Defining Camelina Oil for Horses
Omega fatty acids are carriers for essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Camelina oil for horses provides a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Equine diet formulations tend to have higher Omega-6 fatty acid compositions, so nutritionists try to find ways to balance a horse’s essential fatty acid needs.
Horses that do not have access to pastures require unique diet formulations to ensure they do not develop any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
The Characteristics of Camelina Oil
Camelina oil benefits a horse’s health in numerous ways. The oil helps to support weight gain, healthy joints, coat appearance, and overall well-being.
The Camelina Sativa plant is native to parts of central Asia and Europe. The plants thrive in colder climates, and their cultivation occurs mainly in semiarid regions of the world, including the United States, Canada, Italy, and Slovenia.
The camelina plant is also known as wild gold, false flax, wild flax, or gold-of-pleasure. The cultivation of this oilseed is not as prolific as other crops used for livestock or companion animal nutrition.
Camelina oil composition includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids—omega-3s make up 39% of the oil, and omega-6s make up 18%. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids sits at around 2.2:1.
Below is a table courtesy of Health Canada that breaks down the fatty acid profile of camelina oil.
|Type of Fat
|% of Total Fat
|Oleic acid (omega-9)
|Linoleic acid (omega-6)
|Linolenic acid (omega-3)
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA ) is the primary acid in omega-3s. For ALA to be beneficial to a horse, it requires conversion into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Scientists considered this conversion metabolically inefficient as it costs the body valuable energy.
The body cannot synthesize omega-3 fatty acids; therefore, a horse’s diet requires fatty acid supplementation, especially if they do not graze on natural pastures.
The body uses fatty acids from cholesterol, lipids, and other dietary fat sources to perform several bodily functions. Fatty acids help produce ATP molecules that the body uses for primary cellular energy and supply precursor molecules for hormones or other fatty acids.
Vitamin E Content
An attractive characteristic of camelina oil is a Vitamin E antioxidant in the form of gamma-tocopherol. The oil is cold-pressed and minimally processed, resulting in a stable oil that retains its properties well over time. Vitamin E improves product shelf life as the oil does not go rancid as quickly as other oil supplements.
There are 150 IU of natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) in 100ml camelina oil, which is higher than flax oil or other plant oils. An average 1100lb (500kg) horse requires at least 500-1000 IU daily, so an ideal supplement must provide at least double the minimum requirements.
Nutritionists will recommend an additional Vit E source as camelina oil will not feasibly meet an average horse’s daily needs.
Additional Active Ingredients
The fatty acid profile of camelina oil consists mainly of ALA, but it also possesses some other molecules that benefit a horse’s health.
Lipid mediators called oxylipins are a group of molecules that provide some of the wild flax’s favorable health properties. They occur in plants, fungi, and animals.
The Benefits of Equine Camelina Oil
Horse owners choose to feed camelina oil because it boasts an array of benefits. These benefits manifest themselves both internally and externally. Studies have shown improvements in reproduction, decreased cholesterol, and exercise performance, to name a few.
Improved Coat Quality
The largest organ in mammals is the skin. The skin protects the body and provides a horse’s coat with the nutrients necessary for it to flourish.
Sebum is the oily layer that produces the sheen on a horse’s coat.
Fats and cholesterol combine to form sebum. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support sebum production.
Some studies show that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids positively affect skin health and provide coats with a smooth and glossy appearance. Omega-3 diet inclusion potentially decreases the intensity of skin allergies triggered by biting Culicoid midges, but several studies have had conflicting results.
Most healthy horses do not seem to benefit from camelina oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, but studies have shown significantly decreased inflammatory mediators in arthritic horses.
After 90 days of supplementation, intermittently lame horses became more weight-bearing, a sign of improved joint health. Collected data showed that inflammatory compounds decreased in joint fluids and resulted in fewer circulating prostaglandins.
Supplementing a horse’s diet with omega fatty acids may reduce inflammation and support respiratory health. Studies reveal the beneficial effects of fatty acids by decreasing inflammatory markers.
All equines will undergo inflammation after exercising. Inflammation in moderation plays a role in post-exercise tissue repair, but excessive inflammation is detrimental and painful.
Omega fatty acids reduce oxidative damage induced by exercise by supporting anti-oxidative processes in the joints. Red blood cell membrane fluidity affects the heart rate, and studies have shown that horses supplemented with fatty acids did not experience decreases in membrane fluidity.
How to Feed Camelina Oil to Horses
Owners consider feeding oils to their horses for several reasons. These reasons may include weight gain, skin problems, joint issues, or attempts to decrease inflammation.
Oils are a great way to add caloric density to the diets of high-performance athletes or hard keepers. It is a good alternative energy source to sugars or grains. Non-structural carbohydrates such as molasses increase the risk of nutritionally induced health conditions such as laminitis, gastric ulcers, or hindgut acidosis.
Forage-based diets consist of high quantities of ALA; even though the fat content is low, horses will graze a bulk amount of omega-3 fatty acids in a single day. The ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is still an active area of research, but it appears that rations higher in omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammatory processes in the body.
The typical omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids ratio can vary from 1:4 to 1:10. This ratio is important and can be estimated online through feeding programs. Estimated ALA, DHA, and EPA content determination are beneficial to support respiratory or arthritis issues.
