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Horse Nutrition & Rice Bran

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If you're struggling with a horse who can't keep weight on even though his diet appears more than adequate, consider adding rice bran to his feed. High in fat and palatable, rice bran can provide those extra calories that help turn thin into round. Consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your horse's diet.

Rice Bran

Rice bran is simply a grain of rice's outer layer. It contains protein, fiber, fat and omega fatty acids, along with B vitamins and vitamin E. It also contains gamma oryzanol, which provides antioxidants and increases fat metabolism. Because rice bran is naturally high in phosphorous, products intended for equine consumption must be calcium fortified in order not to throw off a horse's calcium/phosphorous ratio. According to Kentucky Equine Research, a calcium-phosphorus imbalance can lead to conditions in which bone is replaced by fibrous connective tissue. To prevent its high fat content from quickly going rancid, rice bran must be stabilized.


Rice bran contains between 20 and 25 percent fat. The rice industry formerly got rid of this by-product once rice was processed because the bran went rancid so fast. Current technology allows for long-term stabilization. Because of its easy digestibility, manufacturers began adding it to horse feeds to replace the amount of carbohydrates or selling it as a supplement. Excessive levels of carbohydrates in the equine diet can cause potentially deadly issues such as laminitis or colic.

Performance Horses

Feeding performance horses rice bran benefits them in two primary ways, according to Kentucky Equine Research. The fat helps equine athletes meet their energy needs. For those horses with weight maintenance problems, rice bran works as an energy source without the need to feed additional grain. In fact, the amount of grain necessary for maintaining your horse in good condition might be reduced with rice bran supplementation.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy

Quarter horses and draft breeds especially are susceptible to polysaccharide storage myopathym or PSSM. This muscle disease is characterized by the "abnormal accumulation of the normal form of sugar stored in muscle (glycogen) as well as an abnormal form of sugar (polysaccharide) in muscle tissue," according to the University of Minnesota Equine Center. Carbohydrates appear to worsen PSSM. Replacing carbohydrate calories in the form of fat, such as rice bran, improved up to half of affected horses, according to the University of Minnesota Equine Center.