I have to say that of all the horse sports that I've been involved in, easedropped on, read about, participated in, had conversations with people who actually do the sport etc., ENDURANCE riders and the endurance sport continually blow me away.
My friend sitting next to me, reading this over my shoulder, added that we are all crazy too, but I digress.
Time and time again how we managing our endurance horses is corroborated by what I'm being taught in school. It's the little things that we as endurance people worry about, that doesn't seem to have trickled into the other sports as widely. Some of the little things may not matter to horses that aren't being asked to perform 100 miles, or at a performance level that approaches their maximum capacity, BUT, some of these "little things" are so easy to do, or just require a little change in an already established routine --> and the result may be a horse that stays sound and healthy a little bit longer.
I don't always have time to write about every little thing that makes me want to pump my fist in the air and say "GO ENDURANCE COMMUNITY!", but sometimes, I've been in lecture for 3 hours, am not going to get a lunch break, and will have to look mildly interested at an awards ceremony for the next 2 hours (where I'm getting a scholarship!). So I decide to completely ignore the current Q and A session for our CBL cases, bow to my caffeine induced maniac state and actually post something.
I think it's been well documented in the endurance world that feeding fat to horses has a LOT of benefits and very few downsides. In fact, I think that it's so low risk, and the benefit potentially so great, that every endurance horse out there should have fat supplementation whether they need it for weight gain or not.
While I have not learned anything specifically about fat and equine endurance performance (although fat and it's relationship to dog endurance was discussed), some of the information presented was relevant. I don't think anything particularly "new"from what I haven't heard from other sources, but I thought I would share anyways. :)
Based on my conversations with vets, other horse people, and my colleagues, I think there are 2 misconceptions when it comes to feeding fat to the equine.
Equines don't eat fat "in the wild", thus it's weird to give it to them.
-It is weird, but for some reason, horses can metabolize fat REALLY well. Measurements of the apparent digestion coefficient of added fat to horse rations are about 0.9 --> which is goobly speak for "horses do a damn good job at using that oil. Horses have been fed up to 30% of calories as fat under experimental conditions --> Which is a heck of a lot of oil. The cup or so that I feed (start lower, work your way up since adding too much too fast can cause diarrhea) is no where NEAR that amount, yet still gives the benefits of feeding oil to an endurance horse (at least from what I've read/heard from conventions, experts in the endurance/nutrition fields etc.). So adding a cup or so shouldn't cause problems.
It doesn't matter which oil I chose for my horse. I'll get the available/cheap one.
-I too chose a oil that is cheap and available....but there are caveats. Stay away from oils with high concentrations of omega 6 fatty acids (n-6 FAs). They are considered pro-inflammatory. This was confirmed during my lecture this morning. Try to chose oils that have a high level of omega 3 fatty acids (n-3 FAs). With these in mind, Corn oil is definitely OUT. I think that corn oil is often suggested because it seems natural to people that corn = feedstuff that horses are known to consume. Corn oil is high in n-6 FAs, and NOT a good source of n-3 FAs. While other choices such as Soybean and Canola oil do contain n-6 FAs, they also are a good source of n-3 FAs, making them a more suitable choice. Both are cheaper than other "specialty oils", and available in the grocery store. At least in my area, a freezedried Soybean oil is available for people who don't want the mess of liquid oil.
I've never considered adding fish oil to Farley's diet (expensive, patability issues etc.) but I know that people often add it to their dog and cat diets. Something I learned today regarding fish oil --> "Diets high in polyunsaturated fats (especially fish oils) require higher levels of vitamin E in the diet. Do not prescribe high PUFA diets without increasing the vitamin E concentration of the diet." I do feed Vitamin E because of my supplementation with a Se product. Currently I feed a human grade vitamin E that comes in little soft capsules. I honestly have no idea how bioavailable that human product is in a horse. I have no idea whether I'm throwing away the $22/bottle. I could feed a vitamin E product made specifically for horses --> but unless I choose to buy from a company I trust, such as Platinum Performance/KPP/KER, I'm not sure I would trust whether the product has been stored correctly (vit E degrades), is bio-available for horses etc. Because of the lack of regulation in this industry, you are trusting the company that the product works and is quality controlled --> which means spending the money and buying directly from a repuable company and not trusting the storage areas of the "middle man". Feeding an oil that I KNOW has a high vitamin E requirement and not being totally comfortable with any of the products out there and/or having to add another expensive supplement to an already expensive oil, means I will probably look else where for a high n-3 oil (like the ones mentioned earlier) and avoid fish oil for now.
So there you have it --> Some nuggets of information that I've integrated into my management protocol. As always, it's easy to accept new information that reinforces what I already believe, but I believe in this case, adding a n-3 rich oil to a horse diet in moderate amounts is a good practice for endurance horses, and provides numerous benefits.