I sort of forgot one of my favorite topics in the “C”s so I am going back just to add this post about Chia seeds. Then on ward to the “E”s !!
Most horse owners understand that fresh grass is the best diet for most horses; unfortunately this quality food source is not always readily available, either due to the season or in some areas drought. In other instances a horse might not be able to feed on grass due to health reasons. Because of this, there is a need for supplementation within your horse’s diet. We can only perform as optimally as our bodies allow, and since food is what fuels (from human to horse), we have to be very particular about what we put into it.
One of the reasons grass is an excellent source of nutrition is due to high levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Humans and horses do not naturally produce these, so it becomes very important to supplement.
Chia seeds to the rescue!
What is it and where does it come from?
The name Chia is derived from the Aztec word, Chia, meaning oily. It is an ancient seed being rediscovered in America with balanced nutritional components. The Chia seeds I use (for me and my horses) come from US Chia. They are grown in Florida but Chia is grown all over the world.
What is the nutritional value?
These tiny seeds are high in protein and contain all nine essential amino acids for a complete protein. Chia has 19-23% protein content, which is more protein than traditional grains such as wheat (13.7%), rice (6.5%), corn (9.4%), barley (12.5%) and oats (16.9%) and it’s also rich in valuable amino acids, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
Chia seeds are the highest naturally occurring source of Omega-3 fatty acids, with a 3:1 ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s.
Chia’s oil is 63% Omega-3, greater than flaxseed oil (58%), and menhaden fish oil (29%).
Chia seeds are a rich source of Vitamin B, with a higher niacin content than corn, rice, and even soy.
Chia seeds are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper.
Here is a nutritional analysis:
Why feed it to horses?
The word “Chia” actually translates into the Mayan word for “strength.” Because of the properties within this amazing seed, Mayan warriors regularly consumed Chia to produce strength and stamina before and during battle. This is especially helpful if your horses compete on any level.
Besides strength, Chia seeds benefit horses in a variety of ways; They are known to lower circulating insulin and glucose so Chia seeds are great for insulin resistant horses, horses with PSSM, Equine Cushings Syndrome or other metabolic disorders.
Because of the anit-inflamatory properties Chia seeds protect joints and ligaments and can reduce pain. The high protein content offers muscle repair and topline development.
The high magnesium found in Chia seeds results a decrease in nervousness through a more natural calming effect and according to the USEF, “Chia is permitted under the Therapeutic Substance Provision of the USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Rule. A medication report form does not need to be filed in connection on its use.”
Because they are chock full of Omega-3’s they help boost the immune system. The high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid reduces swelling and even provide relief from allergies and allergic reactions to insect bites.
Chia seeds contain approximately 20-21% crude fat so are a healthy alternative to corn oil to bump up fat in the equine diet for those hard keepers.
But, my favorite thing about Chia seeds for horses is how fantastic it is for gut health. I have the world’s worst stomach so I added Chia to my daily diet for the digestive benefits.
The same is true for horses. Chia is hydrophilic (water absorbing) and there is a gelatin that forms around the seed when it gets wet which helps it to slide through the intestines, which is fantastic for digestion making Chia a “go to” for ulcer and colic prevention.
Chia clears sand and debris out of the horse’s gut naturally, assists with regulating stool movement, helps prevent sand colic and diverticulitis. Actually the gelatinous property of Chia seeds clears sand more effectively than expensive psyllium products.
How do you feed it to horses?
Chia seeds have a soft seed coat, meaning they require no soaking, grinding or cooking prior to feeding and are very palatable for horses. You can feed the seeds dry as a top dressing with your current feed.
A maintenance dose is just 1/4 cup of Chia seeds each day. If your horse has not been on a supplement program, you can feed a loading dose of 1/2 cup of Chia seeds each day for 2 weeks.
For horses needing an intense loading dose for treatment of sand-clearing or ulcers feed 2/3 cup (about 4 oz.) of Chia seeds for 10 to 20 days. Horses at competition, re-hab, seniors or weanlings may also benefit from the higher daily loading dose.
This dose is based on an average horse of 1,000-1,200 pounds. If you have a pony, you can feed a slightly smaller amount, or slightly more for a larger horse or draft. For miniature horses, feed 1/8 cup.
Chia seeds come in a variety of sizes for your convenience. If you’d like to try them, click here
Is there any concerns with feeding Chia seeds to horses?
Because Chia is proven to withstand extreme temperatures of -20 to 110 degrees F there is little risk of it spoiling. The natural abundance of antioxidants stabilize the vitamins, minerals and fats so Chia seeds have a 5-year shelf life without going rancid, unlike corn oil, wheat germ oil, and other fat supplements that can quickly become rancid if exposed to heat, air, or light.
The only risk I have found is due to the way a horse owner might feed Chia. As with any feed stuff too much too quick can cause digestive upset in the hind gut so a gradual introduction is always best.
I can really tell a difference in my health (especially digestive) as well as my horses with the addition of Chia seeds to our diets.
Peace and good feed,