Fat Options to Help Your Horse Hold Weight During the Winter

Oil? Rice bran or flax seeds? Fat-fortified feed? Learn how to pick the best option for horses that are hard-keepers.
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Fat Options to Help Your Horse Hold Weight During the Winter
Often the easiest way to increase fat in the diet is to add oil to whatever you're already feeding. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q. What is the best use of fats to help horses maintain weight during the cooler winter months?–Julie, Hawaii

A. Fat sources are often used for weight gain because they’re significantly more calorie-dense than carbohydrates. There are numerous products that can add fat to a horse’s diet, including:

  1. High-fat commercial performance feeds, which typically have 10-13% crude fat and when fed correctly provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals to complement the forage in the ration;
  2. High-fat feeds, such as rice bran (which contains approximately 18% fat and might or might not have added vitamin E, calcium, and other minerals) or flax seeds (which might have up to 40% fat content);
  3. Fat supplements either in feed form—which might have as much as 30% crude fat—or a dried vegetable oil at 90% fat; and
  4. Oils, which include everything from common vegetable oils such as canola oil to less well-known vegetable oils such as camelina. Fish oil is even an option.

But First…

Before you reach for your preferred fat source, though, first try to determine why your horse isn’t maintaining weight

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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