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The Benefits of Horse Oats in a Balanced Equine Diet

Last updated: June 29, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Do you ever wonder what makes a racehorse so strong and fast or a showhorse so shiny and healthy? The secret is their diet! Just like us, horses need the right kinds of food to be their best. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and something very important – a balanced diet.

Now, when it comes to grains, there’s a superstar that horse owners love. Can you guess what it is? It’s oats. Oats are like the secret ingredient in a performance horse’s meal. They give horses the power to run faster, jump higher, and even look prettier.

But why are oats so amazing? What do they have that other foods don’t? This is what we are going to find out today. We’ll dive deep into the world of horse oats, exploring why they are a must-have in a horse’s meal. So, fasten your seatbelts because we’re going on an exciting ride through the land of horse oats.

Understanding the Nutritional Composition of Horse Oats

Okay, so let’s start our journey into the amazing world of horse oats. Do you know what makes oats so special? It’s all about the nutritional value they hold inside. You might be surprised, but these little grains are packed full of important things that horses need to stay healthy and strong.

Oats have a good amount of carbohydrates, which are like fuel for horses. It helps them run fast and keeps their bodies warm. Oats also contain lots of fiber. You can think of fiber-like little brooms that sweep through the horse’s body and help keep everything clean inside.

But that’s not all. Oats also have protein, which helps build strong muscles, and vitamins and minerals for good health. Now, doesn’t that sound like a super grain?

But how do oats stack up when we compare them to other feeds, like corn or barley? Well, they have a special edge. For one, oats have more fiber and are easier for horses to digest than corn. That means a horse can get more goodness from oats without having to work too hard.

Also, unlike barley, which often needs to be cooked before feeding to your horse, oats can be fed whole. This makes oats a handy and practical choice for many horse owners.

So, whether it’s about providing vital nutrients or ease of digestion, horse oats win the race. Now you know why they’re the superhero of horse grains. Can you imagine how excited your horse would be to get all these benefits from just one kind of food? It’s no wonder that oats are a key ingredient in a balanced equine diet.

picture of horse oats in a container.

Whole Oats Vs. Crimped or Rolled Oats: Which is Better?

Oats come in different shapes and sizes. There are whole oats, crimped oats, and rolled oats. Each type has its own set of advantages, and choosing the right one for your horse can make a big difference. But how do you know which one is the best? Let’s find out!

Whole oats are just like they sound – oats in their natural, unbroken form. They have a hard outer shell, and inside is where all the nutritious stuff is. Some people think that horses can have a hard time breaking down these tough shells, but actually, most healthy horses chew whole oats just fine!

Next, we have crimped or rolled oats. These oats have been squashed – or “crimped” – to break open the hard outer shell. The inside, or the “good stuff,” is now easier to get to. These oats are usually easier for a horse to digest, especially for older horses or those with dental issues.

Now, you might think that because crimped oats are easier to digest, they’re the best choice, right? Not always. Sometimes, whole oats can actually be better because they take longer to chew and digest. This is good for a horse’s digestive system and can keep them feeling full for longer.

So, which one should you choose? It depends on your horse. For younger, healthy horses, whole oats are usually a great choice. But for older horses or those with dental problems, crimped oats might be better. It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet or a horse nutrition expert to make the best decision.

Now you’re a pro in the world of oats. Whether it’s whole, crimped, or rolled, you know the ins and outs of how to keep your horse’s diet healthy and balanced. Remember, every horse is different, and what works best for one might not work for another. But with this knowledge, you’re on the right track to giving your horse the best care possible.

The Importance of Fiber and Carbohydrates in Equine Diet

Let’s step into the fascinating world of horse nutrition. You know, our equine friends’ diet is more than just munching on hay or grass all day. It’s about meeting their body’s needs. And two important nutrients that do just that are fiber and carbohydrates. Wondering why?

Fiber is like the unsung hero of a horse’s diet. It might not seem exciting, but boy, does it do some important work! Horses’ bellies are made to handle a lot of fiber. This nutrient helps keep their digestion system running smoothly, sort of like how oil keeps a machine working. And when their digestion is good, they’re less likely to get sick. Pretty important, right?

Now, on to carbohydrates. Think of carbs as the fuel in a race car, giving it the energy to zoom around the track. For horses, carbs from their food – like oats – turn into energy, helping them to run, play, and do their horse duties. Without enough carbohydrates, horses might feel tired and weak, just like you might feel on a day of lots of activities but without breakfast.

