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:

“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 EO•3.

“EO•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.