Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Benefits of Flaxseed Oil

My husband's horse, Ziggy, was a rescue. Not an official rescue from an organization. But we definitely rescued him. He was severely underweight and neither his feet nor his teeth had been taken care of in a very long time. He was kept alone in a barren pasture covered with softball sized rocks, no grass and a round bale that I wouldn't feed my goats. He was also covered in rain rot -- a skin condition that causes hair to fall out and skin to be dry and itchy. Once we took charge of him, he was put in much nicer surroundings with other horses, and had his feet and teeth taken care of. He was put on Neighlox for his stomach ulcers, fed a healthy diet with nice fresh hay and, over about nine months, regained a healthy weight. However, no matter what we did, we could not completely get rid of the rain rot.

We gave him Betadine baths every other day for several weeks and that helped. But as soon as we stopped bathing him, the rain rot would return. We tried special medicated shampoos, sprays and ointments. We even tried spraying him with diluted bleach to try and kill the virus/bacteria/fungus that causes rain rot (there are contradictory opinions). His skin and coat would sometimes improve briefly, but would soon be dry and patchy again. So, about half a year ago, I started looking into what kind of supplements we could give him that might improve his skin and coat. After sifting through a metric ton of information of varying degrees of helpfulness and reliability. I decided that flaxseed oil seemed like a good thing to try.

Flaxseed oil has most of the benefits of whole flaxseed without all of its drawbacks. Flaxseed is high in a number of essential fatty acids mainly Omega-3. It also has lots of lignans which are a good source of antioxidants. It is high in fiber and has other vitamins and minerals and such, but the Omega-3 fatty acids and the lignans are the two main benefits. The problem with whole flaxseed is that it is believed that most of the seeds will pass through the body without actually being digested. Whole flaxseeds can also cause digestive issues for some horses. And they can be difficult to eat for horses that have less than ideal teeth. Since Ziggy has both digestive issues and is missing several teeth, I decided that flaxseed oil, rather than whole flaxseed was the way to go.

I found flaxseed oil in the dietary supplements section of my local grocery store (HEB). It costs $24.99 for a 32 oz bottle, and it needs to be kept refrigerated. Foxfire and I started adding apx 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil to Ziggy's evening grain every day. After a couple of weeks, the rain rot started disappearing. After a month, the rain rot was gone and Ziggy's coat was healthier and much shinier. Also, in the past couple of months, since the weather has gotten colder, he has actually grown a thicker winter coat which he has not done in previous years.

In addition to the obvious improvements to his skin and coat, Ziggy's hooves have also started looking better. They had been somewhat dry, with a tendency to develop small cracks. Now, they look healthier and don't have a single crack.

Another odd thing that happened was that mud didn't stick to Ziggy's coat as much. It used to be that when he got dirty, the dirt stayed on until Foxfire or I cleaned it off. Unlike Shadowfax, whom Foxfire referred to as the Teflon horse because of the way that dirt, once dried, would just fall off of him (I love my horse). After receiving flaxseed oil daily for over a month, Ziggy started shedding dirt as soon as it dried, just like Shadowfax. I had never read anything that suggested that flaxseed oil makes your horse easier to keep clean, but in my experience it does. Since the only thing that we changed in Ziggy's care was the addition of the flaxseed oil, it must be responsible for all of these changes.

Since we were giving the flaxseed oil to Ziggy, I'd gone ahead and given apx 1 tablespoon to Shadowfax each evening as well. Shadowfax is a very easy keeper and only gets a handful of grain for his evening meal, so 1 tablespoon of oil was all that we could add without making oil soup. As mentioned before, Shadowfax already had a very nice coat, but even his coat became shinier, softer and even more dirt resistant when we started giving him flaxseed oil.

So, if you are looking for a way to improve your horses skin, coat and hooves. Or simply a way to make them look shinier and stay cleaner, you might consider giving flaxseed oil a try. It is a bit of hassle to use because of needing to be kept refrigerated. And if you don't give your horse much grain, it might be difficult to add an effective amount of flaxseed oil to their dinner without making it an oily mess. But it was worth the extra effort to finally get rid of Ziggy's rain rot and give him a healthy, shiny coat and stronger hooves.


Just recently, I discovered a product that consists mainly of stabilized ground flaxseed, Omega Horseshine. (Currently available at TSC for $39.99) I decided to give it a try, as a way to avoid the mess and time consumption of using refrigerated flaxseed oil. Also, because it seems like it will be slightly cheaper to use. Hopefully, Ziggy will do just as well on this as he has done with flaxseed oil. I'm also giving Horseshine to Shadowfax and my three donkeys. One of my donkeys, Tesla, has not properly shed out the past two springs (no, he does not have Cushings), and another one, Marie, gets rain rot on her legs each spring. Hopefully, giving them Horseshine over the winter will prevent these problems. We'll see how it goes.

If any of you have used Omega Horseshine (or any similar product), I would love to hear what your results were.

1 comment:

  1. I know this is an older post but are you still using the Omega Horseshine? I give it my donkeys and have noticed a difference in coat and hoof. I read somewhere that donks are not supposed to have TOO much so I give them 1/2 the suggested dose for horses.