Should I be feeding flaxseed to my horse?
Sure? Maybe? It depends. It might work for your horse, and you might need to make another adjustment to his diet if that’s the case. You will also need to consider if you want to grind it yourself, of if it’s easier to find stabilized.
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, are tiny seeds from the flax plant. Flax is one of the oldest known fiber plants, which actually have lovely purple flowers to boot. The seeds are rich in omega fatty acids, about 40%. There’s about 30% fiber, much more than brans, and about 20% protein. They can be idea for horses as flax is a natural anti-inflammatory agent with those amazing omega fatty acids. And a nice shine maker, too!
Here’s the kicker - they may not be super digestible whole, so they best way for you horse to eat them is ground up. Here's the second kicker - they need to be eaten within about 15 minutes of grinding, as they become rancid quite fast. The alternative is to find a commercially available stabilized flax that is already ground. Same benefit, infinitely longer shelf life.
A few more notes on flax. There is some evidence that horses can chew the seeds enough to get the benefits of those omega fatty acids, but the standard practice is to use a ground version. There’s also a lot of information about how much your horse can eat per day, some sources say four ounces, some sources say an entire pound. Your Veterinarian or Equine Nutritionist can help you figure out the best quantity for your horse.
When you are adding flax to your horse’s diet, know that the addition of water can help a chemical reaction create cyanide in the flax. Don’t boil the flax, either, this “kills” the helpful omega fatty acids. Also know that flax is very high in phosphorus, so balance this out with calcium from forage or a supplement. Again, your Veterinarian or Equine Nutritionist can help.
The bonus is that flaxseed is delicious, so it’s likely going to be very easy to convince your horse to chow down.