Oats are a favored grain used in horse feed. Owners of thoroughbreds, show horses and other high-performance horses still choose oats first over other grains.
Research has proven that oats are safer and healthier for horses than other grain choices for several reasons:
- Oats provide a more efficient source of energy for the horse - as oat starch is digested it creates glucose. The starch in other grains is not as easily digested by the small intestine and therefore moves on to the large intestine, creating volatile fatty acids. Glucose is a much better source for energy than volatile fatty acids;
- Horses that are fed other grains instead of oats have a higher chance of getting colic. Many cases of colic are associated with starches that are not digested by the small intestine, therefore moving on to the large intestine where it can rapidly ferment;
- Oats are less likely to contain mycotoxins, which can be fatal in horses;
- Oats contain higher levels of fiber than other grains;
- Oats do not have to be processed in order for them to be safe for horse consumption;
- When feeding oats over other grains, less protein supplementation is needed.
Oats are sold in various forms:
- Whole oats: Unprocessed oats complete with the husks (or outer casing);
- Crimped oats: Oats that have been “crimped” which damages the husk and increases surface area;
- Hulled oats (groats): Oats that have had the husks removed;
- Rolled oats: Groats that have been flattened;
- Crushed oats: This is a rougher process, which involves breaking both the husk and the kernel of the oat.
Today, many horse owners choose a pre-mixed or pelleted feed for their horses for convenience. Ingredient labels often detail the grains used in the feed and owners can look for feeds that incorporate oats. Many owners also buy oats as a supplement.