Adding Oil to a Horse’s Diet

Healthy, inside and out

Adding vegetable oil to equine feeds or to equine diets has been a standard practice for literally hundreds of years.  Old horse traders knew that adding oil could help slick up a horse for sale long before the science of measuring digestible energy was developed.

There are multiple ways that vegetable oils are added to horse diets.  A common practice among horse owners is to add various quantities of oil on top of an existing diet.  A cup of oil will weigh about 8 ounces and contain about 2,045 Kcal (Calories).  A 500 kg (1100 lb) horse at light work requires about 20 Mcal or 20,000 Kcal, so that oil would provide about 10% of the required DE per day.  For comparison, a pound of oats, as fed, provides about 1,320 Kcal, so adding oil provides a lot of Calories in a small package.

A key element to consider in adding oil on top of an existing diet is that oil adds only Calories (crude/unrefined oils may also contain some Vitamin E), so it is possible to alter the nutrient to Calorie ratios in a diet.  With the addition of moderate quantities of oil, this is unlikely to create issues.  If a substantial amount of oil is added on top of an existing diet, the diet may no longer be meeting the horse’s requirements for other nutrients.  Corn oil, soy oil and other vegetable oils may be used for top dressing diets.

Feed companies also add oil to formulated feeds and will declare the minimum amount of crude fat on the tag.  This is primarily from the oil in the grain and the added oil if above 3-3.5%.  A feed that is tagged at 7%  will generally contain about 3-4% added oil.  Internal formulations systems will also calculate the total DE of the feed, which includes energy from fat as well as from NDF (neutral detergent fiber), NFC (non-fiber carbohydrates) and protein.   This allows the company to maintain the balance of energy sources as well as appropriate nutrient to Calorie ratios.

If a product refers to Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids, the actual quantity or % of each fatty acid may also be declared on the tag or on the bag.  The ingredient listing will generally identify the oil or oils that may be included in the product. 

Top dressing with oil is a common practice, which can be done successfully, when done in moderation with a careful eye on meeting the total nutrient requirements of the horse as well as the energy requirements.  Adding too much may result in other nutrient issues.

68 thoughts on “Adding Oil to a Horse’s Diet

  1. I’ve added vegetable oil to my horses feed for about 13 years now. It not only helps with their coat and calories, but it also helps with digestion. During the season change horses tend to colic more often, if not closely watched. The oil tends to keep everything flowing nicely so to speak! I use a squirt pump that fits right onto a large bottle of oil. I just top their daily ration with one squirt! The beautiful coat is just an added treat!

    • I do the exact same thing as Lea. My TB was colicing, adding a 1/4 cup corn oil to his feed helped with his digestion and no issues since!

  2. I am in the process of switching my horse’s feed to Nutrena’s Safe Choice. I have noticed that his “output” is drier and have started to add back oil to his ration. Coming into winter, the extra calories help keep his weight steady as well.

    • Hello Leslie, Thanks for commenting. Adding oil is a good way to provide extra calories.

      As we come in to winter, it is also important to make sure that we provide salt free choice, preferably loose form, and fresh clean water at temperature above freezing. As temperatures drop, horses are a bit less likely to lick salt blocks. Water consumption may drop also as temperatures drop and water is cold. In some cases, dry manure may indicate that water consumption has dropped and the moisture content of pasture grass has dropped.

      Thanks ~ Roy J.

  3. OH YES Oil in horse feeds such a good Idea depending on the type of oil never wanna go cheep good quilty name brand is best I advse people on how to care for and feed their horses if specalized care seems to be needed I will do that. for the most part Horse people undarstand and figuar it out and respect my input add this oil for this or this oil for that. There are horse people who are old school Bully’s they call them selves trainers who will ignore my advice. And the part time hobby people who just say ok and do it. Then the wanna be’s who get on the internet to look up EVERYTHING come back tell you that it is wrong to feed oil because. the truth is its good sroce of Cal. with out producing hot energy. Also helps things moving along.

  4. Hi, I’m planning on adding vegetable oil to my horses diet as the pasture is lacking grass at the moment. He is a 15.3 Thoroughbred, being hacked out a few times a week, what sort of oil to I buy… Normal vegetable oil from a supermarket? Also, how much should I give to him and do I add it to his usual feed? Thanks, Kayleigh :)

    • Hi Kayleigh, Thanks for checking in. Yes, you can use regular corn or veggie oil from the grocery store. We recommend 1/4 cup per day, but make sure to start out with adding just a few table spoons per day, until the horse gets used to it and work your way up to 1/4 cup. You can do more than that if needed but you want to keep the feed palatable also keep an eye on their stools.
      Thanks~ Gina T.

  5. Hi, I have a 7year old welsh gelding and with him living out full time his coat isnt looking as shiny as it should at the moment. Ive heard people talking about how oil helps but just wanted to check. Will normal vegetable oil from the local supermakerts be okay to put into his feed if I gradually get him use to it?

    • Hi Millie, Thanks for the question. Yes, you can use regular vegetable oil right from the supermarket. You will definitely want to start out just a little with every feeding, and gradually work up to a 1/2 cup or so per day. Going to fast may result in some loose stools as the digestive system adapts to the extra oil.
      Also, you may want to consider evaluating his overall diet, to check for any imbalances or lack of nutrients. Especially with some of the lower quality hay supplies this year, this is something many horses may be facing.
      Good luck ~ Gina T.

      • Hi Gina, thanks for getting back to me. I will deffinetly try it and see if it makes a difference. His feed at the moment consists of normal pasture mix with apple chop and as he lives out he has fibre beet to keep his weight on. I hope it works, where hopefuly going to be showing in a couple of months and want him to be looking his best!

