Horse with Girl

The Real Low-Down on Fats

Here’s plenty of ammunition to help answer concerns from hoof-care clients concerning the fat supplementation controversy

The idea of horses getting “hot” from high-grain diets has more to do with being in hard training when a grain ration is increased rather than being due to any physiological effects. Horses that are exercised vigorously normally have more.

If there’s a nutritional buzzword for the twenty-first century, it’s fat. While we struggle to keep our own diets as low fat as possible, it’s only in recent years that your hoof-care clients have recognized the value of raising the fat levels in the equine athlete’s diet.

Of course, the average human diet (at least in North America) contains far more than the maximum 30% fat that’s recommended for good health. By contrast, the horse’s natural diet contains almost no fat at all.

Forages and fibers contribute no fat, and most grains fed to horses contain only 2% to 3.5% fat. While this leaves the horse at low risk for cardiovascular clogging, it means that carbohydrates have traditionally been considered the obvious and “natural” energy source for performance horses. As a result, it has rarely been factored in beyond that little splash of corn oil that helps provide a shiny coat.

Only in the last couple of decades have we begun to realize that fat is also a valuable energy source — one with many advantages for horses.

Big On Energy

High-fat diets (anything above the 2% to 3.5% supplied by a standard grain-plus-forage diet) provide several perks, most notably in terms of energy production for hard working horses. Pound…

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Karen Briggs

As an equine nutritionist, Karen Briggs researched, designed and marketed a line of premium quality feeds for performance, pleasure and breeding horses. She’s also offered nutritional and ration balancing information to horse owners throughout Ontario. Located in Puslinch, Ontario, the award-winning equine writer is also a Canadian Equestrian Federal certified-riding instructor and has managed several Canadian farms and riding schools.

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