So you’ve got yourself a horse and you’re wondering if it’s okay to feed them oats. It’s a common question among horse owners, and lucky for you, we’ve got the answer! In this informative video, hosted by the knowledgeable Rick Lamb, you’ll find all the information you need to make an informed decision about feeding oats to your beloved equine companion. Packed with expert insights and practical tips, this video will leave you feeling confident and better equipped to provide the best nutrition for your horse. Finally, you can put all those oats you’ve been eyeing in the feed store to good use!

In this comprehensive video, Rick Lamb addresses the question that many horse owners ponder: can I feed my horse oats? With his trademark friendly demeanor, Rick delves into the topic, exploring the pros and cons of including oats in your horse’s diet. Drawing on his extensive experience and expertise in equine nutrition, Rick provides valuable insights into the nutritional value of oats, their impact on a horse’s digestive system, and tips for incorporating them into a balanced diet. Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a beginner horse enthusiast, this video is a must-watch for anyone looking to optimize their horse’s nutrition and overall health.

Overview of Horse Diets

Importance of a Balanced Diet

Proper nutrition is essential for the overall health and well-being of horses. A balanced diet plays a crucial role in maintaining their energy levels, supporting their immune system, and promoting optimal growth and development. Just like humans, horses require a combination of various nutrients to meet their nutritional needs. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. So, whether you’re a seasoned horse owner or new to equine care, understanding the importance of a balanced diet for your horse is paramount.

Common Foods in a Horse Diet

A horse’s diet consists mainly of forage, such as hay and grass. These fibrous materials provide the necessary bulk and fiber for proper digestion. In addition to forage, horses can also be fed concentrates or “hard feed,” which are specifically formulated to meet their nutritional requirements. These concentrates often come in the form of grains, such as oats, barley, and corn, which are widely used in horse diets. However, it’s important to note that the ratio of forage to concentrate varies depending on the individual horse’s needs, age, breed, and activity level.

Nutritional Needs of a Horse

Horses have specific nutritional needs that must be met to ensure their well-being. These needs are determined by factors such as breed, age, weight, and activity level. For example, a growing foal requires higher protein levels for proper muscle development, while a senior horse may have decreased nutrient absorption due to aging. It is crucial to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to assess your horse’s specific nutritional requirements and develop a diet plan that meets those needs.

Understanding What Oats Are

Definition and Description of Oats

Oats are a type of cereal grain that is commonly used in horse diets. Oats are derived from the Avena sativa plant and have been cultivated for centuries. They have a distinctive shape, with a hard outer casing called the husk that protects the inner kernel. Oats can be found in different forms, including whole oats, crimped oats, and rolled oats. Each form provides varying levels of nutrition and ease of digestion for horses.

Nutritional Content of Oats

Oats are rich in essential nutrients that are beneficial for horses. They are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which provide energy for horses to perform their daily activities. Oats also contain moderate levels of protein, which is essential for muscle development and repair. Additionally, oats are a good source of dietary fiber, which aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system. They also provide essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus, as well as vitamins, including vitamin B and vitamin E.

Different Forms of Oats

Oats can be processed into different forms to suit the needs of individual horses. Whole oats are the most natural and unprocessed form, where the husk remains intact. Crimped oats, also known as crushed oats, have been processed to break down the husk and make them easier to chew and digest. Rolled oats, on the other hand, go through a more extensive process where they are steamed and flattened, making them even more palatable and digestible for horses. Each form of oats has its advantages and considerations, depending on the horse’s specific dietary requirements and preferences.

Benefits of Feeding Oats to Horses

Natural Source of Energy

Oats are an excellent natural source of energy for horses. The high carbohydrate content in oats provides readily available fuel that can be converted into usable energy during physical activity. This makes oats particularly beneficial for working horses, such as those involved in racing, eventing, or other demanding activities. The energy provided by oats allows horses to perform at their best while maintaining stamina and endurance.

Rich in Fiber Content

Fiber is an essential component of a horse’s diet as it aids in proper digestion and supports overall gastrointestinal health. Oats have a moderate fiber content, which helps regulate the digestive system and prevent disorders such as colic or digestive imbalances. The fiber in oats also promotes a feeling of satiety, keeping horses feeling full and satisfied between meals.

Promotes Digestive Health

The unique combination of fiber and carbohydrates in oats contributes to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system in horses. The fiber acts as a “slow-release” fuel, providing a steady supply of energy and promoting a consistent digestive process. Proper digestion ensures that nutrients are efficiently absorbed and utilized by the horse’s body, enhancing overall health and well-being.

