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The Best Form of Flax for Your Horse

Q.I’d like to start supplementing my horse with flax to improve his coat quality. My friend recommended that I buy ground stabilized flax. I went to the feed store and found it had flax oil. Additionally, the feed store sells whole flaxseeds that are far cheaper than the ground or the oil. I’ve read that horses cannot digest whole flaxseed. Is that true, and which form of flax should I buy?
 
 
A.Flax is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and has become a popular supplement for horses for improving coat quality and as a way to support a healthy inflammatory response.
 
Whole Flaxseeds
 
Flaxseeds are small and hard, and if you’ve ever had them in your breakfast cereal or in whole grain bread, you know they become slimy once in contact with saliva. This is thanks to the mucilage that forms when they become wet. They can also be tricky to chew.
 
 
5 Facts About Flax
 
This might lead you to think that they could be hard to digest, and many human nutrition sources do recommend consuming ground flax due to its better digestibility. However, horses appear to digest the seeds quite well. I’ve seen reports from a number of people who feed whole flax to their horses that they see flax growing in their manure piles and pastures. This would suggest seeds are passing through undigested. However, this is often reported as being somewhat short-lived, indicating the horse’s ability to digest the seeds improves over time.
 
Ground and Stabilized Flax
 
Certainly, ground flax will be more fully digested. However, as soon as the outer hull is disrupted, the interior can oxidize, leading to rancidity. Therefore, grind flaxseeds right before feeding or purchase ground stabilized flax, which has a much longer shelf life and resists oxidation. Some forms of ground flax are, in fact, sliced rather than ground, and these forms might be stable for up to two years.
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