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What Is the Best Fat Supplement for Horses?By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 5, 2013

This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of dietary energy source on energy utilization during exercise in nine Thoroughbred racehorses. Two different sources of dietary fat were compared, both alone and as a mixture, to a more traditional high-carbohydrate diet during this six-month Latin square design study.

The control diet was a grain-based pelleted diet with oats and corn providing most of the starch. The soy diet was a grain-based pellet with 10% added soybean oil. The coconut diet was a grain-based pellet with 10% added coconut oil. The mixed diet was a grain-based pellet with 5% added soy oil and 5% added coconut oil.

The horses were exercised on a treadmill to determine baseline fitness and ability. They were then placed in four dietary groups for three weeks. During the fourth week, the horses performed standardized exercise tests (SET) on the treadmill over five days, with speed increasing each day. Heart rate was monitored and blood samples were analyzed for glucose, ammonia, and lactic acid. During the fifth week the horses performed a second SET with a longer period at a gallop. Heart rate was recorded and blood samples were taken.

Feeding fat affected the horses' metabolic response to a SET. At the top speed run in this test, plasma lactates averaged 56% higher in the control group vs. the mixed fat treatment. Because of the exponential nature of lactate accumulation with increasing speed, this difference could have a major impact on time to fatigue in racehorses. 

This report of KER's 1993 research was published in Proceedings of the 13th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society Symposium.

Read the entire research paper, titled The Effect of Different Fat Sources on Exercise Performance in Thoroughbred Horses.