LIZZIE DRURY MSC RNUTR
The starting point to keeping any horse healthy is to ensure a well balanced diet that is suited to that individual horse, with forage, most importantly, forming the basis of the diet. The rest of the diet needs to ensure suitable energy, quality protein, and vitamin and mineral levels are adequate to keep the horse fit and healthy.
As research into nutrition continually moves forward there arenow advances in feed and supplement technology that bring tothe shop’s shelves innovative ingredients that have been provento help support equine health and well-being.
Humans supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids have shown a reduction in inflammation from arthritis. Researchers atMichigan State University theorised that, if the same effect was found in supplemented horses, minimised discomfort mightmanifest itself as increased stride length amongst horses suffering from joint stiffness.
To test this theory, they measured stride length at the walk and trot for 18Arabian horses. The horses were paired and all of the horses were fed aconcentrate feed and Timothy hay. One horse in each group wassupplemented with fish oil while the other was supplemented with corn oil fora period of 75 days. The horses were exercised five days a week under saddleor on a lunge line. At the end of the trial the horses supplemented with the fishoil had higher plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids. There was no change instride length at the walk but horses supplemented with the fish oil tended tohave an increased stride length at the trot. The increased stride length in thetrot suggests a decrease in inflammation, stiffness and joint pain associatedwith movement.
There has been much talk about the benefits of essential fatty acids, in particular the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Theomega-3 family stems from alpha linolenic acid (ALA) while the omega-6 family originates from linolenic acid (LA). Theseessential fatty acids must be balanced within the body in order for both to be effective, and, although researchers have not yetpinpointed the optimal ratio of omega-3 to omega- 6 fatty acids for horses, continuing research is revealing more informationabout the benefits of supplementing horses with them.
Researchers at Texas A&M University have reported that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids reduced joint inflammationin both yearlings and arthritic horses. Horses fed the omega-3 supplement had lower synovial fluid white blood cell countsthan those in the control group. Raised white blood cell counts are indicative of local inflammation and arthritic horses willtypically have a much higher number of white blood cells than non-arthritic horses. In this study, increased mobility in thesupplemented arthritic horses was not reported.
In humans, essential fatty acids are critical for proper visual development in infants, so one may presume that this would alsobe the case for the foal. In adults, deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to impaired vision and studies have also suggestedthat prolonged deficiencies may increase the risk of damage to the retina. Essential fatty acids also play a role in helping eyefluids drain, which helps to regulate intraocular pressure. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid may help to support and maintain normal eye health in the horse.
Of all the health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids, the one perhaps mostrelevant to the performance horse industry is the positive effect on inflammation,specifically inflammation involved in musculoskeletal disease. Dietary supplementation ofomega-3 fatty acids can help offset the inflammatory response, but the response is notimmediate. They must be supplemented for at least 28 days before they have any effecton the inflammatory cascade.
Supplementation can help to support normal muscle function and recovery rates postexercise. Research is also supporting the use of omega-3 fatty acids for the maintenanceof a healthy immune system, which is important for performance horses travelling on aregular basis, breeding stock and foals.
SARACEN PRODUCTS WITH ADDED OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Saracen have several feeds within the range that have added omega 3 fatty acids in the form of linseed.
ESSENTIAL BALANCER and SHAPE-UP™ are designed with the good-doer in mind and as such have low starch and sugarformulations with high fibre levels. Dense in vitamins, minerals and quality protein sources both products will help to maintainmuscle tone and topline as well as supporting optimum health and vitality.
COMPETITION-FIT CUBES are ideal for performance horses or leisure horses requiring an additional source of energy comparedto a leisure feed. The oat and barley free formulation allows for a greater emphasis to be placed on providing energy from highlevels of fibre and oil, rather than cereals. This tends to suit horses of a more excitable or nervous disposition withoutcompromising on energy output.
VETERAN CUBES are easy to chew, highly palatable and particularly suitable for those older horses that are still in regular work,competitive regimes or those that are more difficult to keep condition on. They contain optimum levels of quality proteinsources for muscle and tissue repair and development as well as of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support health andvitality as well as maintaining a healthy immune system.
LEVEL-GROW™ PENCILS are formulated for young growing horses, as well as being suitable for broodmares that hold theirweight well throughout pregnancy and lactation. Based on important research conducted at Kentucky Equine Research Level-Grow™ has been formulated to provide the young growing horse with the correct nutrients to support optimal growth withoutincreasing the risk of growth issues.
Need some guidance?
For a personalised feeding plan please complete our simple and free Feed Advice form. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to one of our qualified nutritionists for some immediate advice, please call our Feed Advice line on 01622 718 487