Horse feeding is as individualistic as the horse itself. The advice, from whatever source, can be bewildering and, as with any situation, each individual owner will have their personal favourite. Every chat room will have people posting what’s best, what’s not and opinions can get heated! Feed manufacturers formulate the best hard feeds that current knowledge suggests, and there is a huge range of choice in the market-place, alongside plenty of advice about how and when to feed.
At British Horse Feeds we have always taken the stance that a simple ration, which can be amended by changing proportions, rather than feeds, gives the versatility to adapt to situations without disrupting the horse’s digestion or wellbeing.
We have promoted the concept of building on forage, firstly with additional fibre sources and then, where necessary, hard feed to provide a well-balanced diet that works with and optimises the horse’s digestive system. As we ask our horses to do more, we can adjust the quantities to provide extra protein or energy, as needed, and still maintain a feeding regime that fits the lifestyle.
So we have our ideal ration; a base of forage – grass hay or haylage – perhaps some super fibres, such as Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet (other fibres are available!), and some form of compounded feed to complete. This may be a balancer, a complementary hard feed or simply a vitamin/mineral premix, each having value depending on the general lifestyle of the horse. A good doer, with a moderate level of activity may only need a premix, whilst a performance animal might require substantial levels of hard feed, depending on its regime. Whatever the “standard” diet of the horse may involve, and it should contain those main components, there will always be room for a beneficial feedstuff that can give increased flexibility.
Cooked linseed contains a range of nutrients, and bioactive elements that make it an ideal addition to the horse’s diet. It contains high levels of quality protein, the components (amino acids) of which provide synergy to skeletal muscle. Whilst most ingested protein is used by the body to regenerate and replace worn out structures (the continuous wearing down of the gut wall by the passage of food being a good example), muscle renewal and regeneration requires a different profile of amino acids. Linseed is well placed to provide these, having good levels of branched chain amino acids, and arginine – an instigator of protein synthesis). It also has the benefit of omega fatty acids, the most prevalent being omega-3. Most plant sources have higher levels of omega-6, so linseed can help balance the ratios of the overall diet. These fatty acids have roles in supporting cardiovascular function, skin and coat condition as well as supporting antioxidation. It is also rich in fibre, with a beneficial profile of slow energy release including butyric acid, the preferred energy source of the gut cells of the large intestine; this influences the whole role of tight junction function (the gaps between the individual cells of the gut lining) and so impacts on the overall digestibility and absorption of nutrients. Finally, it is low in starch & sugar, making it an ideal source of nutrition for horse that may be carbohydrate compromised.
Which means, that Cooked Linseed may have a role in whatever function is required in the horse’s day. A bit more muscle and condition? Then a top dressing of Cooked Linseed will provide selected protein for muscle development and energy to promote good form. Concerned about the poor coat and skin? Substituting some super fibre with Cooked Linseed will maintain energy intake but increase the amount of omega-3’s available for optimal skin and coat condition. Unsure whether there is too much starch in the hard feed? Replace a proportion with Cooked Linseed. Protein and energy will be maintained, but glycemic index will be reduced. Stamina possibly an issue? Again, substituting starchy feed with Cooked Linseed will aid overall hindgut fermentation which will, in turn give a more balanced energy intake profile, directed more towards endurance and stamina.
Additionally, where feed is mainly preserves (hay/haylage) Cooked Linseed will provide natural antioxidants that will help mop up free radicals and also support the body’s anti-inflammatory interaction with oxidation, as well as supporting muscle recovery, and a number of oxidative/inflammatory interaction controls. All in all, an all-round feedstuff that fits any feeding system and expands the flexibility of moderate changes. Changes in all the proportions of fibre, super fibre and hard feed can cover a wide range of changes to match circumstances; addition of Cooked Linseed takes this one stage higher.