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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Barefoot and hard keepers

Austen asked about keeping weight on a hard keeper, while keeping sugars and starches to a minimum.

In the UK we find linseed to be a hugely valuable feed. It is high in top quality protein (all the essential amino acids) and omega 3 and 6. It is also a useful source of copper. As a bonus when wetted it produces mucilage which is very good for the gut. And it doesn't make horses fizzy. The down side is it smells gorgeous, tastes nice and the horses get somewhat addicted to it.

I have also found it is a good product for hiding nasties like bute, wormer and sedalin.

If you want shiny hair and great skin try it - and let your horse have some too!

For an example of the results see this horse - just after she completed a 25 mile endurance ride.
There are two ways to feed it; micronised is the best, but not always easy to source. In the UK I only know of one producer Charnwood Milling. If you can't get micronised you will have to cook your own. This is an art and you must be patient to get it right. I used two ways:

1) Huge pan (couple of gallons would be ideal) 4 pints of water, 2 egg cups of linseed.
Bring to the boil - watch carefully because linseed is notorious for boiling over and because its high in oil it is very very hot. Then keep at a fast simmer for 30 minutes. Watch it very carefully and add more boiling water if you need. You will end up with something between a thick snotty slime and a jelly. I used to add mint as it cooled because my old horse loved it.
This process does destroy the quality of the oil but not the calorific content.

2) Microwave. Similar to above, but much less stirring and fretting required. Also with microwave safe plastic the washing up is easier. Bit of a pain if you let it boil over though.

Whatever you do, don't use the linseed lozenges. They are a by-product of the linseed oil industry. The valuable oil is extracted (to be wasted on wooden floors) and the left over mass is glued back together using molasses and sugar syrup. The resultant lozenges were originally intended for the cattle industry - but typically some bright spark thought they could turn some extra coin by selling them to horse owners.


For an average keeper, but working hard, 500kg horse, I used to feed one egg cup of the seed (which was then cooked as above). Or one 1/2 pt mug of the micronised version.

For hard keepers you can up the quantities. Linseed is very low in sugar and starch so I never worry about feeding it. But of course there are always exceptions so introduce gradually and see how you go.


Anonymous said...

I just did a bit of googling and found this info:

"Does it have to be soaked and/or boiled?
Contrary to popular belief, flax seed doesn't need to be soaked or boiled before feeding.
The belief that flax needs to be soaked or boiled before being fed comes from the fact that the seeds contain components of cyanide, which is toxic.

However, the two components of cyanide that are found in flax are stored in different parts of the seed, never touching each other, and therefore never able to create cyanide.

Any contact with water (including boiling or soaking) brings the two components together, creating cyanide -- so the "prevention" to make the seeds "safe" actually is more dangerous than feeding them unboiled or unsoaked. (Note that saliva, stomach acid, and other digestive juices break the two components up before they could ever become joined and create cyanide within the horse's digestive tract.)

Soaked is actually one of the most dangerous ways to feed flax, as the cyanide is created and left standing in the water and flax.

Boiling changes the cyanide to a gas form, thus removing it from the flax. However, it also destroys all the fatty acids, effectively removing the entire reason for feeding the flax in the first place.

Another consideration is that when you remove the lid from the pot, you are going to be the one ingesting all the cyanide.

Thankfully, the amount of cyanide created when boiling flax is very fact, we take in more cyanide in our daily lives through our food, water, and the air we breathe than is found in a cup of boiled flax. Cyanide is also very quickly removed from the body and is not stored in the body tissues -- so if you don't die immediately from cyanide poisoning, you're going to live.

Flax is one of those supplements that can help almost any horse in some way or another. The benefits, combined with the low cost in most areas, makes it an ideal choice to add to most feed programs. Hopefully the above information has helped you make an informed decision about whether flax is right for your horse's diet." -

Seems the concerns about the potential toxicity of feeding it raw depend on who you ask:

Sophie said...

There is indeed a lot of debate about whether to boil or not. I have never seen recommendations to soak linseed - except prior to boiling. My old horse loved gloop.

My current horse doesn't get indulged (not so much anyway) she gets micronised which removes the debate altogether.

There are sources on the internet that recommend not soaking sugar beet too. I've never tried it and I wouldn't recommend it. The internet is a great tool, but the information is not reliable so I always recommend that people do a lot of research first.

Akhal-Eventer said...

I awarded you the Beautiful Blogger Award, with a link from my blog:



Wolfie said...

Sophie - come visit my site, too! :-)

Austen said...


Thanks for the info! I agree that flax is a great feed for ponies. I have Guinness' feed top-dressed with milled flax every morning, just for the fats and the coat help.
I also just found out that my barn manager has been switching around my horse's feeds without telling me .. sometimes even switching him to a sweet feed for a just a couple of days! This makes me so utterly mad ... I'm not even sure that this is going to be something she can save herself from. As for now, I'm watching his feed so close it's ridiculous!

Sophie said...


That is a real pain. Re the horse whose picture illustrated how good they look on the linseed. At a new yard the barn manager did something similar to that one and it looked dreadful, really really ill, very sad/depressed and it lost weight.

Why do barn managers think its ok to do that? If a horse can't tolerate sugar - that's it period!

Austen said...

I know. What, do they think that my board payment entitles them to play vet and owner? And here I've been completely stressing thinking that I've done something wrong to cause him to lose all this weight!
It's hard enough to maintain him on a regular diet - having it switched .. argh! Enough ranting for now!
You rock!

Sophie said...

Akhal-eventer - thank you so much for the award!

Wolfie - your site is brilliant; love your sense of humour :-)

Austen - thank you. But given my shape rolling might be more appropriate :-)

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Southern England, United Kingdom