  6. I recently lost a beloved Arabian mare to colic. After three months of horse-shopping, I have an Arab gelding, and I am deeply concerned that he get the right kind of feed and properly balanced nutrition. Various “horse people” are generous and trying to be helpful in their suggestions. They have recommended SafeChoice, beet pulp, and Purina Senior, along with table salt and vegetable oil. Sheik needs some weight. He’s about 15-1 or so and 1150 lbs. I feed three times a day and, remembering that he has been on pasture for 2 years, know that he is in a transition period right now and should be gradually gotten into his new diet. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hello Carol, Thanks for visiting our blog, and we’re sorry to hear about your mare! That is never easy.
      For your new friend Sheik, we would recommend first to get him on as much hay and/or pasture as possible – free choice is best, and extra hay can add some needed weight. Then, for the most balanced source of calories, we would suggest picking a single product designed to help horses put on weight. There is no need to mix two commercial products together, and adding beet pulp can actually throw off the nutrient balance that is built in to a commercial product, so we typically recommend against it. It’s akin to adding a random ingredient to a pre–packaged cake mix – it’s just not likely to work right!
      From our product line, either SafeChoice Original or SafeChoice Perform are excellent options. Unless he is older and having dental issues, there shouldn’t be a need for a senior feed. Make sure you weigh the amount you feed him, and that the amount you feed falls within the recommended guidelines for his size & activity level. You can feed for at the high end of the recommended range, until he gets to the desired weight, and then back off gradually until you find the amount of feed that he maintains at. For a horse of his size, the feeding rate for light activity on SafeChoice original will be 5.5 – 8.5 pounds. Remember to introduce it gradually to him, to avoid digestive upset.
      Keep the salt available free choice – all horses should have this!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

      • Gina, Thanks so much for your reply. Sheik is a rescue horse and has been on pasture for about 2 years or so. He gets coastal bermuda free choice now, and I am supplementing some alfalfa mash as well. I bought beet pulp, which I’ve never used on horses before, on the advice of a local horsewoman. According to his papers, he’s 15; his teeth were floated a couple of weeks ago, so there are no dental issues. I’ve also wondered about supplements. SmartPac has a product called Colicare (I think), but I don’t want to get so overburdened with a hodgepodge of feeds. Since I lost Pris to colic, I’m super cautious about it. I’ve had horses colic, but I’ve never lost one to it. This gelding will have no demands other than standing for the farrier and the vet, eating, sleeping,…you get the picture.

  7. Hello,

    I have a 4 year old Irish Sport Horse. He is in training right now (4-6 days a week). He gets free choice good quality hay, as well as pasture (not the absolute best but it’s adequate). Out 24/7 in the good months. He is fed twice a day, and he gets a pound of buckeye’s “trifecta”, plus “maintenance” feed at each feeding. He is not frighteningly thin, but he is ribby. His shoulders don’t have that nice bulky look either, more of a flat almost concave look. I started to give him a special third ration a day (timothy/alfalfa hay cubes with more trifecta, and some added rice bran oil) in hopes that he would put on weight. I saw no difference. I have been told he is growing but he has been the same height for several months now, and there has been little or no change in his weight. He has had his teeth done, and I have had blood taken to check for internal problems. Do I need to feed more oil? Probiotics? I’m going to have the vet out but I don’t know what to do at this point. He just won’t gain weight even though he seemingly stuffs himself full of hay and every other horse in the pasture is fat and happy including my 13 year old standardbred with the worst parrot mouth you have ever seen and a cleft pallet. If he can be fat I swear any horse can! This is what worries me. Please help!

    • Hello Jenna, Thank you for contacting us. This sounds to be potentially a problem with a lack of quality protein for the amount of work this horse is doing, rather than just a lack of calories or a digestive issue. Every horse has different needs from a metabolism standpoint, and there is always a “problem child” in every barn, so no need to worry!

      First, feeding just a pound or two a day of a commercially prepared feed is generally not going to provide the protein required of a working horse. First, get a weight estimate on your horse, then look at the tag on your feed of choice and ensure you are feeding according to directions. Most performance feeds actually require 5 or more pounds per day – that may seem like a lot, but you’ve got a large animal burning a lot of calories on your hands. Hay diets are adequate for pasture ornaments, but not working horses. Feeding according to the directions will solve both your issue of weight gain, and should also improve the “flat” appearance in his shoulders by providing the amount of protein needed to build & repair muscle.

      Thank you ~ Roy J.

    • Jenna, I know this may be different from much advice you have received but we have had great good results using Calf Manna as a supplement for improving feed absorption . Also, I looove my vet but for teeth work I use only a specialized horse dentist rather than a vet…….the poor veterinarians are always playing catch-up and I found the dentistsspend more time to give me much much better results. Also, if he is being worked 4-6 days a week he needs a performance diet rather than anything resembling a maintenance diet

  8. Hello, I have a 16year old thourghbred/Quarter horse cross, 15.3 hands who has lost his weight and is at a point where you can just see his ribs. He is currently on 2 feed scoops of Purina Simpliciti Fat & Fibre, and I have just started to increase it to three. He also is on 2nd cut hay from this year. I was also feeding him a cup of ground flax seeds but cut them out of his diet. Would adding a 1/4cup of oil help him put pack on the fat he needs? or should I add an other feed to his diet like soaked beet pulp or sweet feed? He has been off work the past few weeks, and i’m wondering if he is loosing the weight due to the fact that he is a very nervous horse and he is just worked up because he has not been getting exercise.

    • Hello Violet, Thank you for contacting us. Given that your horse has been off work, but not changing his diet, it’s possible that what you are seeing may be a decrease in muscle mass, versus a decrease in fat levels. Adding an exercise regimen back to his daily routine will help alleviate this and bring him back to proper condition. Increasing his daily ration will help put on pounds, but will not improve his muscle tone by much. If you do increase the feed, though, stick with increasing his current ration, rather than adding another product to the mix. Aside from keeping your life a little simpler, it will be a healthier and more balanced nutritional approach than adding something like beet pulp or plain oil.
      Thank you ~ Gina T.

  9. Hi,

    I have a 22 year old gedling who needed colic surgery this past summer. Our surgeon strongly urged us to feed up to a cup of oil a day, split between feedings obviously, for the rest of this horses life based on his impaction colic and subsequent sugery. He was fine with feeding vegetable or corn or a soy combo…it just needed to be oil. I do not want to use corn because of it’s inflammatory properties. Wondering if you all have any insight into what is the best oil, in large doses, for horses. I don’t mind spending the money for flax seed oil, etc…..but want to make the right choice, as the main goal for him is avoiding impaction and not weight gain or coat beauty. He is and has been, otherwise, an extremely healthy horse. He is in work consistanly throughout the year 4-6 times a week. (barring the post colic surgery recovery. He is just now coming back into work) Has good quality hay and daily turnout.

