Coconut oil is a popular fat supplement for horses used to promote weight gain, skin health and a shiny coat.

It is also used as a cool energy source for exercising horses to add calories to the diet without relying on sugars and starches.

Coconut oil is derived from the kernel of mature coconuts that are harvested from the coconut palm tree. The two main types of oil obtained from coconuts are copra oil and virgin coconut oil. [1]

High-fat equine feeds are typically made with vegetable fats derived from canola, rice bran, soybean, and flax, but a growing number of products are now using coconut oil as an ingredient.

Coconut oil offers unique health benefits because it contains a high proportion of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which are a rapid source of energy.

Nutritional Profile of Coconut Oil

The digestible energy content of coconut oil is approximately 9.52 Mcal/kg (dry matter).

Coconut oil contains approximately 92% saturated fat, along with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. [2]

This oil is predominantly made up of medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides. These are unique because they are transported directly to the liver and used immediately as fuel. [2][3]

Approximately 45 to 55% of the saturated fats in coconut oil contain lauric acid. [2][3] Once ingested, lauric acid is metabolized into monolaurin, an organic compound that has antimicrobial properties.

Virgin coconut oil also contains trace amounts of vitamin E. [2]

Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil

All fatty acids are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. They are classified according to their molecular structure as either saturated or unsaturated fats.

Saturated fat is made of hydrocarbon chains that are only connected by single bonds, whereas unsaturated fats are connected by one or more double bonds. [2]

Saturated fatty acids are also usually solid at room temperature (approximately 20 oC/68 oF), while unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature. [2]

In organic chemistry, saturated fats are described as:

  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs): contain two to four carbon atoms
  • Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs): contain 6 to 12 carbon atoms
  • Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs): contain 14 to 24 carbon atoms

Most of the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are medium-chain fatty acids, but it is also a source of LCFAs and SCFAs. [2]

Saturated Fats

Coconut oil contains several types of saturated fatty acids including: [2][3]

  • Lauric acid (45-52%)
  • Myristic acid (16-21%)
  • Palmitic acid (7%-10%)
  • Caprylic acid (5%-10%)
  • Capric acid (4%-8%)
  • Stearic acid (2%-4%)
  • Caproic acid (0.5%-1%)
  • Palmitoleic acid (trace amounts)

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fatty acids present in coconut oil include: [2][3]

  • Oleic acid (5%-8%)
  • Linoleic acid (1%-3%)
  • Linolenic acid (up to 0.2%)
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Coconut Oil for Horses

Coconut oil is suitable for feeding horses and offers unique benefits compared to other fat sources in the equine diet.

High-fat diets are recommende