In the video “Nutrition Nuggets: The Effects of Feeding Grains” by Buckeye Nutrition, Dr. Nettie Liebert, the senior Equine nutrition manager for Mars Horse Care, discusses the importance of grains in horse feed. Grains, such as cracked corn, are an excellent source of energy for horses, but they lack important vitamins and minerals. When manufacturing horse feed, Buckeye Nutrition adds these essential nutrients to ensure a balanced diet for your horse. However, some horse owners may try to extend their grain concentrate by supplementing with oats. Dr. Liebert explains that while straight grains can be fed, they need to be balanced with something like a vitamin and mineral ration balancer or protein to avoid nutritional imbalances. Adding calcium-rich foods like alfalfa can also help maintain the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio in a horse’s diet. If you have any questions about adding straight oats to your horse’s diet, Buckeye Nutrition’s customer care line is available to help you ensure a balanced and healthy diet for your horse.

The Role of Grains in Horse Nutrition

Understanding the Importance of Grains in Horse Feed

When it comes to feeding horses, grains play a vital role in providing energy. Grains, such as corn and oats, are known for their ability to give horses the fuel they need to perform tasks like running, jumping, and working. They are an excellent source of energy, but it’s important to note that grains alone are not sufficient in fulfilling a horse’s nutritional requirements. Grains lack essential vitamins and minerals, which must be supplemented in a horse’s diet to maintain overall health and well-being.

Sources of Energy from Grains

Grains are a rich source of energy for horses due to their high carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion, which provides the horse with the necessary fuel for physical activities. This is why you may often hear the expression “feeling his oats,” which refers to a horse that is energetic and spirited after consuming grains. Grains, with their high energy content, are an integral part of a horse’s diet.

The Use of Corn in Horse Feed

Corn is widely used in horse feed due to its high energy content and palatability. It is a versatile grain that provides a quick and efficient source of energy for horses. However, it’s important to note that corn should be properly processed before feeding it to horses. This ensures optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Cracked corn, like the one shown in the video, is one of the forms of processed corn that can be safely included in a horse’s diet.

The Benefits and Limitations of Feeding Oats to Horses

feeding oats to horses is a common practice due to their nutritional value and digestibility. Oats are a good source of energy, protein, and dietary fiber. They provide a steady release of energy, making them suitable for horses engaged in moderate work. Additionally, oats are easily digestible, reducing the risk of digestive issues. However, oats alone may not meet all of a horse’s nutritional needs. They lack certain essential vitamins and minerals, making it necessary to supplement the diet with additional sources of nutrients.

Why Grains are Not Good Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

Although grains are a valuable source of energy, they do not naturally contain an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals required for a horse’s optimal health. While grains provide carbohydrates, proteins, and some essential nutrients, they lack vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. Feeding a grain-based diet without proper supplementation can result in nutritional deficiencies, affecting the horse’s overall well-being.

Dealing with Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency in Grains

To address the vitamin and mineral deficiency in grain-based diets, it is crucial to supplement the horse’s feed with appropriate nutritional additives. One way to achieve this balance is by incorporating a vitamin and mineral ration balancer into the horse’s diet. Ration balancers are specially formulated feeds that provide the necessary vitamins and minerals, ensuring the horse receives a well-rounded diet. By adding a ration balancer to the horse’s feed, you can bridge the nutritional gap caused by grains alone.

Creating Balance with Grains in Horse Diet

A balanced diet is essential for a horse’s overall health and performance. While grains provide energy, they should be complemented with other feed sources to ensure the horse receives all the necessary nutrients. A balanced diet includes a combination of high-quality forage, such as hay or pasture, along with grains, supplemental vitamins and minerals, and protein sources. This holistic approach to feeding ensures that the horse’s nutritional needs are met, supporting optimal growth, development, and performance.

Understanding the Concept of a Ration Balancer

A ration balancer is a specialized feed designed to provide essential nutrients without adding excessive calories to a horse’s diet. It is particularly useful when feeding grains to horses, as it helps maintain overall balance. Ration balancers are formulated with precise levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, filling in the nutritional gaps that may exist in a grain-based diet. They provide the necessary nutrients for growth, development, and overall well-being, allowing horses to thrive on a balanced diet.

The Typical Phosphorous and Calcium Imbalance in Grains

Grains, such as corn and oats, often contain more phosphorus than calcium, creating an imbalance in the horse’s diet. This phosphorus-calcium ratio is detrimental to the horse’s health, as an excess of phosphorus can lead to various health complications. It is crucial to maintain a balance of approximately one and a half to two parts calcium to one part phosphorus in a horse’s diet to support proper bone development, muscle function, and overall metabolic processes.

Consequences of Feeding More Phosphorous than Calcium

Feeding grains with a higher phosphorus to calcium ratio can have adverse effects on a horse’s health. Excessive phosphorus can hinder calcium absorption, leading to potential mineral imbalances, such as osteoporosis or developmental orthopedic diseases. These conditions can negatively impact a horse’s skeletal system, resulting in lameness and decreased performance. It is vital to address this imbalance through proper diet management and supplementation.