    Any ideas would be welcome. I am trying very hard to undersatnd all the nutritional considerations….but clearly this horse needs larger doses than normal, so want to pick the best oil for the job, without impacting the rest of his nutrition.

    He is currently getting Canola oil. We have also used Cocosoya.

    Thank you :-)


    • Hello Nancy,
      Thank you for contacting us. We would recommend using Triple Crown Rice Bran oil, as it also contains Flax and Canola oil, and is well balanced for Omega 3/6 fatty acids. The feeding rate is 8 ounces a day for a working horse, so it is right in the guidelines with your vet.
      Good luck ~ Gina T.

  10. I have a 15.2hh section d. Since weather has turned colder finding it hard to keep weight on him. He has 2 feeds a day of conditioning mix and sugar beet and hay also has constant grazing in between. He has a winter turn out rug at all times and summer turnout on top for extra warmth. Not riding him at momemnt hoping not to burn more calories that he needs. Will vegetable oil help? Kept horses all my life n not had this problem before. My section a 12h pony doesn’t have this problem he’s a chunky monkey.

    • Hello Samantha, Thank you for contacting us. All horses are different indeed – each has their own needs and requirements, much like us humans do! Free choice grazing is excellent, and you may find that increasing the hay available to your thin horse is beneficial as well, especially if your pasture goes dormant or is of poor quality in the winter time.

      Since you don’t mention the quantities you are feeding, that would be our first recommendation – take the time to actually weigh out the amount of your current feeds that you are providing him, and compare those to the recommended rates of the products. There is likely room to move up in the amount being fed – for a horse that needs to gain weight, try feeding him for one activity level higher than what he is currently at. So for example, if you are not working him right now, feed him according to the directions for a horse in light work.

      If increased feeding rates do not help after 4-6 weeks, then you may want to investigate feeding a higher fat/calorie level feed, to provide him more calories per pound of intake.

      Thank you, and good luck ~ Gina T.

  11. Hi! I have a 16 hand TB/Paint Cross, mostly just TB (11 years old). I’ve had him for 4 months now and he lost alot of weight due to working him constantly (4-5 times per week). He’s gained all muscle but lost all his fat. We also clipped him and his coat is very dull. I recently got him on SmartPak supplements (UltraShine and Maintenance Pellets). It’s almost summer and he gets turned out into a nice green pasture up to 9 hours a day and indoor stalling at night.
    I was wondering what oil/seed to feed him to up his fat and coat shine. He’s gained some back, but is still ribby and lacks overall fat. I’ve never used veggie or any other kind of oil. I’m really looking for that shine factor too!
    If it helps at all, I do hunter jumper and am weaning him into eventing. Thanks!

    • Hello Jessica, Thank you for your question on your 16 hand TB/Paint Cross. It sounds like you are getting in quite a bit of riding time and burning up some Calories. Body condition (amount of fat cover) is primarily a matter of energy intake (Calories) versus energy used. If your horse uses up more energy than it takes in, it loses weight. In order to gain weight, it must meet energy requirement plus have enough extra to support weight gain.

      I would consider using the following as a check list:
      1. Make sure he has had his teeth checked and is up to date on de-worming/parasite control program.
      2. Make sure he is getting enough good quality forage. You may want to use a weight tape and estimate weight, then make sure he is getting at least 1 ½-2 % of BW in forage.
      3. He may benefit from an added fat horse feed that contains at least 7-9% fat as his grain portion of diet. Feed according to directions and adjust until he starts to gain weight. SafeChoice Perform is a good option.
      4. If you want to add additional calories from vegetable oil, soy oil, corn oil and blended vegetable oil products are all good. A high fat product such as Empower Boost, fed as directed will also be useful.
      5. It takes 2-3 pounds of feed to produce a pound of gain in a horse, depending on the energy content of the feed. If a horse needs to gain 40 pounds (1 Body Condition Score grade), that will take some time.
      6. If you want to add a liquid fat, you can buy vegetable oil and add to the grain ration to increase fat content. Most oils are quite palatable. Start at about ¼ cup and increase gradually.
      7. Hair coat after clipping generally looks a little dull. Bays and chestnuts particularly look pale. Higher fat feed, which will also contain added amino acids, should help.

      Make sure that salt is available free choice, preferably loose salt, and that fresh clean water is available at all times.

      Thank you ~ Roy J.

  12. I just purchased a baby filly (4 mths) and she was just on pasture , 16% protein grain and some alfalfa. I currently have her on Omelene 300 and small amounts of soaked alfalfa along with being on pasture 24/7. She is still holding onto some of her baby coat and her new coat seems nice but not shiny. I used to feed all my horses a little oil in the grain just to help with making sure the grain doesn’t ball up and cause a blockage since I was told that grain is the #1 cause of colic. They do oil horses to help pass blockages so why not add a little to keep things moving smoothly was my motto.

    You are recommended veggie oil but is olive oil okay? My doc says I can have Olive oil but not veggie oil so just wondering what difference is to a horse? Also anything else I should be doing since she was weaned a little early?

    • Hello Judi, Thank you for your question about feeding olive oil to your 4 month old filly. Olive oil is low in omega 6 fatty acids, high in oleic fatty acids (Omega 9), moderate in omega 3 fatty acids and low saturated fat (Which may be why your doctor recommended it for you. Mine did the same.). Olive oil is a very acceptable, but somewhat expensive, vegetable oil for horses. Horses do not have the same issues with saturated fat as humans tend to have, which is good for the horses! You could also use soy oil. Oil is a good and safe source of calories, but does not provide other nutrients required for balanced growth. In mature horses, we can add up to a cup a day of straight oil. I would recommend maximum of about 1/2 cup for your filly, introduced gradually and split into at least 2 meals.

