Now that we’ve discussed some more traditional grains fed to horses for energy, let’s take a look into feeding seeds. So what seeds can we feed to horses?? We’ll I’m sure the first one that comes to your mind is Black Sunflower Seeds! Black sunnies are a common ingredient in commercial sweet feeds, a black scattering in each scoopful that you know your horse just loves! They are known for their amazing coat conditioning properties and sunflower seeds are not only highly palatable, but they are a fantastic source of fat/oil and are easy for horses to digest.
Sunflower seeds contain around 50% fat, which is more fat than rice bran (20%) but significantly less than plant or vegetable oils (100%) and they are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids, which isn’t ideal - so too many sunflower seeds (above around 1kg per day) will upset the omega fatty acid balance in the diet. Ideally we would add around 100-500g per day if we are looking to add more energy via fat and for coat conditioning. Compared to grey stripe sunflower seeds, that shouldn’t be fed to horses, blacks have a thin outer shell that are relatively easy to digest and are therefore a great option for adding extra fat to your horses ration.
The next seed that I would like to explore is Flaxseeds (Linseeds) -The terms "flaxseed" and "linseed" can be used interchangeably. Flaxseeds are an absolutely wonderful source of quality protein, fat, water soluble fibre and also they have great health benefits from their Essential Fatty Acid content. Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich sources of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted in the body to the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
It’s important to note that whole/unprocessed flaxseeds shouldn’t be fed to horses, as the small, hard seeds can’t be chewed sufficiently to break down the outer seed coat for optimal digestion. Ideally you can add your flaxseeds either as a ground meal (must be very fresh and kept in the fridge to help maintain stability) or in its oil form. Flaxseed oil is a much easier option and is a popular way to add the health benefits of Omega 3 supplementation. (I go more into Omega 3 supplementation in another article)
So what other seeds can be fed to horses??
Well as you know, we just love Hemp seeds here at Green Valley :) .. Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids have a large range of benefits including supporting skin and coat condition, joint function and cardiovascular health. Hemp seeds are highly versatile and can be fed as whole seeds, cracked (hearts and hulls), oil and hemp protein meal. The composition of hemp seed oil is perfect for Horses. In fact, it’s one of the only natural food in the world that has Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) like Omega 6 and Omega 3 in the optimum ratio of 3:1 in a plant based form.
Hemp is a ‘perfect protein’ – unusual for the plant kingdom – meaning it contains all 20 amino acids (the building blocks of all proteins in the body), and all of the ‘essential’ amino acids that horses need to get from their food. Unlike other plant-based proteins, hemp is also highly digestible, making it a great addition to your horse’s diet to help maintain optimal brain and body health, skin condition, assist with respiratory issues, maintain joint health and reproductive benefits. Thats one of the many reasons why we use it in in our Equine feed - Pure Vitality!
The fibre content of Hemp seeds also needs a mention.. When hemp seeds are processed and the outer shell is removed, the amazing by product is hemp hearts and hulls. Hemp hearts & hulls are extremely low in sugar and starch as well as containing useful levels of digestible fibre (almost 30%). Hearts & hulls can be fed to all classes of horses including those with grain intolerance's or metabolic issues.
So there you go, three amazing seeds that are great additions to any horses ration J Check out the Green Valley range of Grains and seeds as well as our Naturals Range of Hemp and Flaxseed products :)