Flax Seed and the Health of our Horses.

October 26, 2023

Dr. Sandra Blackwood DVM

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a popular supplement for horses due to its many potential health benefits. Its main advantages arise from its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as other nutrients such as fiber, protein, and lignans. Here are some of the potential benefits of flaxseed for horses, along with references:


1. Improved Coat and Skin Health: One of the most noticeable benefits of feeding flaxseed to horses is the improvement in coat shine and skin health.

   - Reference: "Effects of Dietary Fat and Riboflavin Supplementation on Coat Condition in Show Horses" published in the *Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.


2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. This can potentially benefit horses with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

   - Reference: "Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on inflammation" published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.


3. Gut Health: The soluble fiber content in flaxseed can support gut health by promoting a healthy microbiome and possibly helping with issues like sand colic.

   - Reference: "The Effect of Milled Flaxseed on the Intestinal Microbiota and its Resistance to Salmonella Enteritidis PT4 Infection in Broilers" published in the Poultry Science Journal.


4. Laminitis and Insulin Sensitivity: Some studies suggest that flaxseed may be beneficial for horses with metabolic disorders, although the evidence is not yet conclusive.

   - Reference: Frank, N. "Equine metabolic syndrome" published in the *Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.


5. Protection against Oxidative Stress: Flaxseed contains compounds like lignans that have antioxidant properties, which can help combat oxidative stress in the body.

   - Reference: "Antioxidant properties of different edible flaxseed preparations" published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

6. Reproductive Health: Omega-3 fatty acids might play a role in optimizing reproductive health in mares.

   - Reference: Harris, P. A., & Ellis, A. D. "Metabolic adaptations to the reproductive cycle of the mare" in Equine Nutrition and Training Conference proceedings.


However, it is important to note that while flaxseed is beneficial, it is crucial to feed it in a proper manner. Raw flaxseed has certain compounds that can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. Therefore, it is often recommended to feed horses ground or boiled flaxseed, as these processes neutralize harmful compounds.

It is not necessary to grind the flax seed before feeding it.  In fact, grinding it begins the rapid degradation of the oils.  When you feed the whole seed, the horse will get much more benefits, and you may see husks in the waste.

Always consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist before making significant changes to a horse's diet.

Note: The references provided are examples of research papers that discuss the topics mentioned. They may not be exhaustive or the latest publications, but they serve to illustrate the points raised.