How Coconut Oil Can Benefit Your Horse

For years everybody’s been waxing lyrical about the benefits of coconut oil and the number of different applications it has, from conditioning your hair and improving your skin to increasing your athletic prowess, but you might be surprised to find that it can have exactly the same benefits for your horse. For years I’ve been using it at the yard and am still blown away by the range of uses it has, which is why I decided to write this article. 

As well as being a miracle product, if you buy oil that has been picked, pressed and packed at source (often marked with the Fair Trade logo), it’s sustainable and eco-friendly too. As you can guess, ‘picked, pressed and packed at source’ means that all of the production happens in the same place. This is not only good for the environment and has a lower carbon footprint but it also means that the money will go directly to the communities that grew it in the first place.

Good gut health

Coconut oil is much easier for a horse to digest, absorb and then convert to energy. It’s sometimes used to help with the treatment and prevention of ulcers, colic and acidosis although more research needs to be done into this.

Why it works: If you remember anything from biology at high school you’ll probably remember that the fat we eat is normally a form of fat known as triglyceride (which is made up from 3 fatty acids) and categorized as short, medium or long-chain which describes the length of the fatty acids. Medium-chain triglycerides (or MCT) are much easier to digest which therefore means that they’re absorbed into the bloodstream much faster and as a result are converted to energy far quicker.

Great source of ‘cool’ energy

Coconut oil contains twice as much energy as protein and starch but because it’s a fat its a non-heating energy source.

Why it works: The body will breakdown fat in coconut oil more quickly than most other oils which means it’s used as fuel (energy) rather than glucose. This also means that less lactic acid is produced which also helps the horse to recover faster too. Also because the fats are converted to energy so quickly there’s nothing left to make the horse hot which is one of the reasons why coconut oil is better than high grain feeds.

Good for fussy eaters

If your horse doesn’t like taking medicine or eats around any supplement then hiding them inside some coconut oil will help. Just wrap the tablet or powder up inside a little bit of coconut oil and your horse will eat it without batting an eyelid. You can even use this to make worming easier, just put a little in an old worming syringe and give it to your horse as a treat occasionally. He’ll then associate the syringe with the oil rather than the wormer.

Why it works: Coconut oil is not only sweet-tasting and highly palatable but it has a scent that can disguise the smell (and taste) of pretty much any medicine. Your horse will think it’s a treat instead and tablets will no longer be a problem.

Ideal for hard keepers

If your horse finds it difficult to gain weight or to keep the weight, whatever the reason, then coconut oil is a healthy alternative to calorie supplements and feeds.

Why it works: The way that the body absorbs and utilities fatty acids means that they’re perfect for hard keepers. Coconut oil is often cheaper than hay too so adding it to your horse’s feed can make the hay last longer.

Increase immunity

Adding a little bit of coconut oil to your horse’s diet will help to boost his immunity which will help him to fight off infections.

Why it works: Two of the fatty acids that coconut oil contains are capris acid and lauric acid, both of these have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that will help to keep your horse’s immune system healthy.

Treating wounds

Covering an open wound with coconut oil will act as a barrier against infection but will also help to minimize proud flesh. This is where the new connective tissue and blood vessels have grown over the wound and can have the appearance of a pink cauliflower.

Why it works: Coconut oil has a high concentration of a fatty acid known as monolaurin, this is known for its natural antimicrobial benefits.

Treating mud fever

As well as the antimicrobial benefits that make it so good for treating wounds it’s also ideal for treating mud fever and preventing reinfection.

Why it works: As well as having antimicrobial values it also has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. These not only help the area to heal but can stop fungus growing and causing the area to become reinfected.

Ease bites and stings

Applying a thin layer of coconut oil to the bite or sting (after the sting has been removed) will not only protect it from foreign bodies such as dust and bacteria but will also help to soothe it and stop your horse from scratching the bite or sting.

Why it works: Coconut oil has anti-bacterial properties that will protect the area from any germs but its also absorbed into the skin quickly which works to help the area heal quickly and therefore not itch.

Adds condition to the coat as well as the mane and tail

Feeding coconut oil to your horse will help to improve the condition and shine of his coat as well as his mane and tail but you don’t need to feed it to your horse, if you’d prefer to, you can use it directly on his coat. A tiny amount used directly on the mane and tail can also help to detangle them.

Why it works: Petroleum-based conditioners tend to ’sit’ on top of the horse’s coat and give them shine but because coconut oil isn’t petroleum-based (rather fatty acid-based) it will be absorbed through the hair and into the skin. Once it’s absorbed the vitamin E in the oil will help to soften the hair and moisturize the skin.

Moisturize hooves

If your horse’s hooves are dry and cracked then massaging a little it of coconut oil into them every day will help to repair the hooves.

Why it works: A lot of hoof conditioners are petroleum-based which means they’re actually more likely to dry the hooves out. Coconut oil, on the other hand, doesn’t contain any petroleum at all and is quickly absorbed through the hoof wall, getting right to the source of the problem.

How should I give my horse coconut oil?

There are no hard and fast rules about how to feed coconut oil, some people prefer to use it purely as a treat while others add it to the daily feed and then, of course, there are people who do a little bit of both.

If you’re adding it as a food supplement you can either add it as a solid or warm it up (even microwaving it for a few seconds) and mix it with the feed, if you do warm it up though make sure it’s not too hot before giving it to your horse. When it comes to feeding it as a treat you can use it as a paste in a syringe or use it as a ‘lick’, although you won’t be able to do this if the temperature is too warm.

When you’re using coconut oil for the first time don’t suddenly start feeding your horse a lot. He won’t be used to it so instead start by feeding him a small amount and then increase it slowly. Every horse is different so there’s no set amount you should be feeding, instead monitor your horse and if you think he’s having to much reduce it. The daily guide below should help though:

  • Competition horses
    50ml to 100ml
  • Pleasure horses
    30ml to 50ml
  • Old horses
    15ml to 30ml

What to look for when buying coconut oil for horses

Yes, of course, you could just walk into any grocery store and pick up a tub of coconut oil and it would definitely benefit your horse but there are a few things you need to look out for when buying oil.

  • Make sure you buy ‘virgin’ – Most oils (whether olive or coconut) are available as regular (sometimes called pure, classic or refined), virgin, or extra virgin but when it comes to coconut oil for horses its important to make sure you buy virgin oil. The reason for this is because virgin coconut oil contains at least 45% lauric acid. This a fatty acid that gives the oil its plethora of health benefits.
  • Only buy cold-pressed – Heat during the production phase can negatively affect the taste of the oil so to keep it highly palatable to horses it’s better to opt for cold-pressed oil. This literally means just that, the oil has been squeezed (or ‘pressed’) out of the coconut flesh.
  • Buy picked, pressed and packed at source – As I mentioned before if you by oil that is labeled as picked, pressed and packed at source (or labeled Fair Trade) then it’s more sustainable and eco-friendly. It’s also more ethical because the money goes directly to the communities that produced it rather than to a multi-national bio-chemical company.

An added bonus

Coconut oil won’t go off so it can be kept for years and will still be perfectly okay to use. Okay so I admit that’s of no benefit to your horse but it’ll certainly help your pocket if you don’t need to replace it every few months.

Further reading

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.