Potential Risks When Feeding Horses with Oats

Risk of Obesity

While oats can provide valuable nutrition and energy, overfeeding them can lead to weight gain and obesity in horses. Horses that consume an excessive amount of concentrated feeds, including oats, without the corresponding energy expenditure can become overweight or develop metabolic disorders such as equine metabolic syndrome. It is important to carefully monitor the amount of oats and other concentrates fed to horses to prevent such health issues.

Dangers of Colic

Colic is a term used to describe severe abdominal pain in horses. Feeding large amounts of oats or feeding them improperly can increase the risk of colic. It is crucial to introduce oats gradually into the horse’s diet and avoid sudden changes or excessive portions, as this can disrupt the delicate balance of the digestive system. Regular monitoring of the horse’s overall health and behavior, along with proper feeding practices, can significantly reduce the risk of colic.

Issues Related to Unprocessed Oats

Feeding horses whole or unprocessed oats can be problematic for some individuals. The intact husk in whole oats can be difficult for horses to chew properly, potentially leading to choke or blockages in the digestive tract. Unprocessed oats may also be less digestible than other forms, reducing the overall nutrient absorption. It is essential to consider the individual horse’s chewing ability and digestive health when deciding on the appropriate form of oats to include in their diet.

Importance of Proper Preparation of Oats

Breaking Down the Kernel

To maximize the nutritional benefits of oats and improve their digestibility, it is crucial to break down the hard outer shell, also known as the husk or kernel. Processing oats, such as crimping or rolling, helps break down this outer layer, making it easier for horses to chew and digest the grain. By breaking down the kernel, horses can extract more nutrients from the oats and reduce the risk of digestive issues.

Increasing Digestibility

Proper preparation of oats not only enhances their accessibility for horses but also increases their digestibility. When oats are processed, the starches within the grain are partially gelatinized, making them more readily digestible in the horse’s digestive system. This increased digestibility ensures that the horse can effectively absorb the essential nutrients and energy from the oats.

Avoidance of Processing Errors

When preparing oats for horses, it is essential to follow proper processing techniques to avoid any potential errors. Inadequate processing methods can lead to uneven grain sizes, inconsistent texture, or incomplete break down of the husk. All these factors can negatively impact the digestibility and overall quality of the oats. Therefore, it is crucial to follow recommended processing guidelines and, if possible, seek processed oats from reputable suppliers to ensure the best results.

How to Incorporate Oats into a Horse Diet

Determining the Right Amount of Oats

When incorporating oats into a horse’s diet, it is important to consider the individual horse’s needs and nutritional requirements. The quantity of oats required may vary depending on the horse’s breed, age, weight, and activity level. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist is essential to determine the appropriate amount of oats to feed your horse. It is crucial to balance the oats with other feeds and forage and monitor the horse’s weight and overall health to make adjustments as necessary.

Ideal Times to Feed Oats

Feeding oats should be incorporated into a horse’s daily feeding routine with consideration of optimal timing. Many horse owners choose to feed oats as part of their horse’s breakfast or evening meal, as this complements the natural grazing behaviors of horses. Splitting the total daily ration into multiple smaller meals can also help maximize the digestion and utilization of oats. Remember to maintain consistency in feeding times to avoid disrupting the horse’s digestive system.

Combining Oats with Other Feeds

Feeding oats alone may not provide a complete balance of nutrients for horses. Therefore, it is crucial to complement oats with other feeds and forage to ensure a well-rounded diet. Balancing a horse’s diet may involve incorporating protein-rich concentrates, such as alfalfa pellets or soybean meal, to enhance muscle development and repair. Additionally, providing access to high-quality forage, such as hay or pasture, is necessary to meet the horse’s fiber requirements. Consulting with an equine nutritionist will help determine the ideal combination of feeds based on your horse’s unique needs.

Impact of Horse Breed, Age, and Activity on Oat Consumption

Variations in Digestive Efficiency

Different horse breeds may possess variations in their digestive efficiency, affecting the way they process and utilize oats. For example, certain breeds, such as Thoroughbreds, may have a higher metabolic rate and may require a larger portion of oats to meet their energy demands. Additionally, older horses may have decreased digestive efficiency due to aging, necessitating adjustments in oat consumption. Furthermore, the activity level of a horse, whether they are a pleasure horse or a performance horse, can influence how much energy they require, thus impacting the oat consumption.

