How do I Feed Oats to my Horse?

Last Updated on April 9, 2022 by Allison Price

In this article we will discuss the different types of oats that horses can eat and the best ones to feed your pony or horse.

We’ll be discussing the nutritional value of oats, as well as the pros and cons for each type.Quick Navigation hide 1 Oats For Horses: What Are They?2.2 Glucose And Oats3 How Do You Feed Your Horses Oats?4 What is the best amount of oats to feed your horse?5 What is the Summary

What is Oats for Horses?

You think oats are just oats? Not all oats can be made equal.

Feed Oats to my Horse

Horses are most likely to be fed whole oats. This means that each kernel is protected in a hull, or fibrous sheath. Oats’ inner part is the most nutritious, so they are often processed, such as rolling or crimping. This cracks the shells and makes them easier to digest. The hulls make up a significant portion of the grain. They can be found in between 23 to 35%, depending on the variety. They also contain more than 30% crude fibre. Whole oats are a safe feed for horses due to their high fiber content and low starch value compared to maize or barley. Forageplus believes that oats should only be given to horses with metabolic problems. However, we prefer them to be fed in the groat or in high-fiber carriers like unmolassed beet pulp.

What kinds of horse oats are suitable for horses?

  • Whole Oats: These are the actual oats as they came from the field. They have the outer casing (or husks) attached. They have the highest fiber level of all grains and oats. These oats may not be as nutritious for young horses and veterans with poor teeth. This is why it is best to soak the oats overnight before you feed them. This type of oat can be sown by some people.
  • Bruised oatmeal: To allow digestive enzymes to access the nutrients and improve digestibility, the husk is removed from the oat.
  • Rolled oatmeal: Rolling can have a similar effect as bruising. To maximize storage time, the past horse owners would have bought whole oats and then rolled them on an as-needed basis.
  • Crimped oatmeal: This removes the husk from the oats and increases its surface area. The digestive juices are able to function more efficiently.
  • Cut oats Oats are sometimes cut alongside bruising. To give a cleaner final product, the ends of the grain can be trimmed.
  • Crushed oatmeal: This process involves breaking the husk as well as the kernel of the Oat. They are slightly easier to digest, but have a shorter shelf life.
  • Nut oats – These are grown with loose husks which are shed after harvest. This reduces fibre and improves digestibility. They also have three times more digestible energy, protein, and oil than standard oats. To make porridge-like oats, our naked oats can be slightly steamed before being rolled.

The Nutritional Value Of Oats For Horses

Horses love oats because they are a concentrated, high-energy, high-phosphorous food. Oats can be added to bucket feed to increase phosphorous levels in horses’ daily diets, especially if phosphorus levels in grass or hay are low. This is especially important for breeding mares and young horses, who both require high levels of vitamin D to support healthy bone development. Plant breeders have created varieties of naked or hullless oats to improve the nutritional quality of traditional oats. Although hulls cover the kernel during maturation, they are not necessary. They are thin and easily detached so that they can be removed from the rest of the kernel when harvesting is completed.

Hull-less oats, in essence, are self-milling. The hull-less oats, and the dehulled oatmeal are different. Dehulled oats have their hulls removed mechanically from the kernel. This can cause the kernel to be damaged or unpalatable. Certain varieties of naked oatmeal have higher levels of other nutrients such as protein, fat, or phosphorus.

Traditional oats have 9-12% protein. While naked, hullless oats typically contain 15-20% protein. There are also differences in the amino acids profiles. The naked oats contain 62% more Lysine (0.60% in conventional and 0.65% in naked), and almost twice the amount of methionine in conventional oats (0.65% in naked and 0.40% respectively).

This is great news for horse owners who care for young horses. Methionine and Lysine are essential amino acids for muscle development and maintenance. Deficiency of either can cause slow growth and poor performance.