Ways to Address the Phosphorous and Calcium Imbalance

To address the phosphorus and calcium imbalance caused by grains, several strategies can be implemented. One effective method is the addition of alfalfa to the horse’s diet. Alfalfa is a forage that is high in calcium, helping to balance out the excess phosphorus in grains. Another approach is to incorporate a high-quality ration balancer specially formulated to provide the optimal calcium-phosphorus ratio. These measures ensure that the horse receives the necessary nutrients in appropriate proportions, reducing the risk of mineral imbalances.

Understanding Nutritional Secondary Para Hyperthyroidism

Nutritional Secondary Para Hyperthyroidism is a condition that can arise due to an imbalance in a horse’s diet. It occurs when there is an excessive intake of phosphorus and insufficient calcium in the diet, disrupting the horse’s thyroid function. This condition can lead to various health issues, including poor growth, lameness, and overall metabolic disturbances. Proper diet management and supplementation are crucial in preventing and addressing nutritional secondary Para Hyperthyroidism.

How Excessive Phosphorus in Diet Leads to Nutritional Secondary Para Hyperthyroidism

An excess of phosphorus in a horse’s diet can disrupt the absorption and metabolism of calcium, leading to nutritional secondary Para Hyperthyroidism. When the phosphorus-calcium ratio is imbalanced, the body’s thyroid function is disrupted, affecting various physiological processes. The resulting hormonal imbalance can have detrimental effects on the horse’s development, performance, and overall health. It is essential to maintain a balanced phosphorus-calcium ratio in a horse’s diet to prevent this condition.

Smart Practices for Feeding Grains

Feeding grains to horses requires careful consideration and smart practices. It’s important to remember that grains should not be the sole component of a horse’s diet. They should be supplemented with other feed sources to ensure nutritional adequacy. When feeding grains, it’s crucial to select high-quality, properly processed grains that are safe for consumption. Additionally, proper feeding practices, such as monitoring portion sizes and providing a consistent feeding schedule, should be followed to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Strategies for Making Grain Concentrate Last Longer

If you’re looking to extend the lifespan of your grain concentrate, it’s important to consider alternative methods rather than relying solely on adding oats. While oats can be a useful component in a horse’s diet, they should not be the sole means of extending the grain concentrate. Instead, consider incorporating a ration balancer, such as Buckeye Nutrition’s Grow and Win, into the horse’s diet. Ration balancers provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, and protein, ensuring a balanced diet and reducing the need for excessive grain concentrate.

Why Adding Alfalfa is Beneficial for a Grain-Based Horse Diet

Adding alfalfa to a grain-based horse diet can provide several benefits. Alfalfa is a forage that is high in calcium, helping to balance out the phosphorus-calcium ratio present in grains. It also provides additional protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it a valuable addition to a horse’s diet. The fibrous nature of alfalfa promotes proper gut health and digestion. Including alfalfa in a grain-based diet can help ensure that the horse receives a well-rounded and balanced nutritional intake.

Alfalfa’s Role in Balancing Calcium in Horse’s Diet

Alfalfa plays a crucial role in balancing the calcium-phosphorus ratio in a horse’s diet. As mentioned earlier, grains typically contain more phosphorus than calcium, leading to an imbalance. By adding alfalfa, which is rich in calcium, the overall ratio can be adjusted to meet the horse’s nutritional requirements. Calcium is vital for bone development, nerve function, and muscle contraction. Incorporating alfalfa ensures that the horse receives sufficient calcium to support these essential physiological processes.

Circumstances Where Feeding Straight Grains Can Be Problematic

Feeding straight grains, without proper supplementation and balance, can lead to several problems in a horse’s diet. One of the main issues is the lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Grains alone cannot meet the horse’s nutritional needs, and relying solely on them can result in deficiencies and imbalances. Additionally, feeding excessive amounts of grains can lead to digestive issues, such as colic or laminitis. It is essential to approach grain feeding with caution and ensure a well-rounded and balanced diet for the horse.

Ways to Properly Introduce Straight Grains to a Horse’s Diet

If you decide to introduce straight grains into a horse’s diet, it is important to do so gradually and with caution. Abrupt changes in the diet can lead to digestive upset and other health issues. Start by adding small amounts of the desired grain to the horse’s current feed, gradually increasing the portion over a period of several days. Monitor the horse closely for any signs of digestive distress or discomfort, and consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist for guidance on proper grain introduction.


In conclusion, grains play a significant role in horse nutrition by providing a valuable source of energy. However, it’s crucial to understand the limitations of grains as standalone feed and the importance of a well-balanced diet. Grains alone cannot fulfill a horse’s nutritional requirements, specifically in terms of vitamins and minerals. Proper diet management, including the addition of supplements like ration balancers and alfalfa, is necessary to ensure a horse’s overall health and well-being. By understanding the role of grains and implementing a balanced and nutritious diet, you can help ensure that your horse thrives and performs at its best. Remember to consult with equine nutrition experts and professionals for personalized advice and recommendations for your horse’s specific dietary needs.