Lecithin containing diets for the horse: acceptance, digestibility, and effects on behavior

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Virginia Tech


Lecithins may improve the digestibility of high fat diets and the tractability of horses. Experiments were conducted to determine the acceptability, digestibility and effects on behavior of lecithin-containing diets. Seven young horses of light breeds were used for the studies.

The four concentrates consisted of corn, oats, beet pulp, trace mineralized salt, dried sugar cane molasses plus 10% added fat: corn oil (CO);soy lecithin-corn oil (SL\CO); soy lecithin-soybean oil (SL\SO); or soy lecithin-corn oil-soybean oil (SL\CO\SO). Half the ration was provided by chopped hay. The CO concentrate was the most palatable (P=.OOOl). The remaining three concentrates were palatable in the following order: SL\CO, SL\CO\SO, and SL\SO, with SL\CO diet preferred (P=.OOl) to SL\SO.

In the digestibility experiment, a complete mixed diet was fed containing chromic oxide as a marker. The control diet had no added fat: the others contained CO, SL\CO, or SL\SO at 10% by weight. Apparent digestibility was higher in the control diet than in the others for dry matter (P=.OOOl). Apparent digestibilities of crude protein (P=.0002) and acid detergent fiber (P=.08) decreased with any of the three fats. In contrast, apparent digestibility of ether extract was increased (P=.OOOl) in the fat containing diets.

In the activity experiments, horses on the SL\CO diet were less spontaneously active (P=.0125) than horses on the control diet. Horses on the CO and SL \SO diet also had slightly lower activity levels (P=.125). Horses fed the SL\SO diet reacted less (P=.0625) than control horses to the opening umbrella. Horses fed CO and SL\CO diets showed trends towards less reactivity (P=.125 and P=.25, respectively), compared to the control horses.

These studies support the practical feasibility of using lecithins in diets for horses. Especially interesting would be studies of interactivity with trainers and riders.