  • Nut varieties have 9-12% fat, which is significantly more than the 5% in hulled oatmeal. Hull-less oats contain more calories due to the natural oil stored in the kernels. Hull-less oats have a lower risk of causing digestive problems in horses with high performance because they are made from fat, not starch. Horse owners can save money by feeding fewer oats and still meet their basic nutritional needs.
  • Naked oats are more phosphorous-rich than hulled. These varieties could contain up to 30% more phosphorous than hulled oats, making them an excellent addition to diets that include high-calcium legumes such as alfalfa and high-calcium hays or grasses.

Horse owners might be reluctant to feed hull-less oatmeal because they feel the hulls increase the horse’s fibre intake. Although fibre is essential for horse digestion, it is best to feed hay and grass instead of high amounts of hulled cereal.

Cereals can be fed to increase the energy content of a diet when a forage-based diet consists of hay and grass. This is in cases where a forage-based diet does not meet the calorie requirements of work, growth, reproduction, or other activities. It is simply an instance in which the horse can’t eat enough hay or grass because it requires more calories to maintain energy and weight. The horse may not be able to digest whole oats because they contain substantial fibre.

Are oats heating?

People avoid giving oats or molasses to horses as they are known to cause excessive fizzy, silly and excitable behavior. If horses are fed large amounts of oats on their own, this can be true. Oats are rarely a problem if fed according to their work and with high-fiber, fast-soaking providers.

Oats are the most digestible cereal of all the ones used in Europe and the UK. Due to their higher starch content, maize and barley are more likely to cause digestive upsets and fizzy behavior. The “heating” effect is caused by starch, which is rapidly broken down into glucose and glycogen. These sugars are quickly absorbed, which gives horses an instant rush of energy.

Most horses do not react to the stimulants, but a few horses may become hyperactive. This happens with maize and barley, which are higher in energy, as well as oats.

However, we have discovered that feeding the horses a high-fibre provider with the oats in a porridge form with the oats slows the starch release. This allows them to be safe and healthy. They also maintain a measured and controlled energy release.

Glucose and Oats

Glucose, the most essential fuel for horse cells, is vital. All cells will die if they don’t have the glucose minimum. Glucose has such an essential role that the horse’s body can produce it from other substances if its dietary intake is low.

While muscle cells can pull glucose from blood during exercise, they are unable to get enough. They are dependent on glycogen stored in muscle and liver cells.

Exercise burns fat, glucose, and amino acids. While the intensity of exercise will determine the relative percentages, diet and fitness can influence them. The bottom line is glycogen stores are the limiting factor for endurance-type and high-speed work.

Horses are more likely to be unable to exercise due to low glycogen levels in endurance, racing and eventing. Horses that do less strenuous work might be able to function well with lower glycogen levels. Insufficient glycogen can be characterized by a horse’s inability or inability to perform beyond a time limit with slow work, or if they are unable to reach speed targets with faster work. Horses that feel like they have run out of petrol may need to have their glycogen levels increased.

When should you feed oatmeal to your horse?

Horses that work hard will need to have a high calorie and glycogen source to fuel their muscles and liver. Even if a horse is able to maintain its weight and move well on grass-only diets, their endurance, stamina, and speed can be affected if they don’t have access to a more concentrated source of carbohydrate. Include oats in your daily horse feed, along with a balanced forage-based horse feed that balances hay and grass.

It is a good idea to limit the amount of feed you give your dog. If you feed 200g of oats, make sure to feed 400g of high-fiber feed like unmolassed sugarbeet and a pellet. Either feed 200g of oats with 400g of beet pulp, hay pellets, or feed 200g of oats with 200g of sugar beet. This is illustrated in the table below.

There are many optionsUnmolassedSugar BeetHay/Grass
1400 gramsNone200 grams
2None400 grams200 grams
3200 grams200 grams200 grams

Oats can be fed directly to your horse after work as they are quick to release glycogen. Glycogen loading after work is a great way to fuel your horse’s muscles and increase their performance. Glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose, is the energy that powers all cells in the body. Glycogen can be stored in the liver and muscles. Refuelling after work can increase the supply. Low levels of protein, sodium, or glycogen can lead to poor muscle development, lethargy, and even poor stamina. It is important to have a good supply of vitamins and minerals to help the body’s chemical and enzymatic processes. A horse feed balancer that matches grass and hay can be used to provide a quick and short-release carbohydrate to replenish and build glycogen reserves. This glycogen loading strategy can also include porridge oats (naked rolled oatmeal) for horses.

