Should You Feed Your Horse Flax Seeds?
Feeding Flax Seeds
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
We all have heard how great omega 3 fatty acids are to our bodies. They help curb inflammation linked to many diseases and cancers. Now they are being promoted as being healthy for our horses too. So how do we supplement our horse’s diet with omega 3 fatty acids? One of the best sources in a plant form is flax seeds. In fact, 1/4 cup of flax seeds equals about 6.3g of omega 3s.
Health Benefits of Flax
Flax not only contains omega 3 fatty acids but also fiber, B vitamins, anti-oxidants, magnesium and manganese. The omega 3 fatty acids are helpful in reducing inflammation for horses that have arthritis, skin problems, allergies, immune issues and even COPD. Flax also contains about 30% fiber. We know the fiber content is great to stabilize blood sugar, cleanse the colon and reduce colic. Flax is also about 20% protein containing 19 different amino acids (building blocks of protein). Finally, flax has also been found to reduce excitability in horses.
High in Fat
Flax is about 40% fat. That’s why supplementing with flax can improve your horses skin, coat and body condition. However, most horses don’t need extra fat in their diet. It’s important to remember that horses do not have gallbladders and therefore cannot process fats like the human body can. The gallbladder stores bile produced in the liver and helps break down fats as they move through the digestive system. It is thought among equine alternative medicine practitioners that too much fat in the diet can cause lymphatic congestion and interfere with the proper absorption of fat soluble vitamins. At the very least, a high fat diet is not natural for horses in the wild.
So how can we avoid too much fat in our horse’s diet but still get the benefits of flax seed. Moderation. It’s best to feed only 1-2 tablespoons per day.
What’s the Downside?
Flax seeds just like any oil can become rancid if not prepared and stored properly. It is best to feed ground flax as it’s the most nutritious. However, flax seeds must be ground fresh every day. This is best done with a coffee grinder or a vitamix machine. You can also prolong the life of ground flax by refrigeration.
There is also some thought that since fat is stored under the horses skin, that high fat consumption in grey and white horses can exacerbate melanoma formation.
In My Experience
I love the nutritional benefits of flax seeds in my horses diet and I love the glossy shine it produces in their coat. I especially like that it’s a whole food supplement. Just make sure the seeds are stored correctly and fed at 1-2 tablespoons per horse per day.