Taking equine health to the next level
For optimum results should be fed in conjunction with a high roughage and fibre diet low in non-structural carbohydrates.
(Flaxseed contains an average of 40% fat and is one of the few vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly alpha-linolenic acid). Flaxseed also contains around 30% highly digestible fibre and 20% protein.)
The benefits of Flaxseed
Omega fatty acids (in proper ratio)
In addition to its rich caloric content, flaxseed has one of the best natural ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids offer countless benefits to the equine body, such as aiding the immune system, protecting joints, supporting gastric health, reducing airway inflammation, reducing excitability, and aiding skin and coat health and shine.
It is important that Omega fatty acids are fed in the proper ratio. Omega-6s cause swelling and promote inflammation, which is an integral part of injury recovery and immune function, but which can become harmful if Omega-6s are fed in too high a ratio as compared to Omega-3s. Flaxseed is more than 70% polyunsaturated fat, with a 1 to 0.3 Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, there are other oilseeds with high fat content, but flaxseed is unique in its excellent fatty acid profile. High Omega-3 promotes a less inflammatory environment in the body and maintains fluidity of cell membranes.
Alpha linolenic acid
While fresh pasture is a good source of Omega fatty acids, hay is an extremely poor source and often requires supplementation. There is one Omega-3 fatty acid horses cannot make by themselves – alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Higher quantities of ALA are found in flaxseed than in either chia seed or fish oil.
Feeding your horse flaxseed
Horses, as hindgut fermenters, process fats in their foreguts and fibre in their hindguts. As grazing animals, horses derive most of their energy (30% to 70%) from fibre. The results of bacteria breaking down fibre are nutrients and volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which become slow-release energy for the horse. Flaxseed, naturally high in fibre, is an excellent supplement for working horses, who are likely not getting adequate nutrition from dry forage alone.
Flaxseed is best fed ground; when the seeds are fed whole, the hard coating restricts accessibility to the nutritional content, namely the fatty acids.
Caution – ground flaxseed oxidizes quickly, leading to rancidity and greatly diminishing the nutritional content. It is best to grind flaxseed immediately before it is consumed, or to buy a stabilized flaxseed product. Flaxseed can also be fed in the form of oil, this is a costly alternative. (Cen oil).
The healthiest diet for any horse, and his gut bacteria, is constant access to high quality forage. Flaxseed is an excellent addition to the diet of a horse that needs an increase in body condition, especially as a nutritional and natural supplement for horses that are aging, in hard work, or in need of joint support or an immune system boost.