The recommended amount of camelina oil to be fed depends on the goals of the feeding program and the caloric needs of each individual horse. A basic guide to introducing camelina oil into a horse’s diet is the addition of 1 ounce (30 ml) once daily into their ratio and increasing gradually until achieving the desired effects.
Listed below are a few quality products that contain camelina oil:
- Equine Omega Gold is an animal formulation by Dr. Robert Silver.
- EnviroEquine produces OmegaBalance, a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids from camelina oil.
- WildGold produces locally sourced all-natural products from family-owned farms that are local producers. The company offers Equine Original Performance and Equine Premium Performance Camelina oil.
Fatty Acid Research in Equines
The fatty acid profile and nutrient content of each fat source are unique, but almost all fat sources provide 9 kilocalories per gram.
To determine which oil source best suits your horse, consider the following important points:
- The absolute amounts of fatty acids.
- The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
- The omega-3 fatty acid form.
The table below lists researched fatty acid sources in an equine diet:
|Omega-3 in ounces (grams)
|Omega-6 in ounces (grams)
|1.8 (51) ALA
|2.15 (61) ALA
|1.34 (38) ALA
|1 (57) ALA
|0.4 (1.1) ALA
|0.27 (7.9) ALA
|0.24 (7) ALA
|1 (30.8) DHA AND EPA
|Cereal grains (ex: whole oats)
|0.05 (1.5) ALA
Research shows that horses on fresh pastures will ingest enough ALA during the summer months, but they will need Omega-3 supplementation during the winter months. Diets rich in cereal grains such as oats need to balance the high levels of omega-6s with an omega-3 fatty acid source.
ALA vs. EPA and DHA
Each omega-3 fatty acid affects the body differently.
ALA is an inactive precursor to other omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These active forms of omega-3s possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Camelina, flaxseed, and other plant-based oils contain a high contraction of ALA. For ALA fatty acids to provide anti-inflammatory properties, the body must convert them to EPA and DHA.
Conversion of ALA
The conversion of ALA into EPA occurs through three enzymatic chain reactions that elongate and saturate the molecule. Producing DHA requires an additional four steps. The same enzymes responsible for ALA conversion are also responsible for converting omega-6 fatty acids to arachidonic acid – a pro-inflammatory mediator.
The body only converts a small amount of dietary ALA into the active form of omega-3. Research shows that most mammals, including humans, have similar poor conversion rates. Even when fed ALA, DHA, and EPA, blood levels do not increase.
Direct EPA and DHA supplementation are necessary to improve tissue-level DHA concentrations. No plant-based oils contain naturally occurring DHA or EPA – only marine sources such as fish oil or microalgae provide active omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies exploring horses supplemented with plant-based oils, including camelina oil, are not extensive. Some studies show camelina oil loses its edge compared to flax oil in omega-3 and omega-6 nutrition. Flax oil contains 54% ALA, and the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids ratio is 4:1.
The leader in omega-3 nutrition remains fish oil because it contains an omega-3 to an omega-6 ratio of 12:1. It also supplies EPA and DHA directly, making it more metabolically efficient than ALA-containing oils. The main drawback of fish oil remains its low palatability.
Scientists advise that horse owners avoid certain equine oil supplements such as soy oil, corn oil, and rice bran oil. Even though these oils can improve coat health and increase calories, they do not add a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids to a ratio.
Five Reasons to Feed Your Horse Camelina Oil
- Camelina Oil Contains High Amounts of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. Camelina oil is rich in omega-3s compared to other oils that are higher in omega-6 fatty acids. Horses need a higher amount of omega-3s, and this is why horse owners choose to feed camelina oil.
- Camelina Oil is High in Vitamin E
Vitamin E can help prolong the shelf life of oils, and camelina is high in tocopherol. Horses that develop vitamin E deficiencies can suffer serious diseases such as equine neuroaxonal dystrophy (eNAD), equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy (EDM), and equine motor neuron disease (EMND).
Selenium, as well as Vitamin E, are vital in muscle function and disease prevention.
- Camelina Oil Helps Horses With Skin Allergies
Horses that suffer from hypersensitive skins can benefit from omega-fatty acid supplementation. Camelina oil can reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system by strengthening cell membrane health. A thriving, strong cell membrane forms part of a healthy skin barrier.
- Camelina Oil Improves Equine Endurance
The fat found in camelina oil contains double the calories when compared to carbohydrates. Calories help an active horse by supporting its stamina. Fatty acids also help horses struggling with recovery or muscle tone to maintain or gain weight. Read our article and find out the 6 Best Weight Gain Supplements for Horses.
- Camelina Oil is a Palatable Supplement With Longevity
Camelina oil’s flavor is subtle and almond-like, making it more palatable than fish oil. Fish oil is a commonly used source of fatty acids for horses, but horses tend to prefer camelina oil’s taste.
The Final Neigh
Camelina oil products help mediate inflammatory responses, improve glucose tolerance, strengthen immunity, respiratory support health, offer reproductive benefits, and enhance bone metabolism and development. The longer shelf life, almond taste, and omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 2.2:1 make camelina oil a great equine oil supplement.
The drawback of camelina oil remains that ALA is metabolically inefficient. The direct supplementation of DHA and EPA still stands as the preferred nutritional supplement to provide the benefits offered by omega fatty acids.