During my travels I have found Flax seed in most reputable stables in Europe as well as in the States. In the past the flax was fed only as a part of bran mash and never by itself as it became more fashionable lately. The seed is too small for chewing and most of it goes undigested through the system, not to mention that it is toxic, especially when fed in larger doses. I have also noticed that when flax is fed not soaked and not boiled it did not have the mild laxative effect and the contrary was true as I could observed tighter feces in horses than if the flax was not fed at all (even in small amounts); hence I do not recommend the flaxseed to be fed on daily basis and un-boiled, not even in small amounts. It is best if the flaxseed (linseed) is soaked (2-6 hours) in cold water and then boiled (simmered) 30 or more minutes in order to get all its benefits, as well as, to destroy the toxic prussic acid it contains. During boiling it absorbs a lot of water and becomes “jelly”. The most important part of the flaxseed and why it is fed is the soluble fiber, which becomes gelatinous when exposed to water (similar to psyllium). It is helpful in preventing impaction and sand colic as the fiber swells and the gel like consistency traps and suspends sand, bringing it out of the system. It is therefore the main ingredient when feeding a bran mash on regular basis of which one main reason is the prevention of colic. The fiber is also rich in substances believed to be linked to the cancer fighting effects of a high fiber diet. It also has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties hence it is/was used also as poultice.
People today are more and more obsessed with feeding supplement for a shiny coat; completely forgetting that shiny hair coat on the horse should be the result of good health and care and not a result of supplements. Many people are feeding the flax seed as well as flaxseed oil (linseed oil) to horses mainly for shiny coats while completely ignoring the real value of the flax as a part of mash. I am personally opposed to the feeding of flaxseed on daily basis as well as feeding the linseed oil, the latter I do not recommend since it is not the same as boiled flaxseed and does not exhibit the same values for which the flaxseed is fed. Feeding the flaxseed as a part of mash once or twice per week produces excellent results as I could witness from my many past experiences (e.g. racing stable in Germany 100 horses, in three years not one case of colic, no dry cracked hoofs, over all excellent health, mash fed once per week).
Flaxseed also has high concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid. Horses need a minimum level of key fats to maintain good health. These essential fatty acids are Omega 3 and Omega 6. A horse cannot produce these fats in their body, thus they are an essential part of his diet.
Feed only as a part of bran mash once or twice per week, about 1/4 of a cup/2 oz. (measured dry before soaking) per horse, per feeding. See bran mash for more. Store in cool dry place. The whole seed keeps for a long time; the ground flax will go bad fairly quickly.
Nutritional values: 22 – 26% crude protein, 18 MJ DE/kg, 7% fiber, 31% oil, mild laxative, antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, decreases recovery time from strenuous exercise (mash fed after strenuous exercise), improves hoof condition, relieve arthritic and inflammatory pain, keeps less desirable saturated fats mobile in the blood stream, increases oxygen uptake to the cell, improved skin and coat condition, valuable source of energy (great to feed during the cold months – mash fed twice per week, or during times of stress to prevent weight loss)