So, how do oats fit into this picture? Well, oats are a fabulous source of both fiber and carbohydrates. They help keep horses’ bellies happy and provide them with the energy they need for their daily activities. It’s like a double win!

In the grand scheme of horse nutrition, fiber, and carbohydrates play leading roles. And guess what? Oats are the perfect way to ensure your horse gets plenty of both. Just another reason why oats are a superstar in the equine diet.

Below is the general nutritional profile of oats (values per 100g). Please note that the nutrient content may vary slightly based on the variety and processing of the oats:

Oats TypeProteinStarchFatCaloriesFiber
Traditional Oats (with hull)9-12%53%5%38910 g
Hull-less Oats15-20%53%5%38910 g
horses eating

Benefits of Oats in Equine Diet

You know that oats are pretty awesome, right? But you might be wondering, “Just how awesome are they for my horse?” Well, grab your hat because we’re about to discover some cool benefits of feeding oats to horses.

First up is digestibility. Oats are like the easy-to-read book in the world of horse feeds. Horses can break them down and use their goodness without much trouble. This also means oats can be great for their metabolism, helping them use food efficiently. It’s like having a well-oiled engine running inside them.

Then comes weight management. Oats, like other grains, are relatively high in calories compared to some other types of horse feed, like grass or hay. While oats do have a lower caloric density than some other types of grain (like corn), they are still a concentrated source of calories.

This is why they are often used to add extra energy to a horse’s diet, particularly for horses that are working, racing, or otherwise expending a lot of energy. When it comes to weight management, the key is balancing the amount of energy a horse is taking in (through their diet) with the amount of energy they are using (through exercise and bodily functions).

Oats can be a part of this balance, but they need to be fed in appropriate amounts and as part of a diet that includes ample forage, like hay or grass. What about performance and energy levels? Oats are a high-energy food.

They’re packed with carbohydrates, which, as we’ve learned, give horses the energy they need to run, play, and even perform in horse shows. Last, but not least, oats can even help your horse look better. How? They have certain nutrients that can improve skin and coat health. That means feeding oats could make your horse’s coat shinier and smoother. So not only do they feel good on the inside, but they also look great on the outside.

It’s clear to see oats are a star player in a horse’s diet. From helping with digestion and metabolism, managing weight, boosting energy and performance, to making them look fabulous, oats really are a superhero food. So next time you’re feeding your horse, remember all the great things these little grains are doing.

Picture of yearling colts eating oats

Debunking Myths about Feeding Oats to Horses

When it comes to feeding oats to horses, there are a few myths floating around that can make things confusing. But don’t worry; I’m here to set the record straight.

One myth is that oats are full of sugar and starch, and that can be bad for horses. It’s true that oats contain sugar and starch – they’re a type of carbohydrate, after all. But, the levels in oats are actually lower than in many other grains.

Plus, the carbohydrates in oats provide vital energy for horses. It’s all about balance and moderation. Too much of anything can cause problems, but when fed appropriately, oats can be a nutritious part of a horse’s diet.

Another myth is that oats can cause digestive problems in horses. Some people think that because oats are a grain, they can lead to issues like colic or laminitis. While it’s true that a diet too rich in grains can pose risks, oats are actually one of the safest grains to feed.

This is because of their high fiber content and because they’re easier to digest compared to other grains. Still, like with all aspects of a horse’s diet, oats should be fed responsibly, and it’s always best to consult with a vet or a horse nutritionist.

So there you have it. Oats aren’t the scary food some people might make them out to be. When part of a balanced diet, they can provide a host of benefits for your horse. Remember, every horse is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. Always observe

Picture of one of my racehorses that put on weight eating oats.

Incorporating Oats into the Equine Diet

You’re all set to start feeding oats to your horse, but how do you do it? Let’s talk about the right way to introduce oats into your horse’s diet.

First things first, how much oats should you feed? A good rule of thumb is to feed about 1 to 2 pounds of oats twice a day. But remember, each horse is different, so it’s best to check with your vet or a horse nutritionist to make sure you’re feeding the right amount.

When should you feed oats? Generally, oats can be fed as part of your horse’s regular meals. It’s often a good idea to split their feed into two or three smaller meals throughout the day. This can help their digestion and keep them feeling satisfied.

Note: While oats can be a beneficial part of a horse’s diet, they should not be the only thing a horse eats. A balanced diet for a horse usually includes good quality hay or pasture, which provides necessary fiber and other nutrients. The fiber in hay is essential for a horse’s digestive health and helps keep them feeling full.

Oats can supplement this base diet and provide additional calories, proteins, and other nutrients. They can be particularly beneficial for horses with higher energy needs, such as performance horses or nursing mares.

