Hemp: For Your Horse's Well Being
In the previous articles in this series we covered the colorful history of hemp, its nutritional composition, and how the compounds in hemp are known to benefit human health. This article will begin to touch on how horses and other animals also can benefit from hemp.
The idea of feeding hemp to horses was nothing new to Lana Tatarliov, an organic farmer and breeder of Arabian horses in Saskatchewan… this was common practice in days of old. After trying out hemp on her own horses and those of her friends and getting some amazing results, she teamed up with hemp expert, Morris Johnson of Lifespan Pharma to develop a hemp product for horses.
"Our hemp is unique in that special harvesting procedures are used to ensure that ALL the hemp bioactive compounds are retained and preserved in a homogeneous herbal mixture," says Mr. Johnson. "The seed meal and seed oils are present in the exact same quantity as found in the whole fresh hemp plant seed head (bud). We at are simply facilitating the re-introduction of hemp into everyday use, to the best of our ability."
Lana adds, "When we developed our supplement, we knew we had a product that would fly off the shelves once people learned what it could do for their animals. What we didn't expect was the amount of educating we would have to do just to overcome people's misguided perception that 'hemp is a drug'," says Lana. "It has been quite a surprise - hemp is so benign, but has so many potential health benefits."
It cannot be emphasized enough that hemp is NOT marijuana. By Canadian and US law, it must have less than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive ingredient that produces a "high") to be legal (see previous issue for regulations and certifications required to grow and import hemp).
"This has been a significant year  for industrial hemp in Canada," says Arthur Hanks, Executive Director, CHTA. "We have seen Canadian field acreage climb to an estimated 35,000 acres, corresponding with increased consumer demand for healthy hemp foods.
Hempseed is now being processed into a wide variety of health food and body care products. It is estimated that annual retail sales for hempseed-based products are approximately U.S. $40 million. Some companies are reporting sales increases of 50 percent in each of the past two seasons.
"We have a growing industry with hemp, and it is important that we do it right," says Arthur Hanks, executive director of the non-profit Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) and the manager of the Saskatchewan Hemp Association (SHA). CHTA will be hosting a one-day conference in November which brings together growers, manufacturers, industry representatives, researchers, and government officials to share information, knowledge and innovations and strategize on how to expand hemp production, products and markets (visit www.hemptrade.ca).
Some have called hemp possibly the most nutritionally complete food source in the world. Hemp contains: Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) for the growth and maintenance of body tissue; Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) for improved skin and cell membranes, increased oxygen consumption in cells with increased energy, metabolism and immune system functions; flavonoids for antiviral, anti-allergic, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antioxidant activities; cannabinoids and terpenoids for cell protection, immuno-suppression and anti-inflammatory properties; vitamins and minerals; and more (see NHM Volume 8 Issue 5 for more information).
According to Dr. Robert A. Mowrey, Extension
Horse Husbandry Specialist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, "Recent
research has demonstrated the effectiveness of high-fat diets for horses." Although
such diets may have been previously considered 'bad', it is now known
that fat (good fats, not trans fats or chemically-treated fats) is an important,
safe, and efficient energy source for horses, and humans. "On
high-fat diets, horses perform longer without fatiguing, incur fewer injuries,
and maintain body weight with less grain intake (while maximizing forage
intake). Adding fat to a horse's diet permits safe weight gain while reducing
the chance of colic or founder…" reports Dr. Mowrey. "Most
importantly, perhaps, high-fat diets enable horses in high-performance
situations (e.g., while pregnant, lactating, or working at moderate and
intense levels) to more efficiently and safely meet their high energy requirements."
While most references list vegetable oils as good sources of fat, comparison of EFAs in dietary oils show that hempseed oil has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 3:1. Studies indicate that EFAs are "good" fats as long as the body gets balanced amounts of both - within the range of 1:1 to 4:1, and with the optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 as 3:1. That puts hemp oil as the best-balanced source, better than olive oil (9:1), soy oil (7:1), flax oil (1:4), and even canola oil (2:1).
"The anti-inflammatory properties alone will benefit any horse with founder, inflammation in the joints, arthritis and many more ailments resulting from inflammation. But why wait for a trauma before using hemp? I think preventative use of hemp will go a long way in keeping your horses and other pets looking and feeling better," says Lana. "Isn't it worth trying a totally natural food substance with virtually no side effects rather than using 'bute' or other harsh medications to provide relief from inflammation?"
There is, however, an issue of legitimate concern for show horse owners. "The one question I keep getting asked over and over again is, 'Will my horse be disqualified from competition if he is tested for THC?'" says Lana. Because of the thorough testing, it is possible that even the less than 0.3 percent trace amounts of THC in hemp may be detected (much like testing positive for opiates after eating poppyseeds). "We have been contacting various horse industry associations and organizations to find out what their restrictions are," Lana reports. "We pretty much have them stumped. Rule books just don't address the use of hemp. But we are not giving up until we get some definitive answers."
As advocates for the use of hemp, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food has made funds available to assist businesses like Lana's with a portion of their costs of underwriting a health benefits trial for hemp. Her company has enlisted volunteers with convalescent or at-risk horses with inflammatory-based conditions such as colic, joint ailments, cardiovascular, circulatory, and intestinal conditions.
"The horses will be put on a regimen of hemp; we will set the initial criteria, analyze the data, and compile the results into a summary. Although this will not be a clinical trial with the narrow focus required to be published in scientific literature," Lana points out, "it will hopefully provide horse owners with enough information to be comfortable in their decision to feed hemp to their horses."
For more information:
West Coast Distributor of Hemp for Horses
Hemp for Horses
Box 155, Minton, SK, Canada, S0C 1T0
(306) 969-2275; Cell: (306) 869-7300