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Add Vitamin E to High-Fat Horse DietsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 22, 2017

Equine nutritionists routinely advise horse owners to dole out more fat when hard keepers or high-performance horses have trouble maintaining or adding body condition. Fat can bump up the energy density of a ration significantly and often provides just the right top-off to achieve weight gain.

During digestion, fat is broken down into its most basic structures, fatty acids. An increase in the amount of fat fed will therefore create an upsurge in circulating levels of fatty acids. Fatty acids are prone to oxidation, the byproducts of which can be harmful to cells. As a result, nutritionists typically recommended that an antioxidant be supplemented when a diet is high in fat, especially vegetable oil.

“Though research is somewhat limited on the impact of high-fat diets in antioxidant requirements of horses, studies in other mammals suggest advantages in offering vitamin E. Giving 1-1.5 IU of vitamin E per 1 ml of oil will help minimize oxidative damage,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

What does this mean, in practical terms?

“A cup of vegetable oil is equivalent to 240 ml, give or take a bit. Based on the recommendation of 1-1.5 ml of vitamin E per ml of oil offered, a horse fed one cup of oil should receive 240-360 IU of vitamin E per day above its normal requirement for added antioxidant protection,” explained Crandell.

Not all vitamin E supplements are created equally. In searching for a supplement to feed alongside oil, look for a natural-source vitamin E product. If you’re unsure if a product contains natural or synthetic vitamin E, check the ingredient listing, which should state “d-alpha-tocopherol” for natural. Synthetic vitamin E, listed as dl-alpha-tocopherol on products, is absorbed less efficiently than natural vitamin E.

Peak antioxidant protection is provided through a water-soluble, natural-source product called Nano•E, developed by KER. “Nano•E features a unique nanodispersion delivery system that results in superior bioavailability,” explained Crandell, citing research on different forms of vitamin E.