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If your horse is always grazing in pasture you can be pretty confident they will be getting enough essential fatty acids to maintain proper health. "Essential" means fatty acids that can't be produced by the body alone and so must be absorbed via food intake.
Experts agree your horse needs a balance of these fatty acids: Omega3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and Omega6 linoleic acid (LA) - though the exact ratio hasn't been scientifically established.
According to nutrition expert Dr. Juliet M. Getty if your horse is deficient, or improperly balanced in the Omegas, it can experience immune system and hormone function issues: skin, hoof and joint disorders; depression or aggressive tendencies and general malaise.
As a result of high Omega6 content in grain rations, the ideal Omega3|Omega6 ratio can be out of balance or even reversed. We've known this for years. "Domesticated horses are often fed concentrated sources of energy in the form of grain meals. Grains possess more omega-6 fatty acids than forage, creating a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that may be inappropriate, especially when diets are high in grain."
Put simply, most horses not generally in pasture will require a supplement in their diet. But how do the various oil supplements stack up?
Flaxseed is known as the Omega-3 heavyweight: it mirrors that of pasture (4:1 ALA to LA). But flax can be unstable and, unlike Camelina, can quickly turn rancid unless kept in the fridge. Not all horses like the taste. Also, as Getty notes, there is some concern about the safety of ground flaxseed which contains cyanogenic glycosides.
Canola Oil doesn't contain much in the way of Omega3. It is rich in Omega9 and Omega6.
Soybean or Corn oils also tilt toward high Omega6 fatty acid content. But as Getty points out, too much Omega6 is already consumed in a horse’s diet through feed.
Hemp Oil is fundamentally higher in Omega6 than Omega3 and needs to stay in the fridge. The high LA content in hemp needs to be balanced with enough ALA from other sources. As Getty says: "Pasture, or hay that is fresh and stored properly, along with dietary supplementation of high-ALA feeds and oils, will allow your horse to benefit from added hempseed products."
There are other supplements including pumpkin seed oil, seabuckthorn, chia, fish and algal oil. In her independent article, Getty discusses them all.
Camelina, meantime, has a unique oil profile, offering a better than 2:1 balance of Omega3|Omega6. It is also high in tocopherols (Vitamin E), a natural anti-oxidant.
Here is what Juliet Getty says about camelina: "Camelina oil offers an excellent alternative to flaxseed oil. It comes from the edible Camelina sativa seed, often referred to as “false flax.” It is high in ALA with a 2.4:1 ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s, and its shelf life is far superior to flaxseed oil. It is resistant to oxidative rancidity, making it highly stable. This is because of its remarkably high vitamin E content: 100 ml (slightly less than ½ cup) of camelina oil contains 150 IU of natural vitamin E, whereas flaxseed oil only contains 26 IU. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and as such, it neutralizes damaging free radicals formed when the fatty acids are oxidized from air and light."
Smart Earth Camelina Oil is offered via our Online Store and conveniently shipped to your door or barn.