      A key for a fairly early weaned horse is to make sure that a sufficient portion of the diet is coming from the properly designed concentrate. The cecum in a young horse is not fully developed, so they cannot as efficiently digest forage as an older horse. You should make certain that you follow the feeding directions for products such as Omolene 300, SafeChoice Mare & Foal and Vitality Mare & Foal, all of which are designed for young horses. If you allow too much of the diet to come from forage, this will be when you tend to see somewhat pot-bellied weanlings with rough hair coat and moderate muscle development. They are not able to digest and absorb the essential amino acids and other nutrients for forage efficiently, yet have a relatively high requirement relative to intake.

      Best wishes,

  13. I have a 16.0 hand Lipizzaner/Arab mare that has come from Minnesota to Alaska. We drove her up in august last fall and over the winter she had lost A LOT of weight, we have been working with our vet to gain her weight back. Unfortunately she was on pasture there and we do not have a pasture here so her feeding change was a little dramatic. She has been on free choice hay and has been getting 2 lbs of beet pulp, 2 lbs of hay pellets twice a day along with Platinum Performance and vitamin E. She has not gained much at all, and recently lost some. I was told that all of the roughage I am feeding her is digesting in her hind gut which take longer to gain weight, I am reluctant to feed her concentrates due to her spunkyness. I have just recently added in some cor oil, but am looking for some suggestions on some ways to increase her weight by August so that she will go into winter well.

    • Hello Mary, Thank you for your interesting question regarding weight gain for your Lipizzaner/Arabian mare that moved from Minnesota to Alaska. Weight gain/Body Condition Score gain really has 2 component, fat cover and muscle mass gain. Fat cover is driven by Calories, so if your mare needs to gain this weight, she needs more digestible energy (Calories) in her diet. I trust you have had her teeth checked and that she has been properly dewormed. As we do not have information about the quality of the hay she is receiving free choice, you may want to increase the amount of hay pellets she is receiving as that should be a known analysis. You can add the oil to these pellets. Oil is a good source of added Calories, but does not provide any other nutrients. Your information is correct that hay, hay pellets and beet pulp are digested in the hindgut and are not as energy dense as concentrate feeds. The other disadvantage to all forage diet is that protein (really essential amino acids) required for muscle mass maintenance and growth, is not efficiently absorbed from the hind gut. My guess, sight unseen and without hay analysis, is that your mare may not be getting enough protein (essential amino acids) to support muscle gain. If you are concerned about behavior from feeding concentrates, I would look for a high protein, low starch and sugar, supplement and follow the feeding directions for that product.

      Weight gain and muscle gain will require added Calories and added protein (essential amino) acids. It usually requires about 3 pounds of feed per pound of gain above maintenance, depending on the Calorie content of the feed.

      Let us know if you have additional questions or if you have more information about the type of forage that you are feeding.

      Best wishes, Roy J.

    • hello Mary, I am a little mystified by the amount of feed your mare is consuming……. what kind of hay are you feeding ? is it some kind of pasture or “meadow grass” hay?………. if so why don’t you try doubling the amount of your hay pellets at first and see what happens? We moved once from southern California to the Northern California area and it took our horses about 1 yr to acclimate to the change in environment and the biggest help was to put them on alfalfa pelles (16 lbs per day )—have never tried beet pulp and have just bought a weanling that is on it but plan on eliminating it and would rather use rice bran or corn oil………..good luck to you

  14. I have 2 older horses that got laminitis last year and are on there way to recovery with managing there grass and feed intake . I need to know what gain is best in limited amount and if corn oil is ok for them. We are coming into winter soon and they will need extra feed to keep warm and keep weight on. They are on EguineSaver from Figuerola and Remission . Both horses still have on one hoof separation of the wall and sole. They are not lame and are ridden . They are on grass hay and dry grass with some green in it for a limited amount of time. Whats your advice on a feeding regiment for the two. thank you, Kat

    • Hi Kathy, Thank you for your question regarding your two older horses that got laminitis last year and are recovering, but may need some extra calories as cold weather approaches. The providing good quality forage that is relatively low in non-structural carbohydrates should be a key component of your feeding plan. You might want to have your forage tested as some grass hays are actually higher in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) than a higher energy forage such as alfalfa. Dr. Krishona Martinson at the University of Minnesota has done some very interesting comparisons in that area.

      If you need to add additional grain for energy, you will want to use a controlled starch and sugar product and follow the feeding directions. SafeChoice Special Care or comparable products from other suppliers would be good options to consider.

      You can indeed add vegetable oil as a very safe source of Calories as well. All vegetable oils have about the same energy content. Soy oil and flax oil have a higher Omega 3 content than corn oil and might be good options as older horses may also benefit from the added Omega 3 fatty acids. You can start by adding about 4 ounces per day and increase gradually. Your best energy source will still be good quality forage and a controlled starch product that also contains added amino acids, vitamins and trace minerals to help support hoof growth. You will also want to monitor Body Condition Score to make sure the horses stay around a 5 score. Fresh clean water and free choice loose salt are also essential.

      Best wishes,

  15. I may be thinking about this wrong but want to clarify. This article says that if too much oil is added as a top dressing it can throw off the nutrient values in the feeding. That just doesn’t make sense to me. I heard this about adding water as well. To me, if you give (just as an example, not trying to be accurate for this purpose) 1 cup of feed, the nutrients in that one cup of feed don’t change even if you added 6 cups of oil-right? The horse is still eating the total nutrients in that one cup as long as he eats it all. The only thing that changes is that he now is getting the additional nutrients or fat in the 6 cups of oil. So, please clarify as the article states differently. Thanks.

    • Hello Sara, Thank you for the question! You are correct in that you aren’t changing the nutrients they are consuming. What we were trying to say in the article is that the nutrient-to-calorie ratio is what gets out of whack when you add significant amounts of oil to the diet. The bodily functions need nutrients to come up with increased calorie intake, in order to stay in alignment. That is where providing fat from a source that has added nutrients (versus just straight vegetable oil, which is just fat) is a good option. From our product line, Empower Boost is a great option – the added fat of the rice bran is accompanied by added copper, zinc, selenium, and balanced Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. Hope that helps!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  16. Hello, I have a 24 year old arab x cob gelding that has just been diagnosed with arthritis. I’m planning on introducing corn oil to his usual feed (veteran mix, chop, biotin and a powder joint supplement) however he lives out and is more on the chunky side, due to his arthritis out vet told us to try and keep the weight off of him to relieve as much pressure on his legs as possible. would oil benefit his joints and would the extra calories be okay with his usual feed without causing him to gain much more weight?

