Which Is Better For Horses Chia Seeds Or Flax Seeds?

Have you wondered about feeding your horse Chia seeds or flax seeds? Both are very good sources of a omega-3 fatty acids, but your choice regarding which one to feed depends on the reason your horse needs omega-3 supplementation. In this article, we explain the need for Chia seeds vs flax seeds in your horse’s diet and help you make the wise choice. Read on to learn more.

Flax Seeds Are A Traditional Horse Supplement

best flax seeds

Flaxseed has been used as a supplementation for horses for centuries because it is a good choice as an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. It contains very high amounts of these beneficial fatty acids and very low amounts of omega-6, which may add to problems with inflammation.

All told, flax seeds contain about twice as much omega-3 as they do omega-6. Flaxseeds also contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals and macro nutrients. Flaxseed is:

  • 20% protein
  • 30% fiber
  • 40% fat

They also contain trace amounts of:

  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B1
  • Copper

What Is The Best Way To Feed Flaxseed?

Flaxseeds may be fed ground up, whole, cooked or merely soaked. One of the easiest ways to add flaxseed to your horse’s feed mixture is to feed a mash and just add the flaxseeds into the soaking process.

It’s important to understand that flaxseeds have a very hard outer shell, so just feeding them whole without any kind of preparation may be a complete waste. The tiny seeds may simply pass through your horse’s gut without contributing anything to his or her diet. For this reason, it’s usually better to grind, soak or cook flaxseeds.

In wintertime, it’s a good idea to cook your flaxseed before adding it to your horses warm mash. Flaxseed is easy to cook. Just add it to a pot of water. One part flaxseed and two parts water is a good ratio. Bring to a boil and simmer it for a few minutes.

You may be surprised to find that when boiled, flaxseed becomes a big, gooey, sticky blob. This is disgusting to look at, but horses typically enjoy the addition of this warm blobby substance to their food in very cold winter months.

You should be careful though. Remember that any time you heat omega-3 fatty acids, they lose a bit of their potency. For this reason, just bring the water to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes.

Another good way of feeding flaxseeds is to sprout them. Sprouts add even more nutrition to your horse’s diet and bring beneficial enzymes to his digestive tract. Sprouting is a nice option in the wintertime when there are no other fresh greens.

Just as with sprouts for people, be sure not to keep the sprouts for too long or they may become moldy. Rinse them daily until they attain the degree of “sproutiness” you desire.

For omega-3 supplementation, flaxseeds are very economical. They also add fiber, protein and nutrients to your horse’s diet. They are safe to feed, and present a lot of options for easy feeding. Flaxseeds are especially beneficial for horses who do not have free access to pasture

Flaxseed – Preparing And Feeding Your Horse

Are There Any Downsides To Flaxseed?

In hot weather, it’s possible for flaxseed to become rancid if stored in uncontrolled temperatures. It’s a good idea to keep your flax seeds in a cool, dry place or even in the refrigerator. It’s also wise to purchase stabilized flax seeds as they resist becoming rancid.

There is also some concern that flaxseeds contain a tiny amount of cyanide that is meant to naturally repel insects. It will not hurt your horse.

What About Chia Seeds For Horses?

Chia Seeds For Horses

Chia was a major source of nutrition, and medicine for the Mayan and Aztec peoples centuries ago. These super foods are made up of:

  • 30% fat
  • 26% fiber
  • 18% protein

Like flaxseeds, their ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 is 2 to 1.

How Do The Benefits Of Chia Seeds Differ From The Benefits Of Flaxseeds?

If your horse is in need of extra collagen in the diet (as evidenced by poor coat or poor hoof condition) Chia seeds may be the better choice. They contain an amino acid known as proline. This amino acid is instrumental in the healing and repair of connective tissues. It can be very helpful for horses that are recovering from ligament or tendon injuries.

Horses with digestive problems will greatly benefit from the high mucilage content in Chia seeds. It is especially good for horses who are prone to sand colic. Simply put, the big blobs of mucilage that result from soaking Chia seeds are simply great at gathering up sand and debris from the gut and moving them through the horse’s system harmlessly.

This mucilage is also very helpful in slowing down your horse’s digestion of carbohydrates. If your horse is an easy keeper or has a metabolic condition, Chia can help prevent blood sugar spikes.

Are Chia Seeds Better Than Flax Seeds?

One advantage of Chia seeds over flaxseeds is that they are very, very small and they do not have hard outer shells. For this reason, you can simply add them to your horse’s feed without any preparation. They are easy to digest as is!

Chia seeds also have a very long and stable shelf life. You can keep them on a shelf in the barn for up to two years without worrying about them going bad.

Chia Seeds For Horses – Top 10 Benefits

Are There Any Downsides To Chia Seeds?

The micro mineral content of Chia seeds varies depending upon where the seed was grown. Some Chia seed contains a great deal of boron. This is an important nutrient because it helps your horse process calcium for bone strength and density and cartilage development.

If your horse is on limited pasture or your pasture seed mix isn’t very good, look for Chia seeds that were grown in Bolivia or Ecuador. These are places that still have high boron content in the soil.

Why Feed Flax Or Chia Seed At All?

Many horses these days don’t have unlimited access to good pasture. This is essential for raising healthy horses. For this reason, most horses need supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids and micro and macro nutrients. Both Chia seeds and flaxseeds can supply this.

Even if you are feeding lots of good hay, you need to understand that the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids contained in hay break down and dissipate very quickly. If your horse is getting most of his roughage from hay, you will also need to provide a supplement for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

In the wintertime when pasture is at its worst and hay may be hard to come by, it’s especially important to supplement your horse’s diet. Supplementing with flax and/or Chia seeds is an easy and affordable way to provide your horse with important nutrients.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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