Flaxseed For Horses

Last updated on March 11th, 2023 at 05:18 am

What is Flaxseed and how Does it Benefit Horses

Many people have asked is flaxseed for horses?  Flaxseed is a small, brown seed that comes from the flax plant. The seed is a very popular supplement.  It’s given to livestock due to its low cost, high nutritional value and numerous health benefits. Flaxseed is widely available and is very easy to integrate into your horse’s diet.

You have probably heard of flaxseed as a popular nutritional supplement.  But you may have been left wondering what it actually is, what the benefits are and how to feed it. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place! We are going to take a closer look at flaxseed (also known as linseed) and find out why so many horse owners choose to incorporate this little seed into their horse’s diet.

What are the benefits of feeding flaxseed?

Flaxseeds offer many health benefits as a result of their nutritional content. Namely, they have a high protein content and are a rich source of fat – particularly omega-3 fatty acids. It is important for your horse to enjoy a rich source of essential fatty acids in their diet.   They play a vital role within the body. The high-fat content is one of the key factors that differentiates flaxseeds from other options.  They provide the kind of fats your horse needs in order to be healthy and as these kinds of fats are not produced by your horse’s body they need to be consumed through diet. Flaxseeds are an excellent, cost-effective way of providing them.

Flaxseed also helps to improve digestion.  It also has a positive effect on the health and appearance of your horse’s skin and coat – even helping to relieve skin conditions as well as symptoms of allergies.

In Veterinary Herbal Medicine, flax seed is encouraged for use in arthritic horses due to its anti-inflammatory abilities. The introduction of flaxseed can also help prevent or reduce the accumulation of sand in the gut.  This can help to decrease the risk of sand colic from occurring.

As well as the benefits above, flaxseed is a source of several vitamins including A, D, E and K.  It is also low in sugar, low in starch and high in fibre. Integrating flax seed into your horse’s diet boosts the immune system and helps to enhance the overall health of your horse.

What does all of this mean?

To summarize, providing your horse with flaxseeds has several health benefits including:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Reduces allergies
  • Promotes heart health
  • Promotes digestive health and function
  • Improve hair and hoof strength
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves respiratory well-being

Should I feed whole or ground flaxseeds?

Now we know that flaxseed brings a whole host of benefits to your horse, you are probably keen to start introducing it. One of the first things you need to decide is whether to feed whole flaxseeds or ground flaxseeds.

You can safely feed your horse whole flax seeds but in order to get the most nutritional benefits, it is better to grind the flaxseeds just before feeding.  Although this may be more time-consuming and will add an extra step to the feeding process, it is important for a number of reasons:

  • Feeding whole flax seeds is more wasteful because they are harder to digest
  • Grinding flaxseeds maximizes the digestion of nutrients
  • Once the flaxseeds are ground they should be fed immediately as the fatty acids will rapidly degrade
  • Ground flaxseeds have a very short shelf life and quickly become rancid (exposure to heat, light and moisture can cause the rancidity to take place so it is best to grind enough just for a day or two and store them in a sealed container in a fridge until feeding)

Due to this, to get the most benefit from feeding flaxseed I always grind them just before feeding as this is when they are most easily digested and at their highest nutritional value.

How much flaxseed is safe to feed?

The amount of flaxseed you feed your horse depends on a number of factors, including age and weight. It is also important that you make sure you introduce the flaxseed gradually over a period of 2 – 3 weeks in order to allow the digestive system a chance to adapt to the changes.

As a general guide, an approx. 500kg adult horse of a healthy weight can be fed ½ – 1 cup of ground flaxseed per day. This would be about the same for yearlings and growing horses too but foals should be fed less (about ¼ cup a day).  If you are unsure how much your horse needs, speak to a veterinarian and they will be able to offer feeding advice.

If your horse has health conditions that will benefit from ground flaxseeds you may want to introduce larger amounts (up to a maximum of 4 cups) but be careful not to overfeed. Do not feed more than 2 cups of ground flaxseed a day over a long period as weight gain may occur. Once you see improvement it is recommended you reduce the amount of flaxseed down e.g. down to ½ – 1 cup for a 500g healthy adult horse.

Is Flaxseed for horses? I heard something about cyanide poisoning, is this true?

It has been said that flaxseeds are capable of causing cyanide poisoning.  It is true that, like many plant foods, flax seeds contain the cyanogenic glycosides as a defence mechanism. However, cyanide poisoning is extremely unlikely. The presence of cyanogenic glycosides can cause low-level exposure.  It would take very high levels of flaxseed to cause any kind of poisoning. Cyanogenic glycosides are high in the green, immature flaxseeds.  In the mature, brown flaxseeds used for feeding, there are only trace amounts.  This is not something you need to worry about.

Soaking the flaxseeds in water can increase the cyanide levels.  It is safe to boil the flaxseeds as the hydrogen cyanide will evaporate. However, this is not necessary as whole or ground flaxseeds can be fed safely as they are.

Feeding Horse Flaxseeds Summary

In summary, many generations of horse lovers, owners and carers have trusted flaxseed for horses.  There is a very good reason for it.  Flaxseeds, although small and seemingly inconspicuous, come with a host of health benefits. The high levels of protein and omega-3 fats alone make them a worthwhile addition to your horse’s diet. Add in the numerous other benefits they bring to overall health and it’s a no-brainer.  Just remember, for best results grind the flaxseeds just before feeding and introduce them gradually to your horse’s diet.

Where can I get Flaxseed?

You should be able to find flaxseed locally in your market but you can also order it online.  Like most things, you will find it cheaper online.

The best price on Amazon is here

Flaxseed for horses References

Veterinary Herbal Medicine By Susan G. Wynn, DVM, Barbara Fougere

Myths, Medicine & Misinformation: Advice for Women About Life and Horses …

By Janelle Smith-Haff

The good oil on flaxseeds and why your horse needs them