However, the amount of oats and other grains a horse should be fed can vary widely depending on the horse’s size, age, workload, metabolism, and overall health. It’s always a good idea to consult with a vet or equine nutritionist when designing a feeding program for your horse.

What if your horse has special dietary needs or health concerns? If your horse is older, has dental issues, or has certain health conditions, you might need to adjust their diet. For example, crimped or rolled oats might be easier for them to chew and digest. And some horses might need less oats if they’re at risk for conditions like laminitis. Always talk to your vet or a horse nutritionist to find out what’s best for your horse.

So, how do you start feeding oats to your horse? It’s best to introduce oats slowly. Start by adding a small amount of oats to your horse’s usual feed; I recommend one cup per meal. Then, gradually increase the amount over a few weeks. This gives your horse’s digestive system time to adjust to the new food.

Remember, a balanced diet is key to keeping your horse healthy and happy. Oats can be a great addition to their diet, but they’re not the only food your horse needs. Always strive for a variety of feeds that provide all the nutrients your horse needs to thrive.

Picture of a dark dapple gray horse.

Case Studies: Positive Impacts of Oats on Horses

Now that we’ve talked about the many benefits of oats, you might be thinking, “But does it really work?” Well, let’s look at some real-life examples and studies that show how oats can have a positive impact on horses.

First, meet Sheila, a four-year-old racehorse. Sheila was struggling with low energy levels and a dull coat when I got her. I decided to add oats to her feed, and after a few months, her energy levels improved, and her coat became shiny and healthy. Sheila went on to win several races, and I believe the change in diet played a big role in her success.

Next, let’s talk about a study published in Livestock Production Science. Researchers investigated how the digestibility of organic matter (in other words, how well a horse’s body can break down and use nutrients) is affected by the amount of oats in the horse’s diet.

The researchers wanted to understand whether increasing the percentage of oats in a horse’s diet would improve the horse’s ability to extract and use the nutrients from its feed. They found that as the amount of oats in the horse’s diet increased, the horse’s ability to digest and use nutrients, or the “digestibility of organic matter,” also increased.

This means that horses were able to extract more nutrients from their feed when it contained a higher percentage of oats. However, the relationship was curvilinear, which means that the rate of increase in digestibility might not be the same at every level of oat intake. After a certain point, adding more oats may not significantly increase digestibility.

Another study conducted by veterinarians in Kentucky looked at older horses. Some older horses can struggle with weight loss and low energy. The researchers found that introducing crimped oats to their diets helped these horses maintain a healthy weight and energy levels.

These stories and studies show us that oats can be a wonderful addition to a horse’s diet. Of course, it’s always important to remember that each horse is unique. What works well for one horse might not work as well for another. It’s always best to work with a vet or a horse nutritionist to create the best diet plan for your horse. But as these cases show, oats often play a starring role in a balanced equine diet.

Here is a good YouTube video that discusses feeding oats to your horses.


As we trot to the end of our journey exploring the benefits of horse oats, we’ve learned a lot about how these humble grains can significantly impact our equine friends’ health. From providing essential nutrients, facilitating digestion, supporting weight management, and even enhancing their coats’ shine, oats are indeed a superstar in the horse feed world.

But it’s important to remember just as no two horses are exactly alike, their dietary needs can differ too. Whether it’s whole, crimped, or rolled oats, the right choice depends on your horse’s specific needs. A balanced diet, inclusive of oats, tailored to your horse’s age, size, health, and activity level, is the key to ensuring they remain happy and healthy.

We’ve debunked some myths and highlighted the scientific studies and real-life examples that underscore the positive impacts of incorporating oats into the equine diet. However, always consult with a vet or a horse nutritionist when making changes to your horse’s diet.

So, the next time you fill up your horse’s feed bucket, remember the mighty oats! They’re not just for breakfast anymore but a vital ingredient in your horse’s overall wellness. Now you’re not just a horse lover but also a knowledgeable caregiver. Happy feeding!


Why would you feed a horse oats?

Feeding oats to horses provides a rich source of energy and fiber. Oats are also highly digestible, making the nutrients easily available to the horse. They can enhance performance in active horses, aid weight management, and contribute to maintaining a shiny coat and good overall health. Always feed as part of a balanced diet.

What type of horse should not be fed oats?

Horses prone to metabolic disorders, like Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Cushing’s Disease, should avoid oats due to their high starch content. Additionally, horses that are overweight, under-exercised, or prone to laminitis may not be suitable for oat diets. Always consult a vet for personalized feeding advice.