Fat is an energy powerhouse in the equine diet that packs twice the caloric punch of carbohydrates or protein and is the body’s most abundant energy source. Horses can consume and use fat from the diet, or they can store fat in their bodies for later use.
What is fat?
Fat belongs to a broad group of compounds called lipids, which are either glycerol-based (phospholipids and triglycerides) or non-glycerol based (cholesterol or sterols). Dietary fats are usually triglycerides, meaning they contain three long-chain fatty acids and one glycerol group.
Volatile fatty acids are short-chain fatty acids derived from triglycerides that the horse’s body can use for energy. They’re either liberated from dietary fat or are a byproduct of microbial fermentation in the hindgut.
Why is fat important in the horse’s diet?
Fat is required for the horse’s body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and dietary fat supplies the horse with essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and -6, which the horse’s body can’t produce. Fat also helps horses gain weight and is slow to digest, making the release of energy steadier over time.