a how-to guide for feeding oil.
Too Much Oil
Feeding a lot of oil, which is basically fat, won’t in itself cause laminitis. However, we’d limit the amount of oil fed to fat horses or those known or suspected to be insulin-resistant. Many easy-keeper horses are insulin-resistant, a risk factor for laminitis. In other species, high dietary fat is proven to worsen insulin resistance.
Oils can be fed up to two cups per day, although you should begin with an ounce and work your way up. The more oil you add, the less palatable the grain becomes. Few horses will tolerate much more than a cup of oil in their grain.
Corn oil, or any oil you get from the grocery store, is processed to remain stable at room temperature. It’s great for shelf life, but it destroys most of the oil’s essential fatty acids (see sidebar below).
If all you want is some shine to your horse’s coat, one to two ounces per day of an inexpensive grocery-store corn oil should do it. And it’s also your most economical option.
However, to get the full health and skin/coat benefits of feeding an oil, you need either a cold-processed oil or a specially stabilized seed meal. We think the added benefits are worth the slightly higher cost.
Cold-processed flax oil is expensive, as it requires light-protected bottles, rapid oxygen-free processing, constant refrigeration. The least-expensive feeding option for the flax oil is often to use human soft gelcaps. You will need about 15 capsules per day, using 1,000 to 1,300 mg gelcaps, which will cost $1/day or more.
Both cold-pressed rice-bran and soy oil are much less expensive than flax oils and rich in omega-6 EFAs:
A gallon of McCauley Brothers Rice Bran Oil costs $18.50, at a daily cost for a 2 oz. serving of 29??.
Healthy Coat Soy Oil, from Soy Inc., costs $22/gallon, at a daily cost of about 42?? for a 3 oz. serving.
Uckele’s Coco-Soya oil is cold-pressed and an excellent choice for picky eaters because of its high palatability. Substitute this for high omega-6 rice bran oil at a rate of 4 oz./day. At $9.95/gallon, it’s 30??/day.
Triple Crown also makes a blend of omega-6 and omega-3s by combining flaxseed oil, rice bran oil and corn oil. It costs $33.98/gallon, which is 53?? for a 2-oz. serving.
Stabilized Seed Meals
Flaxseed meal will also give you the benefits of EFAs and a shiny coat. Some horses also prefer a dry supplement over the oil.
Stabilized flaxseed meal is an economical option. Enreco’s Omega Horseshine is about 75?? to $1/lb., before shipping, for a 20- or 50-lb. container, or about 20?? per day. HorseTech’s NutraFlax is $38.95 for 20 lbs. or 12?? an ounce. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 EFAs. Rice bran is about 20% fat but only supplies omega-6 EFAs.
Some readers have expressed confusion about feeding stabilized flaxseed vs. whole, unprocessed flaxseed and whether flaxseed must first be ground or soaked in cold water overnight or in hot water.
Some flaxseed benefits can be obtained feeding whole seeds, since they will ’soak’ to some extent in the horse’s stomach. However, for full benefit, the seed should be ground immediately before using it.
Stabilized ground flaxseed has been ground and exposed to a temperature high enough to inactivate the enzyme that can produce cyanide, but not high enough to destroy the essential fatty acids in it.
Soaking is actually not the best way to handle the flax. This actually increases the possibility of cyanide being formed from some seeds since it brings the enzyme and the cyanogenic glycosides into contact. If you’re not grinding the flaxseed fresh - which only takes a few seconds using a coffee grinder - or using stabilized flax, the seeds should be boiled.
Horses on hay with no or little whole grain feeding need both omega-6 and omega-3 supplementation. An option for them is McCauley Brothers Omega Bran, a blend of both rice bran and flaxseed in one product. At $18.50/25 lbs., the cost per day for a 1/2-lb. serving is 37??.
There are also several stabilized rice bran products on the market, including KER/Kentucky Equine Research’s Equi-Jewel ($20/30lbs.), Moormans NaturalGlo ($29/40 lbs.), Select the Best’s Nutra-Bran ($35/40 lbs.). Prices don’t include shipping, which may be considerable.
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: Enreco, www.enreco.com, 800-962-9536; Coco-Soya, Uckele, www.uckele.com, 800-248-0330; Equi-Jewel, Kentucky Equine Research, www.ker.com, 800-772-1988; Healthy Coat, Soy Inc. www.soyinc.com, 866-214-6773; Omega Bran and Rice Bran Oil, McCauley Brothers, www.mccauleybros.com, 800-222-8635; NaturalGlo, Moormans, www.moormans.com/equine, 800-680-8254; Nutra-Bran, Select the Best, www.richdelinc.com, 800-648-0950; HorseTech www.horsetech.com, 800-831-3309; Triple Crown Rice Bran www.triplecrownfeed.com, 800-690-8110.