Q: Why is linseed oil the new thing to feed?

Asked by Erin Booth

A: Oils have been available on the equine market for years now, yet there is still some confusion over which oil to use. While there is technically no ‘bad’ oil, there may be some that are better options for your horse than others. The reason for this is the different omega content and profiles of the oils.

Horses cannot make omega-3 and omega-6 for themselves and thus these vital nutrients need to be provided in the diet. Omega-6 is common in concentrate feeds, and omega-3 oils are found in grass and hay. Therefore modern diets are generally higher in omega-6 and it is for this reason that omega-3 oils have been suggested as a supplement for horses. Linseed oil has the highest level of omega-3 and lowest omega-6 compared to other oils and is thus often seen as the best option for omega-3 supplementation.

Although more research needs to be done in horses specifically, some of the benefits of using omega-3 oils in general include: help for inflammatory skin conditions; reduction of inflammation from injury or infectious agents (bacteria, viruses and fungi); useful for respiratory issues; ideal source of energy for conditions such as laminitis, ulcers, colic and tying up; and useful energy sources for hot horses (although this effect is seen with any oil, not just linseed).

Linseed oil also has these advantages over other omega-3 oils: it is highly palatable; it provides some vitamin E (which is needed when using larger amounts of oil); and it is well priced and easily available.

Answered by Hannah Botha, MSc Equine Science, Equus Feeds