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flax, flaxseed, flaxseeds, mucilage - Horses [Skip to Content]
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QUESTION
What are decent guidelines to follow when feeding flax to horses? I have read that: A) it is necessary to boil flax prior to feeding to prevent choking; B) it is not necessary to cook flax and may be fed whole, but is best when bound with something moist like soaked beet pulp. Any suggestions?


ANSWER

Based on the fact that flax seeds are rather small and hard, it would make sense to grind them first in order to improve digestibility in the horse.

There really isn't very much information upon which to base an opinion about flaxseed in the equine literature. The flaxseed by-product, linseed meal, has been fed to horses as a protein supplement for many years without problems, but little information is available about feeding the raw flax seeds to horses. There may be a potentially toxic compound, thiocyanate, in raw flaxseed, but it is unclear how much toxicity there really might be among horses eating raw flaxseed, and one study with dairy cattle eating raw flaxseed found no reduction in performance.

There has been increased interest in minimally processed flaxseed, and flaxseed oil in human diets due to the high levels of "good" (omega-3) fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid that have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc. In horses - who knows? The limited research in horses fed supplemental omega-3 fatty acids has yielded mixed results, although there is some evidence that such fats may enhance anti-inflammatory defences in the horse.

So, the best answer I can give at this point in time is wait and see if further research can shed more light on the question, as the omega-3 fatty acid story continues to unfold.







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