Adding Fat to your Horse’s Diet for Weight Gain

Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
Courtesy of Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network

Date Published: 12/08/2004
Date Reviewed/Revised: 08/15/2016

Some horses need to gain weight but cannot eat large amounts of carbohydrates for various reasons. High levels of carbohydrates in a horse’s ration are a concern for horses prone to stomach ulceration, those with a history of colic, those with equine metabolic syndrome, and those susceptible to laminitis and founder. To provide energy for these horses by feeding something other than carbohydrates, feeding fat is a good option and there are several sources of fat for horses.

One source is to feed a high fat concentrate and many of these feeds contain up to 12 percent fat. The fat is supplied by vegetable oil or rice bran. However, Catherine Whitehouse with Kentucky Equine Research indicates some manufacturers use dried distillers grains, flaxseed, and full fat soybeans. Another fat source that can be used is straight vegetable oil as vegetable oil is 100% fat. As far as the type of oil, some believe the omega 6 fatty acids in corn oil are less desirable than soybean oil that contains more omega 3 fatty acids. Cereal grains such as oats and corn also have high concentrations of omega 6 fatty acids, so this further increases the amount of omega 6 fatty acids, so feeding an oil other than corn oil may be advisable. You can start these horses on 2 ounces of oil twice a day, gradually building up to 8 ounces twice a day, and most horses will eat this oil placed directly on top of their food. Another source of fat is stabilized rice bran, which is about 20% fat and is palatable to horses. Many folks prefer rice bran because it is less messy to feed than the oil and can easily be mixed in with a regular feed. Consult with your veterinarian about the best source of fat for your horse.