Most people in the US and UK have heard of the Zone Diet plan. Most people in the US and UK don't know that the Zone Diet was originally designed for horses. A balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat helps people lose weight, but it helps horses stay healthier and run faster with fewer injuries.
Fish oil is not a natural food for horses, but it is the best way to get the omega-3 essential fatty acids horses need to balance the omega-6 essential fatty acids that are abundant in oats. Fish oil helps your horse stay health from head to tail.
- Fish oil reduces the susceptibility of the horse's skin to inflammation by flies and other insects. It helps your horse's coat stay shiny all year round.
- Fish oil was originally researched as a way of helping race horses run faster. Horses that receive fish oil run faster because their lungs absorb oxygen more efficiently through more completely open air passages.
- Fish oil reduces the risk of laminitis, endotoxemia, and muscle injury.
- Fish oil increases the production of mucus in the lining of the horse's stomach, protecting it from acidity, and helping digested food flow to the intestines.
- Fish oil keeps hooves healthy. Improvements can be noticed in just a few weeks.
- Fish oil helps joints stay flexible, reducing the risk of race-ending injury.
- Fish oil provides fats that muscles can burn for fuel. When muscles burn fat, they don't have to burn sugar without oxygen, creating the lactic acid "burn" that can limit race performance.
- Fish oil helps the liver and muscles store glycogen fuel, increasing endurance and staying power in a race.
- Fish oil may help prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) and the horrible accumulation of mucus in the trachea that often cause death.
But does something about giving a horse fish oil still seem fishy to you?
Fish oil is a better source of omega-3 essential fatty acids than a vegetable source like flaxseed oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil are not in the form that a horse's body can use to fight inflammation and for all the other benefits listed above. The shorter ALA molecules have to be converted into the longer EPA and DHA molecules the horse actually needs, and about 90% of the ALA is lost in the process. It takes about 10 times as much flaxseed oil to get the same benefit as a much smaller amount of fish oil.
What about other vegetable oils? Unless you happen to have access to a Japanese product called perilla seed oil (which still isn't as beneficial as fish oil) or you make your own chia sedd oil, every other kind of vegetable oil except flaxseed oil provides omega-6 essential fatty acids, not omega-3's. The omega-6 essential fatty acids are necessary in equine diets, but they are used by the horse's body to make the hormones that cause inflammation, not the hormones that control it. Most horses already get more than enough omega-6 fat from oats and other seed grains.
How Much Fish Oil For Horses
Horses need 10 oz (300 ml) of flaxseed oil or just 1 oz (30 ml) of fish oil every day to get all the benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish oil is more evenly absorbed and easier on the horse's digestion.