Hempseed meal, hemp oil and hemp hearts are allowed for humans but are not approved as horse feed.
Colorado-based Hemp Feed Coalition (HFC) and Colorado-based RE Botanicals, a vertically integrated hemp brand, have initiated a campaign to educate horse lovers, owners and regulators that hemp (not CBD) is a safe and exceptional nutritional option for equine diets.
The nutritional profile of hemp byproducts makes it an ideal ingredient for horses of all breeds, ages and roles, including pleasure or performance horses working in racing, showing, roping, herding and more. Hempseeds provide high-quality proteins and omega fatty acid content that rivals soybeans, and they include a unique omega-6 fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA) that is not found in flaxseed or other common oils fed to horses. Hempseed oil is a popular supplement because of its fatty-acid profile, while meal (cake) has an average of 30% protein and 10% of these high-quality fats, making it a protein supplement with all essential amino acids.
“These meals can be fed as a top-dress to provide more protein or fat to the ration, depending on the nutrient profile, making them a good option for horses needing to gain weight or develop more topline,” said Dr. Clair Thunes, an equine nutritionist.
Hemp has been a reliable feed source for both people and animals for thousands of years across the world. The recent legalization of hemp cultivation in the U.S. has presented opportunities and challenges for both the hemp and equine industries. The process to gain federal approval requires investigation of the ingredient and enough data to prove consistency and safety.
“This is the first step to gaining federal approval, and the Hemp Feed Coalition is focused on their role in facilitating research and eventual approvals,” HFC Executive Director Hunter Buffington said.
Buffington points out that one of the biggest obstacles is the misunderstanding that hemp byproducts equal cannabidiol (CBD). Yes, there are trace amounts of cannabinoids in hemp byproducts. But the Food and Drug Administration-Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) acknowledges that the concentrations found are not a concern in its approval of these products in humans. The FDA-CVM recognizes that hemp oil, meal and hearts are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for people, including children and pregnant women. With safety proved for humans, the confusion over its legal status for horses remains, especially for competitive performance and racehorses where a zero-tolerance environment exists for even trace amounts of cannabinoids.
The Hemp for Horses campaign hopes to spread the message that the hemp industry is much more than just CBD. RE Botanicals partnered with HFC to ensure that horses benefit from the nutritional opportunities presented by hemp.
“As a CBD processor, I know that there is a huge difference between the cannabinoid and grain marketplace,” RE Botanicals CEO Janel Ralph said. “Grain provides tremendous nutritional benefits. Even though there may be trace amounts of cannabinoids in grain products, we are asking that agencies provide data that shows it is harmful or performance modifying before restrictions are imposed.”