    • Hi Amy,
      Thank you for your question.
      I would suggest adding soy oil or linseed (flax) oil instead of corn oil if your 24 year old Arab X Cob gelding has some arthritis issues as they have higher Omega 3 fatty acid profiles than corn oil. Linseed (flax) oil (properly heat treated not raw) is the highest Omega 3 fatty acid vegetable oil. Soy oil, particularly expeller processed, is a better Omega 3 source than corn oil You veterinarian is correct in recommending that you avoid excess body condition, so you do not want your horse to get too chunky. You can reduce total feed slightly or increase light exercise slightly to avoid weight gain when adding some Calories from an oil as a source of Omega 3 fatty acids.

      Best wishes,

  17. Hello,
    I recently changed my horses over from Seminole Senior,which is a sweet feed to Seminole Perform Safe,which is a pellet. I’m now having trouble mixing in the 1/3 cup of ground flax seed and 1/2 Tblsp of salt am and pm..I thought adding some oil would be helpful as sprinkling water over the mix isn’t enough. I could use some assistance in what would be the best oil choice. I’m looking for something palatable,highest in Omega 3, with adequate shelf life(no refrigeration).. How much would you recommend and would I still continue giving the ground flax?
    Thank You,

    • Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for your interesting question about your challenge adding ground flax and salt to your pelleted feed. There are some options you might consider. Ground flax is about 40% oil, so you could get the same Omega 3 benefit by add a lower volume of flax oil (linseed oil) instead of using the ground flax. If you are using 1/3 cup of ground flax, you would could get the same benefit from about 2-3 ounces of linseed (flax) oil, which would soak into the pellets very nicely and would also help hold the salt. If linseed oil is not an option, then you could use some soy oil, which also contains some Omega 3 fatty acids, to mix in with the pelleted feed along with the ground flax and salt.

      Other options would be to use a small quantity of something like molasses to hold the salt and ground flax with the pellets. You may be trying to avoid molasses as you indicated that you switched from a sweet feed.

      Horses will generally do a pretty good job of regulating salt intake if you provide loose salt free choice. I prefer loose salt to salt blocks as during hot or cold weather, horses generally do not lick the block enough to get adequate salt.

      Best wishes,

  18. hi we have a 8 yr old ottb he works 3to 4 times a week 1/2 hr to 1 1/2 hr each time he is a heard keeper weight up and down not sure why, he is a little high strong (on edge)?? not sure why currently gets 3 lb am 3 lb pm of legend show and pleasure 3flakes am pm.
    will veggy/corn oil help? also how much oil?,he is 16 3 about 1100 lb.he is on pasture 6 to 8 hr a day
    thank you

    • Hi Steven,
      Thank you for your question regarding your 8 year old that is a hard keeper and little strong or on edge. Adding additional fat via added oil will add some Calories to help maintain body condition and also provide a calming effect. Vegetable oils all have similar calorie values and can be added to an existing diet. You may want to start with ½ cup per day and may work up to higher levels as needed. Horses can utilize up to 12-15% total fat/oil in diet without adverse effect. Soy oil has a higher Omega 3 content than say corn oil. Flax oil tends to be more expensive, but is the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids.

      You may want to consider looking for feed that is higher in fat than your current product as one way to add some fat and perhaps reduce starch and sugar in your horses diet. Your local dealer can assist with this.

      Checking the quality of your hay may be useful as well. Using high quality forage is key to helping maintain body condition in hard keepers and reduces the amount of concentrate that needs to be added to the diet.

      Best wishes,

  19. Hi. I have a 7 year old quarter horse mare named Chica that has severe dandruff on her mane and tail. She also has very dry skin. I’ve used MTG but it did not treat it. Her diet consists of safechoice feed, biotin supplement, flaxseed, and multivitamins. She is on hay at the moment since it’s winter. We have very good horse hay. She has fresh grass all summer. I’ve tried all kinds of washes, she does not have mites or lice, plus she gets wormed 7 times a year with rotating wormer so she should not have worms. I’m not sure what to do anymore. Poor thing no matter what we do or medications we get from the vet it does not go away. Do you think putting oil on her feed would help? If so how much and what type? Thank you so much.
    Thea :)

    • Hi Thea,
      Skin conditions in horses can be quite puzzling. I have a text on equine diseases and disorders that devotes 40+ pages to skin conditions alone, so there might be multiple possibilities. Adding additional oil to Chica’s diet may be beneficial. Because there could be some allergic or inflammatory underlying situation, my first choice would be heat treated linseed (flax) oil with my second choice being soy oil. Linseed oil is the highest Omega 3 vegetable oil, followed by soy oil. You could start at ¼ cup per day and work up to a cup per day, split as needed into a couple of feedings. The Omega 3 content may have some anti-inflammatory benefits as well as the oil providing needed fatty acids.

      If she is itching her mane or tail, you might check with your veterinarian to see if a topical cortisone salve would be appropriate.

      Also make certain that Chica has salt, preferably loose salt, available free choice. If you are feeding flax seed, you may want to note that flax should be heat treated.

      It sounds like you have a pretty extensive de-worming program. You may want to check with your veterinarian about having a fecal egg count done to verify effectiveness and make certain no drug resistance has developed. We are seeing more reports of that around the country.

      Let us know how Chica is doing going forward.

