Much has been said about feeding fat and yet most riders still are still in the dark about the advantages and problems.

A horse is designed to eat grass and graze freely on the open plains. This will be sufficient to keep him alive and healthy. Now if you increase his work load and diminish his grazing time, he needs more calories and has less time to eat them. We then start feeding “grain” to supplement the energy supply. For endurance horses you need a lot of supplemented energy. You can increase the grain to a limit and then you have colic, tying up syndrome and the like. This is a big problem for endurance horses which comes in part from too much grain. Now how can we supplement the feed without grain? FAT. Horses can after a time metabolize fat quit well and it is a very potent source of calories. When the work load increases and the competition gets serious, feed fat NOT grain. It will require several weeks for the horse to fully adjust to the fat feed diet and the fat should be introduced in small increments. The high fat diet offers the horse a concentrated source of energy and an adequate supply of roughage. It has been reported from race track studies, that with the high fat diet there are fewer injuries, slower heart rate, faster recovery, and the horses have more energy. The work of Slade et al at Colorado State University ( Proc.. Equine Nutr.. Physiol. Soc. pp 114-128) indicate endurance horses fed 12% fat performed significantly better and exhibited less dehydration than horses fed other diets.

As the work load is increased, you would increase the amount of grain you feed. This is NOT a good practice. Too much grain in an endurance horse, can be blamed for many metabolic break downs both on the trail and in the trailer on long trips. Too much grain causes founder and tying up. Fats can produce 2.25 times more energy than grains (carbohydrates). This means that the horse can now be able to eat more hay. In Slade’s experiments the horses fed the fat diet ate twice as much hay as the other horses. This is a big advantage. Maybe this is the reason these horses out performed all the others fed nonfat diets.

The best feed for horses is good roughage (hay and pasture).

Rice bran is an excellent source of fat. It contains 12.5% fat which is two to three times as much as the grains. Gray oats if you can find them have the most fat for oats. Corn oil may be added to increase the fat content of your ration. Now if you are serious and want to approach the 12% fat as recommended by Slade et. al. the problem becomes more difficult. In order to make 10 to 12% fat in the total diet you need to feed in excess of one quart of oil a day. Now that is one very messy mess. It is very hard to convince the normal horse to eat this mess even if it is good for him. Fortunately there are fats in solid powder form that are available as weaner pig starter feed. For example there is Ho-Milc 7-60, Soweena 4-80, and FAT PAK 100*. The FAT Pak 100 has the most fat, 100% and is the least expensive and easiest to use. A ration combining rice bran and FAT PAK 100 and a little oil may be the simplest and easiest approach. Having pellets made is expensive and the quantities are large. The fat will go rancid in time depending on the weather. Rice bran also comes in a heat stabilized form to prevent it’s fat from becoming rancid. The heat treatment robs it of some the vitamins and is much more expensive. The horses love the rice bran. This makes it a logical additive to the fat feed and assists in the sales job as it is sometimes difficult so sell this fat feed program to your horse.

Remember we are talking “TOTAL FEED PERCENTAGES”. A lot of commercial mixes tout their fat content in an impressive percentage but this is ONLY of their feed not total feed. Total feed includes the roughage. Feeds that claim 10 or 12% are really only 2 to 3% of the total feed. Rice bran, oil, oats and hay are probably a better choice better than any of the commercial fat feeds.

A periodic A-D Vitamin shot may be in order, as the fat tends to wash out these vitamins from the system.

If you feed the high fat diet you will need an active exercise program to burn all these calories.

The follow is a simple, palatable daily formula for achieving 12% total fat intake. These value should be adjusted for each horses requirements.

12% fat feed

Whole oats 2.0 lb.. per horse per day .
Corn 1.0 lb.. FAT PAK 100 * 1.0 lb..
Rice Bran 2.0 lb..
Kelp 0.25 lb..
Gelatin 0.125 lb..
Yeast 0.125 lb..
Corn oil 1.0 lb..

*FAT PAK 100 is manufactured by Milk Specialties Co., P O Box 278, Dundee, Ill. 60118, Phone 708 426 3411 and FAX 708 426 4121. This product is 100% pure animal fat which is prilled to form white free flowing beadlets. We have fed FAT PAK in recent years with excellent results. It is easier to handle, the horses eat it and it does not turn rancid as quickly as the other fat feeds.

For roughage free choice pasture or good grass hay and do not forget the 12-12 (Calcium Phosphorus) mineral mix, and a good vitamin supplement. The portions will have to be adjusted to the individual horse, his size and work level. We like to keep a little weight on our horses, especially if you are planning a long season. Either a lot of rides or a lot of training for one big ride.

Kelp supplies trace minerals to balance the diet and the gelatin provides necessary amino acids for hoof health.

Thinner horses run better but not longer. ~ Lew Hollander

For a complete diet and more see my book, “Endurance Riding from Beginning to Winning” $17.45 including shipping from Green Mansions Inc. P O Box 100, Redmond, OR 97756 email: lewis@bendnet.com