A few days ago, I was asked about adding flaxseed to a feeding regimen, only to find the horse owner overwhelmed by the different options. With pros and cons for each – whole, ground, or oil – it really comes down to individual preference and, in some cases, the needs of the horse. Here’s a quick rundown:
Flaxseed can be fed whole without any digestive problems. However, the average horse cannot fully grind the small seeds, resulting in a portion of the supplement passing through the system without ever being utilized. Even so, it’s the cheapest alternative because it can be bought in bulk.
Flaxseed is easy to grind into meal with a bit of effort (a coffee grinder works well). But since ground flaxseed becomes unstable when exposed to air, it should be used immediately. Or store it in an airtight container.
Flaxseed oil is the most convenient, but also the most expensive, route for adding flaxseed to the diet. While is has the added benefit of extra calories (helpful if the horse needs to gain weight), it lacks the fiber found in seeds or meal. And because flaxseed oil is highly perishable, you will need to keep it in the refrigerator.
High in omega fatty acids, all forms of flaxseed are known to enhance immune function and possess natural anti-inflammatory properties. Short-term benefits of adding flaxseed to the diet are enhanced skin and coat and relief from certain allergies; long-term benefits include improved hoof and bone health and enhanced reproductive function.
Take it from me, a cup a day really does help keep the doctor away.