      Best wishes,

  20. I have two horses, a 27 year old Arabian mare (14.1 hh) and a 15 year old Tennessee Walking mare. They both lost weight after a particularly harsh winter here in KY. The Walking mare put all her weight back on (and then some) and isn’t a concern, but the Arab has never really gained everything back, and now we’re into another winter. She was always plump and an easy keeper, but all of a sudden, she’s not (I also had her checked this spring for Cushing’s but she came back negative). I feed her 3/4 of a scoop (1 scoop = 5 lbs) of Safe Choice Performance (it says it’s for hard keepers too), 1/2 a scoop of Country Lane Sweet Feed (11% protein), and a cup of Empower Boost (just started with this 2 weeks ago, so I’m hoping it makes a difference), along with a measured dose of Equine Weight Builder and a top dressing of about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of pure corn oil. Do you have any suggestions? How long do you think it will take for the Empower Boost to make a difference? I’ve been feeding her this formula for about 2 weeks now (with the Empower Boost and oil just added), but haven’t seen any real change yet. She’s a bit ribby and probably scores about 3 or 4 on the Hennecke BCS. Any additional advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Oops — I made a typo: 1 scoop = 3 lbs. so she’s getting roughly 4 – 4.5 lbs. total. Also, they are out on pasture 24/7 and have hay available 24/7 (in the form of round bales), as well as a mineral salt block and water.

      • Hi Karen,

        Your 27 year old Arabian mare that lost condition with last year’s severe winter and has not come back to normal condition may be presenting a few challenges. Body condition as measured by the BCS system measures fat deposits. My guess, sight unseen, is that she may have also lost some muscle mass over her topline and croup? She is at an age where she may be experiencing some decreases in ability to chew and efficiently digest forage. Calories of Digestible Energy drive body condition, essential amino acids have a strong impact on muscle mass.

        Is she being fed with the Tennessee Walking mare or separately? If not being fed separately, she may be eating slower and may be sharing some of her ration with the other horse.

        Have you observed her eating hay? Does she appear to chew and swallow normally or is she chewing more slowly and spitting some out (quidding)? Your note sounds like you pay close attention, so assume you have had her teeth checked.

        It takes about 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds of feed to produce a pound of gain above maintenance level. You may need to increase the SafeChoice Perform and additional pound or so each feed and feed the Empower Boost at about 2 pounds per day to see more more rapid weight gain. I would make the increase until you see weight gain, then adjust to maintain.

        At 27, she might also be a good candidate for SafeChoice Senior. You would want to feed her according the weight she should be at, not her current weight.

        Let us know how she is coming along and what you observe in her eating habits.

        Best wishes,

  21. Thanks, Roy! I forgot to mention that the two mares also got their teeth done in May. The 27 year old has always had good teeth and has never had any issues with chewing or quidding. I feed them separately, and if I put the feed into their feed tubs outdoors, I stand guard with the Arab until she’s done eating (the Tennessee Walker is always trying to sneak over to get some of her food, but I won’t let her). She eats hay just fine, too.
    I did have a couple of incidents over the weekend (it was somewhat cold yesterday and Friday night) where she didn’t finish all her feed and just wandered off to eat the hay instead. I guess if she didn’t eat anything at all, I’d be concerned, but maybe she got bored with eating the grain and decided to go eat some hay? Or maybe she’s decided she’s not so keen on the corn oil anymore? I forgot to lug it down to the barn on Saturday, and she ate everything that day. I’m thinking that from now on, I’ll just feed them in their stalls and let them out again when they both are finished so that might help. I’ll try your suggestion and get her switched over to the SafeChoice Senior feed. I might also try some rice bran oil instead of the corn oil and see she likes it better. And also gradually increase the Empower Boost, which I think is starting to make a difference. I’ll let you know in a month or so how it all turns out!


  22. I like using vegetable oil as a top dressing on grain. My horses lick their buckets clean. Always are slick and shiny in the summer and helps keep weight on in the winter. I am a firm believer in recycling, plus have not had a lot of money for most of my life, but I get a restaurants used fryer oil when they change oil and use that. I not only recycle the oil but the plastic jugs. One of my horses has a carbohydrate issue and the corn oil just has too many carbs.

  23. Just a note to everyone who thinks their horses teeth are fine. I have a 20 yr old standardbred who had his teeth floated his whole life. When I got him at the age of 13 I had an equine dentist check his mouth. After sedating him we could see that he had an extra tooth that has grown into the top jaw about an inch into the bone. It took some work to get it under control but if it was left alone it could have killed him. BEWARE floating is not enough .

  24. My 23 yr old AQHA mare has cushing’s disease. She is on SmartPak pituitary and takes an RX of Prescind. She has hay and pro advantage grass formula pellets. Am thinking of top-dressing pellets with corn oil. She is separated from her pasture mate to eat the pellets but has free choice grass hay while with her pasture mate (which is her 10 yr old daughter)all other times. Will oil be a problem for horses with Cushing’s?

    • Hi Linda,
      Thank you for your question regarding your 23 year old AQHA mare that has Cushing’s. A moderate amount of oil is acceptable for horses that have Cushing’s as an energy source. Body conditions should be monitored to avoid getting overweight.

      Best wishes,

  25. Hi, I have a 5 yr old Gypsy vannah & his coat is dreadful, I’ve been told it’s scurf (dead skin) & to try bathing after being clipped & massage really deep. It made a difference for the first few days but then goes back to being dandruff like. He gets fed once a day with a handful of chaff (recently started adding a little salt) with some chopped carrots, & a handful of balancer in his treat ball. He’s in light work. Brushing doesn’t work & whenever I touch him my hands go white! He’s recently started getting a few scabs right under his fur too. Surely he can’t be comfortable like this :\

    • Hello Becca, There are many potential causes of this type of skin condition and we would recommend that you contact your veterinarian to determine a fully comprehensive plan. From a nutrition perspective, I would be concerned that his diet is potentially lacking in amino acids (such as lysine, methionine & threonine) as well as minerals such as Zn, Mn, & Cu which are important for epidermal (skin) cell maintenance.

      We recommend taking a look at his diet to determine if it is fully balanced. For example, if you find that he weighs 1000#, is in light work, eating a moderate quality hay lower in protein (amino acids) and only consuming a handful (~.25#) of a ration balancer per day, he is deficient in these areas mentioned above. Most ration balancer products require a feeding rate of at least 1.5#/day for a 1000# horse, to meet his needs. If he is at this level and his skin condition persists, we might look at adding a supplement such as Progressive Nutrition Pro Add Ultimate which will boost levels as well as Omega 3 fatty acids.

      Thank you ~ Gina T.

