Thursday, January 01, 1998

Feeding Fat

Here`s what Dr. Sarah Ralston has to say about fats.
Any of the edible oils (corn, vegetable, wheat germ,etc) are equivalent in calories but the effects on certain metabolic factors may differ though not well defined in horses. At least in our studies corn oil was more palatable (tasty!) than Canola. As far as the seed sources go-flax must be soaked if fed as the whole seed and you are getting a lot of other nutrients (protein, phosphorus, for example) with the whole seeds. Shelled sunflower seeds I`d worry about over feeding-again a small seed size, high protein, carbohydrates, etc in addition to the oil. I`d tend to stick with the oils. Lard and other animal fats are digestible by horses but would be harder to incorporate in the ration...
Sarah Ralston

The problem with fat feeding is that for best results you need about 12% fat in the TOTAL FEED. This is almost impossible to achieve with oil. What to do? Rice Bran helps, Fat PAX 100 a milk derivative and oil will work. I will cover this in my Web Page ( as soon as I am tired with Resonant Riding, which I am really excited about. Anyway 12% can be achieved with FAT PAX, rice bran and oil. It really works for 100 milers, any race over 75 miles it pays. The research from the race track indicates that injury is reduced and long term performance is better. In the NEW edition of my Book, I do discuss fat feed in detail. (Endurance Riding From Beginning to Winning) How to feed fat, how to make 12% fat pellets and how to get 12% fat without pelleting. See pages 47-52, 189-190 and 195 for sources of suppliers. The book is available from Green Mansions Inc. P O Box 100, Redmond, Oregon 97756, $17.45 including shipping. Lew Hollander

I would like to offer some extra fat feeding info...

Lewis Hollander wrote that it is almost impossible to acheive 12% of the total diet in fat with corn oil....We all need to be specific when talking percents. We can have a 12% FAT diet by weight (pounds fat per pounds total feed - concentate plus roughage), or we can express it as a percentage of calories (fat calories per total calories each day).

It can be hard to acheive 12% fat by weight of the total diet, but it can be done with corn oil. A hard working horse weighing around 900 lbs needs about 27-30 Mcal of DE each day . 1 cup of corn oil weighs 1/2 lb, and supplies 2 Mcal of energy.Therefore, 2 cups of corn oil per day will easily supply more than 12% of the total calories of the diet as fat. On a per weight basis it is more difficult, but, the same horse, eating 2.5% of its bodyweight (high estimate for hard working endurance types) in total feed per day would require 23 lbs of feed, with 12% being 2.8 lbs. That adds up to almost 6 cups of corn oil each day maximum (2 - 3 cups per feeding) This can be accomplished by gradually mixing in the oil with grain and some chopped hay, or a product like Dengie HiFi,making sure the Vitamin E level is adequate. There is still discussion about how much Vitamin E a fat-supplemented diet should have.

Research I conducted with Arabians at Virginia Tech utilized 14% of the total diet weight in fat, and we had no problems at all. We used high quality corn oil, and never had a palatability problem (study length was almost 3 years). Remember that rice bran is only 20% fat, (corn oil is almost 100% fat) and it will be more difficult to acheive a 12% (by wt) fat diet with this product. If my math is correct, and it may not be....... A horse consuming 23 lbs. of feed each day would require almost 15 lbs of rice bran each day.( One pound fills up a sandwich bag) to get 2.8 lbs of fat. I am not familiar with Fat Pax 100, but riders must be careful when feeding milk products to adult horses. I think oils are the way to go, especially corn oil, with the down side now being price. We had good results, however, with the fat-supplemented diet stabilizing electrolytes, strong ion difference, and blood glucose, even at a gallop with a heart rate of 210 beats per minute (articles in progress, to be submitted to The Journal of Applied Physiology and The Journal of Nutrition). Hope this long winded ramble helped....let me know!!!

