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How to pick the perfect omega balance for your horse

Written by: Jenna Tranter

Published on: 11/16/2021

You’ve decided to supplement your horse with omegas and oils and at the surface it seems like a pretty easy task. Any oil should be okay right? The omega balance of an oil, coupled with the way it’s processed, and oxidative stability all play a major role in the overall health of your horse. So what makes an oil better than another? Let’s have a look at some of the frequently used oils for horses and some of the newer options, like coconut oil, and see how they stack up.

Corn Oil

Corn oil is commonly used in the equine diet and suggested when a horse needs an oil added to their diet. Corn oil generally has an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 46:1. Simply put this means that the majority of corn oil omegas are made up of omega-6. Omega-6’s need to be balanced in all diets (whether horse or human!) otherwise they create a ‘pro-inflammation’ effect. When you look at the omega-6: omega-3 ratio you want a fairly low first number and a higher second number. Omega-6’s in high amounts can cause inflammation and further aggravate inflammatory conditions. This is not something that we want to have when dealing with our horses. Corn, as a whole, is almost always GMO as most varieties of corn seed planted today are of GMO strains. Corn oil is also almost always expeller-pressed (squeezed at high pressure which can generate high temperatures reducing nutritional values) and then solvent extracted. The two most common solvents used for this process are hexane or 2-methylpentane (isohexane). Solvents are then evaporated, recovered and reused before degumming or alkali treatment which removes phosphatides, free fatty acids and colour. More and more customers request cold pressed oils for themselves and their animal’s use since it is chemical-free and retains more nutrients than other extraction methods.

Soybean Oil

So what about soybean oils? On the surface Soybean oil looks like a better option with a better Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio of 16:1. Soybean oil varieties and processing is very much the same as corn oil- the majority is GMO, and is expeller pressed and then has hexane solvent used. Often when researching soybeans the question of ‘phytoestrogens’ comes up. Soy acts as a natural estrogen and can contribute to raising estrogen levels when consumed however phytoestrogens are only found in the fatty portion of the soybean plant itself- soybean oil does not contain any phytoestrogens as a result. This is a common misconception however it does not mean that soybean oils or soybean oil blends should be high on the list of your choices when selecting the right oil for your horse's diet. There is a reason that more and more products found on the shelfs make a point of saying “Soy Free” or “Does not Contain Soy”.

Canola Oil

Another very common oil used for horses is canola oil. Canola oil is produced from specific varieties of rapeseed and comes in with an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 3:1. We are slowly getting better right? Canola oil is highly processed and virtually all canola oils go through hexane extraction. Rapeseed oil was actually banned in 1956 by the FDA due to high levels of erucic acid (glucosinolates) which depress animal growth. This led to the development of GMO LEAR Canola varieties in the 1970’s that were low in glucosinolate and therefore permitted. When used in cooking you also have to consider Lipid peroxidation- but as our focus here is on horses, at least that is not something we have to consider unless you are looking to bake horse treats rather than top dress your horses grain. The vast majority of canola is GMO and is solvent extracted.

Flax Oil

Most horse owners have heard over the years about the benefits of flax and flax oil for their horses. So where does flax fit into this? Flax comes in with an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 0.3 to 1. So our balance, for once, is omega 3 positive. Flaxseed oil or linseed oil are one in the same. Flaxseed is non-GMO but is permitted to have up to 3 p.p.m glyphosate (in Canada) when entering the food production system. Flaxseed oils are generally cold pressed and don’t require chemical extraction with hexane. While flax or linseed oil is overall a great option for horse owners, the problem with flax oil is that it is incredibly unstable due to low levels of tocopherols (vitamin e) which provides oxidative stability. A lot of horse owners and facilities do not have a dedicated fridge within the barn to store flaxseed oil which must be refrigerated to avoid rancidity. Flaxseed oils should also be protected from light- it can begin oxidizing from light in just a few hours! If you're going to use flax oil it should be kept in dark containers, protected from light, and refrigerated. ‘Straight’ flax oil also generally comes with a higher price tag to accompany it’s risks.

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Equine

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

This list could go on and on however for our purposes we are only going to touch on one more today. Coconut oil is also now recommended as a supplement option for horses. Coconut oil does not actually have an omega-6: omega-3 ratio as coconut oils do not deliver any omega-3, only omega-6. Unlike virtually all other vegetable based oils coconut oil is very high in saturated fats. According to the USDA database one cup of coconut oil contains 218g of fat with 87% of the total fat content consisting of saturated (unhealthy) fats. It also contains 3.92g of omega-6 fatty acids. While coconut oil does have some health benefits when used as part of your feed program you must balance it with an alternative omega-3 source.

Camelina Oil

What about Camelina oil? Camelina oil is often called ‘false flax’ with Smart Earth Camelina oil coming in with an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 0.6 to 1. Unlike flax, Camelina has a high level of oxidative stability due to the levels of tocopherols in the form of Vitamin E. It does not require refrigeration but we recommend it be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight to maximize shelf life. Most feed room shelves are more than suitable for storing our product. Smart Earth Camelina oil is non-GMO and has been bred using traditional methods to give you the best quality natural camelina possible. Our production is fully traceable and we routinely test for over 90+ herbicide and pesticide residues before bottling to ensure the highest possible quality product for your horse.

Oil Type: Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio

Corn

46:1

Soybean

16:1

Canola

3:1

Flax

0.3:1

Coconut

Omega 6 only. Mostly saturated fats.

Camelina

0.6:1

Meet Jenna Tranter

Jenna Tranter is Smart Earth Camelina Corp's equine nutritionist. She is the owner and operator of Four Corners Equestrian and has been involved in the industry for over 20 years.

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About the Author

Jenna Tranter is a talented young professional with skills, training and interest in equines, communication, management, copy writing, advertising and media. She has succeeded in fast paced environments and performs very well under pressure. Is highly conscientious, always putting a maximum effort into every project undertaken. Jenna has been with Smart Earth for over 8 years and is our #1 source for your horse.