  26. Hi, l have just adopted a Percheron from a local horse rescue. He is around 17h, 13years old and a body condition score of 3 our at best a 3.5. I talked with the vet at the rescue about how best to get him to put on some weigh and he said to just let him have as much good grass hay as him can eat. To me that would take forever for him to put on the weight he needs. He need to put on a good 100+ pound. Can you give me a idea on how best to get his weight safely. Other then his weight he is in good shape.

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Wayne,
      Thank you for your question regarding the Percheron that you adopted from a local horse rescue. In order for this horse to regain both weight and muscle mass, it may be useful to add a good quality protein source to provide essential amino acids required to build muscle mass. There are multiple options. A good ration balancer product would provide protein, essential amino acids (lysine, methionine and threonine are the first 3 limiting essential amino acids) along with vitamins and trace minerals. In Nutrena, this would be Empower Balance. You could also use a controlled starch and sugar product that is well balanced with the essential amino acids. In Nutrena, we would recommend SafeChoice or SafeChoice Senior. Make sure that salt is offered free choice and that fresh, clean water is available.

      Thanks to you for your efforts in adopting this horse and helping it to recover!

      Best wishes,

  27. I have a 15.3 HH mare quarter horse who just went through a bout with strongyles… I double dosed her with safeguard and have began feeding pellets with 1 cup vegetable oil and a flake of bermuda at lunch… she gets alfalfa morning and evening… since worming and adding the oil her coat looks amazing however she is not gaining any weight…. any suggestions please. She is only 9 yrs old and mildly worked due to a hock injury.

    • Hi Jenn,

      Thank you for your question regarding your 9 year old 15.3 HH Quarter Horse mare who was just treated for strongyles. Sounds like you did the right thing to get parasites under control. You might want to make sure you follow up with a fecal egg count to make sure that parasites are under control. Hope she is recovering OK from hock injury.

      It sounds like she is moving in the right direction. I am reading that you want to increase her body condition score (adding weight), but also may want to add muscle mass? Weight gain is primarily a matter of adding Calories. It takes about 3 pounds of feed to produce a pound of gain, depending on the energy content of the feed. You may need to increase the amount of feed that you are feeding gradually until you start to see a weight gain. Do you know about how much hay and pellets, by weight, that you are feeding right now? A 15.3 HH Quarter horse mare is probably going to need to weigh at least 1200 lbs. (550 kg or so) to look about right. If she is a bit think she could be 50 pounds below that. You might want to use a weight tape to estimate current weight, then monitor every 10 days. Using the Body Condition Score from 1-9 is also useful and is available on our web site.

      Muscle mass gain requires adequate protein (actually essential amino acids). If you believe she needs added muscle mass, you might want to use a higher protein feed that is fortified with lysine, methionine and threonine.

      If you send me some additional details on her body condition score, muscle mass appearance and how much you are feeding by weight, may be able to provide better recommendations.

      Best wishes,

    • Hi Jenn,

      Thank you for your prompt response and additional information about KD’s diet. I ran some numbers thru our ration evaluation system. Based on best estimate, KD’s current energy intake is just barely meeting maintenance requirement for desired weight of 1100 lbs, which means she would hold current weight, but clearly would not be gaining weight at a visible rate. I have attached a chart based on the numbers that you gave me. If you want her to gain weight, you are going to need to increase her Calorie intake. It will take about 3 pounds of feed to produce a pound of gain, depending on the energy content of the feed. She is also low on some of the essential amino acids, which would limit her ability to deposit muscle. She is getting adequate protein, but short on essential amino acids. I would recommend that you consider adding at least 0.5% BW or 5 lbs of feed per day to her diet, introduced gradually and fed 2x per day. In Nutrena, I would recommend something like our SafeChoice or SafeChoice Perform. There are other controlled starch products on the market as well. S

      As you can see from the chart, she can consume more dry matter. I used our Superior Performance requirements as the NRC does not have amino acid requirements beyond Lysine. If you want her to move from current weight of about 1000 lbs to desired weight of 1100 pounds, that will require an estimated amount of about 300 pounds of feed over a period of time. Rate of gain and feed efficiency vary greatly among horses, so this is a fairly rough estimate. I like to increase feed gradually until I see some gain, then hold that rate until desired weight is reached, then back off to maintain. Weight gain does require Calories! Make sure she has salt available free choice and fresh clean water, which I am sure you are providing.

      Let me know if you have additional questions.

      Best wishes,

  28. Hi guys!! I was hoping somebody could help me :) My 10 year old Irish Sport Horse has just started shedding his winter coat majorly. I’ve noticed the last little while his coat has just looked dull and boring.. It’s lost it’s sparkle and shine ha :) Anyway somebody advised me to give him some Linseed Oil especially now as he’s shedding so I thought it would be a simple matter of buying the seeds or the oil and just giving him a bit! But now after reading this I’m all confused ’cause of calories and everything. He needs to loose weight not put it on.. he’s out to pasture all the time and getting a bit of hay… and unfortunately at the moment he’s not getting any exercise. So taking this into account what would ye recommend?? Would love any advice! Thanks :)

    • Hi Christina,

      Thanks you for your question regarding your 10 year old Irish Sport Horse that appears to have a bit of a dull coat. There could be a number of reasons, so will give you a bit of a check list:
      1. Make sure that he has access to salt free choice. Salt deficiency can cause a dull hair coat as well as some unusual eating behavior.
      2. He could also be a bit short on trace minerals and amino acids. A low calorie Ration balancer product fed according to directions might be useful. Nutrena Empower Balance is an option.
      3. The addition of linseed oil or another vegetable oil such as soy oil may indeed be beneficial. Added oil has been used by generations for horse owners to help coat. ¼ to ½ cup per day might be useful as you do not want weight gain., but might still help with coat. The weight gain would be very limited and a bit of hand walking or free exercise would help there.
      Best wishes,

  29. I have a 4 year old mare I’m going to start adding corn oil to her feed. My question is I feed her two times a day once in the morning and once in the evening do I add it every time I feed her are just once?

