Use of hemp products within the horse industry is on the upswing. While hemp and marijuana are both considered cannabis, hemp contains minuscule levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the well-known psychoactive substance found in marijuana.
“Hemp is hardy and fast-growing, and can be harvested for industrial and commercial products such as rope, clothes, paper, textiles, plastics, and biofuel,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. For horses, the two primary uses of hemp include bedding and oil obtained from hemp seeds.
“Hemp oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their health benefits,” Crandell said. “Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids also helps balance the ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s in a horse’s diet and facilitates absorption of various fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E, and K, ” Crandell added.
Other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Reducing inflammation;
- Supporting immune function;
- Helping horse with allergies and skin conditions;
- Improving respiratory issues and joint health; and
- Contributing to positive reproductive benefits such as improved fertility, enriched colostrum quality, enhanced passive transfer of antibodies to foals, and increased sperm concentration, motility, and viability.
“The nervous system of both mature and immature horses also benefits from omega-3s, as supplementation decreases stress, improves learning and cognition, and staves off the development of stereotypic behaviors, such as cribbing,” advised Crandell.
She added, “Hemp oil is not as high in omega-3s as the more tried-and-true fish oil, and may not be effective at balancing the omega 6:3 ratio if the diet is really high in omega-6s.” Therefore, for optimal omega-3 supplementation, consider supplementing with a marine-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement, such as EOâ€¢3.
“EOâ€¢3 touts the same benefits as hemp oil but has a high content of both DHA and EPA, and is backed by solid research,” Crandell said.
*Murray, J. Use of hemp oil and hemp ingredients in equine diets.