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Linseed/Flaxseed Benefits to your Horse

Linseed, also known as flaxseed, is a commonly used ingredient in horse nutrition due to its rich nutrient profile, including high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fibre. Feeding linseed has been a tradition for horse owners, trainers and breeders for generations. In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the benefits of flaxseed supplementation in horses. Here are some key findings from these studies and their implications for horse nutrition:





Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammation

One of the primary benefits of flaxseed supplementation in horses is its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, which can be particularly beneficial for horses with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or 'sweet itch'.


A study published in 2020 found that supplementing horses with flaxseed oil led to a significant reduction in blood markers of inflammation compared to horses fed a control diet. Another study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2010 found that feeding flaxseed meal to horses reduced inflammation in the gut. A study in 2002 found that flaxseed contributed to reducing lesions sizes in horses with sweet itch, known in Australia as 'Queensland Itch'.


Skin and Coat Health

Flaxseed supplementation has also been shown to improve skin and coat health in horses. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2014 found that supplementing horses with flaxseed increased skin hydration and improved the shine of the coat compared to horses fed a control diet. Another study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in 2012 found that feeding flaxseed oil to horses improved the quality of their coat.


Digestive Health

Flaxseed supplementation may also have benefits for digestive health in horses. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2010 found that feeding horses flaxseed meal increased the production of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can aid in digestion and overall gut health.


Potential Drawbacks

While flaxseed supplementation has many potential benefits for horse nutrition, there are some potential drawbacks to consider. Flaxseed contains high levels of cyanogenic glycosides, which can be toxic in large quantities. However, horses can safely consume up to a kilogram of whole flaxseed per day without any adverse effects. You don't need to feed anywhere close to a kilogram to get positive results.


It is important to note that the nutritional profile of flaxseed can vary based on its processing method. For example, flaxseed that has been ground or milled may have a higher digestibility compared to whole flaxseed. Therefore, the recommended amount of flaxseed may vary based on its form. We feed our horses around 40-60 gams per day.


Additionally, flaxseed is high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain in horses. This can be a concern for horses that are already overweight or prone to obesity, but is a positive for geriatric horses, or 'hard-doers' that have trouble gaining weight.


Overall, flaxseed supplementation can be a beneficial addition to a horse's diet, particularly for horses with inflammatory conditions, skin and coat issues, and digestive health concerns.


Sound Advice sells whole linseeds in 4kg heat-sealed pouches. We do not mill the linseed as the oils break down rapidly. You can feed your linseeds whole, but to get the best results you can grind the linseeds immediately before use using an electric or manual coffee grinder. If you decide to grind all of your linseed in one go, we would encourage you to keep the ground linseed in the fridge.




References:

  1. Burrow, J. A., et al. "Dietary flaxseed oil supplementation modifies lipid metabolism, but does not alter inflammatory markers in exercising horses." Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 34.1 (2014): 121-126.

  2. Burk, A. O., et al. "Flaxseed supplementation improved skin hydration and shine in horses." Journal of Animal Science 92.9 (2014): 4159-4165.

  3. Dunnett, C., et al. "The effects of feeding micronized flaxseed on body condition score, inflammatory markers and insulin sensitivity in horses." Equine Veterinary Journal 47.Suppl. 49 (2015): 65-70.

  4. Elghandour, M. et al. "Plant Bioactives and Extracts as Feed Additives in Horse Nutrition" Journal of Equine Veterinary Science Vol 69 (2018) 66-77

  5. Harris, P. A., et al. "The use of flaxseed in horse diets." Journal of Animal Science 88.1 (2010): 401-408.

  6. O'Neill, W. "Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity" Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research Vol 66. 2002

  7. Sembratowicz, I. et al. "Effect of Dietary Flaxseed Oil Supplementation on the Redox Status, Haematological and Biochemical Parameters of Horses’ Blood" Animals 2020, 10(12), 2244; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122244

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