    • Hi Jay, Thanks for the question. If you aren’t adding a huge amount, then once a day is fine. If you are feeding a few cups a day, splitting it up might be a better option.
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  30. I have a TB/QH the vet believes she may have ulcers, we haven’t yet scoped her. She became thin after losing her pasture mate and I cannot for the life of me put the weight back on, she is on a senior feed for added cals, mixed w beet pulp, DE, and a vitamin B from the vet 2xs/day. We are giving her a month, on this regimen the we’ll reevaluate. Would adding oil to her meal help w possible ulcers?? Thx in advance.

    • Hello Rachael, First things first, we want to make sure she has access to clean water, is getting enough quality forage intake, and that the feeding rate or daily intake (lbs) of the senior feed is appropriate and aligned with manufacturer guidelines for her target body weight. Having unlimited access to good forage will result in chewing and production of saliva with natural buffering agents that help support and protect the stomach mucosal lining. Adding alfalfa to the diet can also provide calcium which has been demonstrated to provide a buffering effect.

      Adding oil is a great way to get concentrated calories into her diet to help with putting weight back on taking care to ensure the total diet remains balanced from a vitamin, mineral, and amino acid standpoint. Oil addition (45 ml/day) has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing the risk of gastric ulceration in ponies by reducing gastric acid output. In another study, horses with existing ulcers receiving 240 ml oil per day for 6 weeks did not exhibit changes in number or severity of ulceration. More research is needed to determine effectiveness of adding oil to the diet as a preventative or management of gastric ulceration. Adding oil to the diet, certainly won’t hurt anything and will aid in getting extra calories to help get her body condition back where you would like it, but may or may not help with gastric ulcers.

      You may also want to ask your vet about treating your horse with omeprazole for 28 – 56 days, as that has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of gastric ulceration. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

      Thank you ~ Emily L.

  31. I was wondering witch is better to use corn oil or veg oil and is thier anything I can buy from tractor supply to help hold weight and add muscle

    • Hi Faith,
      Thank you for your question about adding oil to your horse’s diet and products at TSC. The common vegetable oils (corn oil, soy oil, canola oil) all have about the same Calorie level and can be used to add energy/ Calories to the diet. If you need to add some weight and muscle mass (which requires protein with essential amino acids) you may want to use a ration balancer such as Empower Balance or a fat supplement such as Empower Boost, both should be available at Tractor Supply. Make sure that you have good quality forage, have dewormed your horse on schedule and perhaps have had teeth checked as well.

      Best Wishes,
      Roy J.

  32. hi,
    I have recently brought an Arabian x Warmblood mare. She’s 12, 16.1 hands and quite a slight build. although she tends to get a little hot when competing a lot ( has a few happy bucks in canter). I have just recently noticed a slight change in the shininess in her coat and her mane seems to be falling out quite a lot, she also is looking a little thinner than she was before. She gets worked for about 4 hours a week and rest for at least 3 days. She is currently on Hay, Chaff and a cool pellet. Oil was suggested to give her some weight and make her look better for the ring as I have just started showing again.
    Just wondering will the Oil affect her in anyway heat wise? and she is quite a sensitive horse ( will get thrush, greasy heel and rain scald really easily). how much should I feed her? and will it be alright to feed to her paddock mate ( a miniature pony mare) will it help with her itch? How much oil should i add to the pony’s feed?

    thanks so much! as you can tell i am a little bit of a stress head over my precious pony :)

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for the interesting questions regarding your Arabian X Warmblood mare. You may have more than one dietary issue involved here, so we will take a look at some options.

      Her loss of body condition, change in hair coat and some mane loss may indicate she is lacking some essential amino acids to maintain muscle mass and hair coat. You did not indicate what type of hay you are feeding and how much chaff and cool pellet that you are using. Digestible Energy (Calorie count) drives body condition measured by fat deposits, but essential amino acids drive muscle mass and influence hair coat and skin. If she gets thrush, rain scald and greasy heels quite easily, this may also be indicating some amino acid or trace mineral issues that may be affecting skin integrity. Forage and chaff will tend to be low in lysine, methionine and threonine, the first 3 essential amino acids for horses and are marginal in several key trace minerals.

      If you have a nutrition consultant in your area, I would recommend a full diet assessment. If that is not possible, I would suggest that you look for a good ration balancer type product that has a high fortification with essential amino acids (lysine, methionine and threonine should be included) and also has a highly bioavailable source of trace minerals (copper, zinc, manganese and perhaps selenium if you live in a selenium deficient area. If you live in a selenium excess area, you may look at the forage selenium level).

      Adding a source of fat/oil may also provide some additional Calories. Because of the other issues, I would suggest looking for a product that contains Omega 3 fatty acids to help with hair coat and immunity as well. Added fat/oil diets do tend to have a calming effect on some horses as well.

      All of these would also be OK for her paddock mate, but in much smaller feedings!

      If you confirm your location, I might be able to recommend some companies with appropriate products. IP address suggests Australia. We do not have businesses there, but I do know some of the companies.

      Roy A. Johnson

  33. Hi I have an arab gelding about 4 years old and he is 15.1/2. We are struggling with his weight. He is ribby and his hip bones are showing. We are giving him Epol cool rider cubes 2 times a day and about 2kg of lucern with cubes. In the evening hy get 6 kg of cubes and about 3 kg of lucern. In the morining its just 3 kg cubea and 2kg lucern. His height is still the same and his coat looks awful incompare with our other horses. There are no shine. I dont know if is lacking of something. Anything I can do to get it better? Adding oil or something?

    • Hi Monique,
      Thank you for your question about your 4 year old 15 .½ Arab gelding that is ribby and his hip bones are showing. I would check to make sure that he has been dewormed effectively, perhaps having your veterinarian run a fecal exam to make certain and would also have his teeth checked. Some young horses do have dental issues. It sounds like he needs both additional Calories for weight gain and an improved source of amino acids for muscle mass gain and perhaps improved hair coat. I would suggest looking for a ration balancer product that has guaranteed levels of lysine, methionine and threonine as a protein supplement. You could also add some vegetable oil (corn oil, soy oil, canola oil etc.) to add some Calories and perhaps help his coat. Start with about ½ cup per day split in two feedings and increase to 1 cup per day. You could increase his cube feeding rate as well until he starts to gain weight, then hold it there until he is at the desired body condition.

      Best wishes,

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