Myth: “Canola Oil Is Toxic to Horses.”
I’m not quite sure where this myth originated, but I suspect it started with a misunderstanding about canola itself. Canola was originally developed from rapeseed. Rapeseed does have some undesirable characteristics; however, canola was developed using traditional plant breeding methods to eliminate the unwanted qualities of rapeseed and vastly improve the nutritional quality of the oil. The oil produced from canola seed is now as different from rapeseed oil as olive oil is different from corn oil.
Part of the argument against canola oil is that it is an “industrial oil.” True, but so are all other vegetable oils. Corn oil, soybean oil and flax oil are all used industrially to make lubricants, fuel, soaps, paints, plastics, cosmetics, inks, and other products. But just because vegetable oils like canola oil can be used for such things doesn’t make the product you buy at the store somehow poisonous or harmful. In fact, canola oil may even be more healthy because it has a better fatty acid profile (more omega-3) than most commonly used oils.
The advice against feeding canola oil to horses may also have ties to the cattle industry. Cattle do not digest fats and oils as well as horses. Too much oil in the diet of cattle can kill the microorganisms in their rumen and decrease their ability to digest feeds. By comparison, oil is digested and absorbed in the small intestine of the horse, so little to no oil reaches the microorganisms in the large intestine. As a result, horses can digest and utilize much higher levels of added oil in their diets (20% of the total diet) compared to cattle (up to 6%).
Adding vegetable oil (canola or otherwise) is a great way to add energy (calories) to your horse’s diet. Oils are the most energy-dense feed available. And the calories are provided as fatty acids, not starch, so there is less risk of colic and laminitis associated with feeding large amounts of grain. One cup of oil can replace about 1.5 lbs of oats. Like all dietary adjustments, oil should be added gradually to your horse’s ration. Start by feeding your horse ¼-cup per day, then build up to 1-cup over 2 to 3 weeks. For most light breeds of horses, 2-cups is probably the maximum level before digestion may be compromised. The addition of oil also has other benefits. Adding as little as 2 tablespoons of oil may act as a coat conditioner. And oil has been shown to increase the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D and E.
“The source of the materials is http://www.agriculture.alberta.ca. The use of these materials by [insert user’s name] is done without any affiliation with or endorsement by the Government of Alberta. Reliance upon [insert user’s name]’s use of these materials is at the risk of the end user.”
They say of Dr. Warren:
Author Lori K. Warren, Ph.D., P.A.S., joined Alberta Agriculture, Food & Rural Development as Provincial Horse Specialist in May 2000. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on the nutrition of performance horses and forage utilization by young growing horses.
And they say this article (of which the above is one myth of many):
This information was presented at, and appears in the Proceedings of, the 2002 Alberta Horse Breeders and Owners Conference.
This information is maintained by of the Horse Industry Section of Alberta Agriculture in conjunction with Sylvia Schneider at Pondside Web Productions.