All About Micronized Linseed

Micronized linseed has become a popular feed for horses. Fifty years ago, linseed for horses was in the form of a linseed mash and horse owners had to boil it for hours themselves. Today, micronized linseed is a much more convenient option and it can be fed as a straight or included in horse feed as an ingredient. But what is linseed and why is it so popular?

Linseed field

What is linseed?

Linseed is often grouped with other “oilseeds” such as rape which is a brassica and soya which is a legume. Although from different plant families, all produce seeds from which useful “vegetable” oils can be extracted; linseed oil benefits include good levels of omega 3 fatty acids in a concentrated form which produces exceptional coat shine. In the case of both linseed and soya, the whole seed or bean can be micronized which is a form of cooking that makes them more digestible for the horse. Soya is often flaked and used in mixes to provide a high oil feed ingredient and both linseed and soya can be ground to produce a meal which is often included in cubes. Linseed meal is also a popular straight feed that can be added to the feed separately.

Farmer holding flax seed

Benefits of micronized linseed for horses

The main benefit of micronized linseed for horses is as a source of omega 3 fatty acids. If you would like more information about what omega 3 fatty acids actually are then there is some extra information below. What you need to know about their importance to the horse is that they help counteract the higher levels of omega 6 in many horse’s diets brought about by feeding cereals found in mixes and cubes.

It is generally accepted that high intakes of omega 6 fatty acids put the body in an “inflammatory” state which is linked to diseases such as arthritis. Humans are encouraged to eat oily fish twice a week to increase their omega 3 intake and offset the omega 6 levels consumed in bread, pasta and other cereal foods. Linseed is rich in non-marine omega 3 fatty acids and so many people prefer it for both themselves and their horses. It is important to note that the form of omega 3 from plant origins requires the body to “process” it more than the omega 3 from marine sources such as fish but it is still a useful source and is most definitely better than nothing!

If micronized linseed is fed in larger amounts to horses then because it is high in oil it will provide a higher level of energy (calories) and so is useful for promoting weight gain. Oil is a source of slow release energy and so shouldn’t result in over-excitable behaviour.

Linseed meal

Using linseed as a mash

There can be around 50 litres of water in the digestive system but this is significantly influenced by diet. In addition, meal-feeding has also been shown to result in transient dehydration in the gut. Although it has not been explored whether feeding a mash is sufficient to offset this shift in fluid, for horses that are travelling, competing and that are in hard work, a mash is likely to be beneficial in aiding overall hydration status. It is also a great way to tempt fussy eaters.

What are essential fatty acids?

As the name suggests, essential fatty acids must be supplied in the diet as the body can’t synthesise them itself.

  • Essential fatty acids include chains of carbon atoms joined together; long chains contain 12 or more carbon atoms.
  • The bonds that join the carbon atoms are either single or double bonds
  • A fatty acid containing only single bonds is a saturated fatty acid
  • A polyunsaturated fatty acid contains more than one double bond.

So, essential fatty acids contain more than 12 carbon atoms and contain more than one double bond.

Essential fatty acids are often referred to as omega 3 or omega 6. The number refers to the position of the first double bond in the chain; omega 3s have the double bond linked to the third carbon atom whereas in omega 6 it is linked to the 6th carbon atom.

  • Fatty acids are incorporated into a number of tissues in the body including the brain.
  • Cell membranes contain fatty acids and it tends to follow that the proportions of fatty acids consumed in the diet are incorporated into cell membranes in the same ratios.
  • The fatty acids in cell membranes can be released and transformed into chemical messengers such as prostaglandins and thromboxanes.
  • If omega 6 are converted to these substances they create pro-inflammatory prostaglandins whereas omega 3 create anti-inflammatory ones.

For further advice on linseed for horses or to receive a personalised ration plan for your horse call the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 or complete our Feed Advice Form.