It’s common practice to feed horses Sunflower seeds, however on closer inspection, it may not always be such a good idea! So many of my clients routinely feed them every day, I though it about time I wrote an article on why they’re not the best choice for your horse…
Did you know… Sunflower seeds have an inverted omega 3 to 6 ratio?
Why does this matter? The Omega group of fatty acids are essential for your horse in many ways. The Omega 6’s are needed for inflammatory reactions and to help kick off the immune response in the horses body, both functions are essential, however when the levels of Omega 6’s are too high this can lead to excessive inflammatory and immune responses.
Many acute and chronic diseases have inflammation at their core, so feeding horses products that may worsen inflammation is a big NO NO!
The Omega 3’s have the opposite effect on inflammation and immune responses. They are anti-inflammatory in action and can mediate the immune system.
So it makes sense when feeding horses, to make choices that keep the omega 3 to 6 ratio in balance and as close as possible to what it would be in the horses natural diet, grass, about 4:1. This ensures that there is sufficient amounts of both omega’s for optimal health but also ensures that the omega 6’s are kept under control.
Lets look at the actual amounts and ratio’s of omegas in Linseeds vs Sunflower seeds, how different is it exactly? As you can see from the table below, there is a massive difference between the two types of seeds
I feed such a small amount of sunflower seeds… does it REALLY matter?
If your only feeding your horse a small amount of sunflower seeds and your horse is on good quality green pasture and has no health problems, it probably doesn’t matter so much.
However if your feeding your horses large amounts of hay or grain, it’s definitely worth a re-think. Hay loses most of it’s omega 3 content in the curing process whereas the omega 6’s are not lost on curing. Also many commonly fed grains and vegetable oils are also excessively high in Omega 6’s and low in Omega 3’s, so if your feeding horses grain or vegetable oil your already going to be playing catch ups!
If your horse has health issues such as Arthritis, Laminitis, Skin problems, Immune issues, Allergies or any other type of inflammatory disease then I would definitely recommend paying more attention to the Omega balance in the diet.
Moral of the story?
When feeding horses, feed fresh ground flax/linseeds or chia seeds instead! Get the same benefits without the potential risk of worsening inflammatory disease