BHF Nutrition – The best source of oil for condition

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Why is oil good for our horses?

Lipids (oils & fats) are an integral part of the body’s physiology and biochemistry. They are present in cell membranes, intracellular structures and as insulators for connective tissue and nerve fibres. Additionally, lipids are the only true long term energy reserves, stored in dedicated cells, from which they can be rapidly mobilised to meet increases in energy demands.

These energy demands may be in terms of a higher level of activity, increased heat production during cold weather, or to make up a shortfall when dietary input drops (limited or low energy feed). If fat is not present, then the body will start to break down protein – glucose stores (glycogen) are very limited and will soon be used up in adverse conditions. Lipids also act as insulation for the whole body (fat reserves lying under the skin act as blanket) and improve the conformation of the horse

In summary, fats are the source horses go to when they really need energy. Without this source, their bodies tap into protein for energy instead, which will get used up too quickly and takes away from the other uses that protein has for the body.

What is oil?

The majority of dietary oils are triglycerides. Triglycerides are 3 fatty acids attached to a glycerol body, and the individual fatty acids can vary from short to long chain molecules, with or without unsaturated bonds. They are metabolised to release energy that enters the energy generation system, by-passing insulin dependent sugar metabolism, and providing up to 38Mj/kg, far higher than other nutrients. Don’t fear, you can get an oil that provides slow releasing energy to ensure your horse doesn’t get too hot. Keep reading!

What does oil do?

Oil has a central position in the metabolic pathways in the horse. As such, as well as being broken down to provide energy when needed, Lipids can also be biosynthesised when more energy is being taken in than being used and laid down as fat. Biosynthesised refers to the process by which living organisms (like cells in the human body) naturally produce complex compounds (in this case, lipids) from simpler substances.

There are some essential fatty acids (EFA) that are required in the diet because they do a lot more than just give the horse energy. These EFA form the lipo-protein layers of the cell membranes, structures of microsomes and nuclei. Also, some fats act as antioxidants, which protect cells, and are important for making hormones that our horse’s bodies need to work properly. In addition, these fats can combine with other things like phosphates and sugars to create a variety of oil types. There are different fatty acids, both in terms of chain length and the position of the unsaturated bonds. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) are a varied class of fatty acids, which have a supportive function in the active horse. Oils contain various substances that help with the body’s metabolism, influencing a horse’s overall health and condition. A horse with forage in its diet has access to oils with a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acid

What type of oil is best?

When it comes to functional properties then the types of the fatty acids do matter. Although there is a certain amount of transition between omega-3 and -6, the individual acids do have differing functions. Omega-6 fatty acids, along with omega-3 and omega-9, are important for vascular structure & function, as well as being a precursor for signalling molecules that support regulatory processes such as inflammation.

Omega-7 and omega-9 help support exercising muscle activity, whereas omega-3 is associated with anti-inflammatory support, insulin sensitivity and allergen mitigation.

It is generally accepted that the ideal ratio of omega-6: omega-3 is 4:1, but most of the materials fed to horses have an oil profile heavily leaning towards omega-6 (206:1 for sunflower, 7:1 for soya). As such, introducing an oil that has high levels of omega-3 is needed to reduce this ratio – the best source for this is linseed oil

Why Linseed Oil?

As well as providing sufficient levels of omega-3 to achieve a better profile, linseed oil contains significant levels of natural vitamin E and vitamin C.

On top of this, linseed oil contains a range of bioactive components that have antioxidant properties, and therefore health benefits – such as vascular function – all important for wellbeing and condition.

Choosing an oil source simply for energy is easy, but by choosing linseed, you are also selecting an oil that supplies a bioactive function, promoting good health and wellbeing in your horse and a slow release of energy rather than making your horse or pony hot

Is it best to use Linseed Oil or Cooked Linseed?

Due to the higher fibre content and cooking process, your horse will be able to absorb more nutrients from the Cooked Linseed rather than oil due to the ease of digestibility.

British Horse Feeds’ Cooked Linseed is an ideal source. With 39% oil, almost a half of which is as omega-3 fatty acids, it provides a protein source rich in components that help provide the right kind of energy, maintain musculature and recovery and is easy to feed.

Cooked Linseed provides the energy, simplicity and versatility of a complementary feed for the horse. Ready to feed straight from the sack, Cooked Linseed is a good nutritious feed for energy, performance, condition, skin and coat and wellbeing and is also suitable for those horses and ponies prone to laminitis.

Click here to find out more about Cooked Linseed and to find your local stockist.