Different Nutritional Requirements

Horses of varying ages have different nutritional requirements, and this can influence the inclusion of oats in their diet. Growing foals, for instance, require higher protein levels for proper development and growth, which may require a higher concentration of oats. Senior horses, on the other hand, may have specific dietary considerations that limit their oat consumption due to dental issues or reduced nutrient absorption. It is crucial to evaluate the unique nutritional requirements of horses based on their age and consult with an equine nutritionist to provide appropriate adjustments to their oat consumption.

Impact of Workload and Performance Needs

Horses in differing levels of activity or workload will have varying energy demands, which can influence their oat consumption. Horses involved in moderate to intense physical activities, such as racing or eventing, may require a diet higher in energy, including oat supplementation, to fuel their performance. Conversely, horses involved in light or recreational activities may not require as much energy and may have a lower oat consumption. Determining the appropriate oat intake for a horse based on their workload and performance needs is crucial to ensure their optimal health and performance.

Professional Opinions on Feeding Horses with Oats

Views of Veterinarians

Veterinarians play a critical role in advising horse owners on the best practices for feeding their horses. Many veterinarians recognize the benefits of oats as a source of energy and essential nutrients for horses. However, they also emphasize the importance of moderation and proper preparation. They often recommend a balanced diet that considers the horse’s individual needs and activity level, including the appropriate amount of oats in combination with other feeds and forages. Veterinarians provide valuable guidance in assessing a horse’s overall health, identifying any dietary deficiencies, and making appropriate dietary recommendations.

Perspectives from Horse Nutritionists

Equine nutritionists specialize in understanding the specific dietary requirements of horses and developing tailored feeding plans. They recognize the nutritional benefits of oats for horses, particularly as a source of energy. However, they emphasize the importance of considering a horse’s overall diet to ensure it meets all their nutritional requirements. Equine nutritionists may recommend adjusting the quantity and form of oats based on the horse’s age, breed, activity level, and individual health needs. They provide invaluable advice in creating a well-balanced diet and can guide horse owners in determining the most appropriate oat consumption for their horses.

Advice from Experienced Horse Owners and Trainers

Experienced horse owners and trainers offer real-world insights into the benefits and risks of feeding horses with oats. With their firsthand experience, they understand how oats can be a valuable part of a horse’s diet when fed appropriately. They stress the importance of monitoring the horse’s body condition, maintaining a balanced diet, and adjusting oat consumption as needed. Their advice often includes regular health check-ups, consultation with professionals, and careful observation of the horse’s behavior and overall well-being. Horse owners and trainers provide practical guidance on incorporating oats into a horse’s diet while considering the horse’s individual needs and performance goals.

Alternatives to Oats in a Horse’s Diet

Feeding Barley to Horses

Barley is a common alternative to oats in horse diets. It is also a cereal grain and provides similar nutritional benefits. Like oats, it is a good source of carbohydrates and can provide horses with energy. Barley also contains fiber, although in slightly lower amounts compared to oats. Some horse owners may choose to feed barley due to its lower glycemic index, which means it is metabolized slower by the horse’s body, making it suitable for horses with certain metabolic conditions or those prone to laminitis. However, it is important to note that barley should be properly processed and prepared before feeding it to horses, similar to oats.

Use of Corn in Horse Diets

Corn is another grain that is often used in horse diets, although it is more commonly fed to mature horses and working horses rather than young or growing horses. Corn is higher in starch content compared to oats and can provide quick and easily digestible energy. However, due to its higher starch content, it can also increase the risk of digestive issues, especially if fed in excessive amounts or without proper processing. Proper preparation and evaluation of each horse’s individual needs are crucial when considering corn as an alternative to oats.

Role of Hay and Forage

Hay and forage play a fundamental role in a horse’s diet, regardless of whether oats or other grains are included. Providing high-quality forage sources, such as grass hay or alfalfa, is essential to meet the horse’s fiber requirements and support healthy digestion. Hay and forage not only provide necessary nutrients but also contribute to the horse’s mental well-being, as grazing and chewing are natural behaviors for horses. Even if oats or other grains are included in the diet, adequate amounts of forage should always be provided to ensure a well-balanced diet.


Deciding whether to feed your horse oats requires careful consideration of several factors. Oats can provide a natural source of energy, fiber, and essential nutrients that are beneficial for horses. However, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet, considering the horse’s individual needs, age, breed, and activity level. Potential risks, such as obesity, colic, and issues related to unprocessed oats, should be taken into account when determining the appropriate oat consumption for your horse. Consulting with professionals, including veterinarians and equine nutritionists, and seeking advice from experienced horse owners and trainers is crucial in making well-informed decisions about your horse’s diet. By providing a well-rounded diet that includes the right amount of oats and complementing feed options, you can promote your horse’s overall health and well-being.