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Horses fed a high fat diet are less reactive to startling stimuli, and have lower levels of excitability and anxiety than horses fed a more traditional grain-based diet. Fat is high in calories, so limit the amount you feed based on the horse's weight and his caloric need. Provide no more than 10% of the total calories (8 fluid ounces or 240 ml of oil) for normally active horses. This can be doubled for the highly athletic horse. Start by adding a small amount (say, one tablespoon or 15 ml) and build up every few days. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the horse's cells to become accustomed to metabolizing more fat.
Omega 3s need to be four time higher than omega 6s. Avoid animal fats, as well as oils that have high levels of linoleic acid (an omega 6), which increases inflammation: Corn, soy, sunflower, and wheat germ oils. Choose oils or fatty feeds high in omega 3s, which reduce inflammation: Flaxseed oil, ground flax, or chia seeds. Fish oils are also high in omega 3s but are not as palatable. Hemp seed oil has fewer omega 3s than linoleic acid, but contains beneficial gamma linolenic acid (a non-inflammatory omega 6). Oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids can be added to a diet already high in omega 3s if more fat is needed: Rice bran and olive oils. Please note: Ponies, minis, donkeys, and mules should not receive high fat diets.
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Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist offering nutrition services for all life stages and integrative support for disorders and diseases. Your horse's quality of life is Dr. Getty's priority.
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