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  • Q:

    I am looking for an inexpensive supplement to improve my horse’s coat. My friend told me to add flax jelly, but I have never heard of this. What is it, and where do I get it?

  • A:

    Flaxseed, also referred to as “flax” or “linseed,” has been used in horse diets for many years. Long ago, flaxseed was used primarily as a way to boost coat condition. Horse owners know now that flaxseed contributes important omega-3 fatty acids to the diet in addition to improving coat health.

    Flaxseed is usually fed dry to horses in one of two forms, whole or ground. Flaxseed oil, which is derived from pressing the seeds, is also used in some feeding programs, either in a pure form or as part of a blend.

    Flax jelly is less common and is the gelatinous soup that results from rigorous boiling and cooling of flaxseed. This process starts by soaking the seeds for several hours in cold water. Next, the soaked flaxseed is placed in a saucepan and boiled. The high heat is thought to reduce the cyanide content in raw flaxseed. At that point, temperature is reduced and the flaxseed is allow it to simmer for several hours longer until a jelly starts to form. Once the flaxseed appears to be a gel-like consistency, it is removed from the heat and cooled completely before feeding.

    Flax jelly is fairly palatable for horses and can be mixed into feed to create a mash. Prompt feeding is necessary to prevent flaxseed jelly from going rancid. This means a new batch must be made daily.

    Before diving into this time-consuming process, I recommend investigating other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. For instance, Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers a fish oil supplement, EO•3, that is rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that confer many health benefits. Flaxseed is known for its high amount of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid that can be converted to DHA and EPA, though the efficiency of the conversion is unclear. EO•3 offers a more efficient source of omega-3s and a far easier way of feeding them.

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