Lynn Taylor, MS, PhD
Otterbein College
Westerville, OH

This is in Chapter 4 in "Feeding and Care for the Horse" by Lon D Lewis. I will edit as I feel necessary. This is a very good book and I highly recommend it.

Fat and Oil Supplements for Horses Fats or oils may be added to the horse`s diet:(1) to decrease dust;(2) to lubricate processing equipment; (3) as a binder for pelleting to to assist in preventing fine material, such as added vitamins, minerals or protein supplements from sifting out; (4) to try to give the horse a glossier hair coat: and (5) to increase energy density of the diet. The purpose of increasing diet energy density is to increase energy intake and /or decrease the amount of feed needed to provide energy needs in order to increase athletic performance, milk production, reproductive efficiency, and growth rate and /or to maintain or increase body weight during hot humid weather and when energy needs are high. Fats or oils may be added to commercially prepared horse feeds for all five of these purposes, with the last two being the reason most horseowners add them to the diet. Fat supplementation appears to be of benefit for all of these purposes, except perhaps in giving the horse a glossier hair coat.

The high amount of energy needed by horses during growth, lactation, training, or use generally necessitates an increase in their diet`s energy density so that a sufficient amount of dietary energy can and will be eaten to meet their needs and, thus, allow the young horse to grow rapidly and the mature horse to maintain optimum body weight, condition, and reproductive or athletic performance. The increase in the energy density of the diet is generally accomplished by increasing the proportion of grain in the diet up to a maximum of 40 to 60 % of the weight of the diet. More grain than this decreases forage intake too greatly, increasing the risk of founder, colic, diarrhea, and exertional myopathy (tying up). A decrease in forage intake also decreases the amount of water, electrolytes, and energy-providing nutrients present in the intestinal tract, which are quite beneficial for enduranc type physical performance. A low-forage diet also increases the risk of boredom accomplish the needed and beneficial increase in the diet`s energy density.

Supplemental fats are well used by the horse. Utilization does not vary between different sources, but tends to be lower for animal fats than for plant or vegetable oils. Added fat or oil generally increases the diet`s total energy digestibility and increases or has little effect on the utilization of other nutrients. Fat supplementation also has no effect on the horse`s blood parameters except for increasing plasma cholesterol concentration. This effect is not detrimental in horses as it is in people. (Shannon Loomis)

Some info on how fat may be working to help performance:

A group of researchers from Harvard and the University of Berne, Switzerland, working with dogs, have shown an increase in aerobic capacity, an increase in fat oxidation, and an actual increase in the volume density of mitochondria, which are the units in skeletal muscle that oxidize the fatty acids. The diet was 65% of the calories from fat. Because of the similarity between greyhounds and horses, this may be valuable in determining muscular changes in horses, and explain reports of increased performance. Of course the fat% would need to be lower (not 65%), and hopefully acceptable and practical for equines!!!.

Lynn Taylor, MS, PhD
Otterbein College
Westerville, OH

I wanted to just clarify a few things...the Lewis text is certainly an excellent book, but the field of nutrition changes so quickly that I would suggest not taking the book written word as gospel all the time. The reasons for feeding fat are many, AND it may affect performance as well. I would not personally recommend feeding 60% concentrate to that many horses - up to 50% grain with high quality hay will usually suffice except maybe for youngsters and most notably broodmares in early lactation. Fat is utilized well by the horse, as there is a constant flow of bile from the liver, even though the gall bladder is absent. Utilization DOES vary slightly between plant oils, and can have a significant effect on other nutrients. Fiber digestibility and protein digestibility can be reduced by feeding fats. There are some excellent studies being conducted currently in France (Andrieu and Martin-Rosset), Germany (Meyer) and in the U.S. (Kronfeld et. al, various - Va Tech). The type and amount of fat in the diet will affect other dietary components, and new blends and types of fats are being investigated all the time. Hopefully we will soon find the best one for our equine athletes....Cheers!

Lynn Taylor, MS, PhD
Otterbein College

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