How many oats should a horse be fed each day?

This protocol is designed to support glycogen loading, protein levels, and provide minerals and vitamins that are matched to grass or hay.

  • After each work period, give your horse a small amount of feed. Unmolassed sugarbeet and unmolassed oats are good options after work. A combination of 100g of beet pulp, 50-100g of naked oatmeal (porridge), and 50-100g of beet pulp is ideal for a horse of 500kg. The beet pulp is slow-release while the oats are a slow-release but high GI carbohydrate source. This will help replenish glycogen stores most efficiently if you feed it right after work.
  • You can feed your horse a mixture of beet pulp and oats, but not more than 50/50.
  • You could also use Topline Plus or Pea Protein instead of essential amino acids. Essential Amino acids after work at 50g and 100g of pea protein in daily bucket feeds with the balancer will provide a wide range of essential amino acids. It all depends on how much exercise your horse gets and what the horse eats. You can add 100g of Topline Plus or Pea Protein to the bucket feed if you find out that the hay is not high in protein for moderate work. The taste is an added bonus for horses.

How can I feed oatmeal to my horse? 3

Is it possible to feed oats horses with laminitis?

Ponies and horses who are susceptible to laminitis can be sensitive to simple sugars and starch in their daily food. Oats should not be used as part of a horse’s daily diet. Horses with severe calorie restrictions or who are overweight should be restricted from eating oats. Oats should not be given to horses suffering from acute laminitis. Oats should be avoided for horses with insulin resistance that is not well controlled. This can lead to high insulin levels. If a pony or horse has been exercising regularly and moved from the light to the moderate category, then the carbohydrate levels of a low sugar-starch management diet might become too restrictive.

A horse that ‘hits the walls’ or ‘runs out petrol’ after a certain amount of exercise, or who fatigues easily, may need a higher supply of glycogen.

Cortisol is released when horses exercise. Cortisol allows the liver to breakdown glycogen, a stored form of glucose, and release it into bloodstream to meet rising energy needs of the horse. Insulin is not required for muscle to absorb glucose during exercise. The body’s ability to produce glucose from its glycogen stores is insufficient to supply all energy needs. This system works well and glucose levels remain steady throughout exercise. After exercise, glucose levels will rise briefly before returning to normal.

Insulin resistance restricts glucose entry into the live rod muscle. This also reduces the tissue’s ability to store glycogen. When a horse with laminitis is prone goes back to an exercise program, it may struggle to have enough energy and stamina to exercise on a low sugar, low starch diet, hay-orientated, high fiber diet.

You can feed your horse more concentrated carbohydrates, but you should do so when your horse is hungry. This will replenish glycogen reserves.

  • After stopping exercise, feed a small amount of food within an hour. Then feed another one in the following hour. Unmolassed sugarbeet pulp, oats with 50g of Essential Amin Acids, and 50g of oats after work are ideal for horses weighing 500 to 500 kg.
  • Keep your dog on the regular low sugar/starch bucket diet and don’t eat hay.
  • You can feed your horse a mix of beet pulp and oats, but if you feel that your horse requires a higher feed, then use a 50/50 mixture.

It may be beneficial for a laminitis-prone horse who is a good doer and has a low hay intake to increase protein supply, especially if the horse is increasing his work load from light to medium. To improve your horse’s amino acid and protein supply, you can feed him 100 grams of Topline Plus or Pea Protein each day.

The Summary

Bottom line: While high-forage, cereal-free diets may make sense for certain horses, cereal in oats can be used by horses for exercise, growing young horses and breeding mares. It is possible to improve performance, stamina, and overall horse health by using a measured and careful approach. This can be achieved by starting with grass and hay and matching minerals and vitamins with the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate in the form of oats with a fast absorb fibre provider.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!