Oats are one of several types of grains that can be used as part of your horse's regular diet. Oats can be part of a balanced feeding plan, but they are not a balanced diet on their own. If you are going to feed oats, they should be incorporated into a menu that focuses on creating a healthy, balanced diet with adequate nutrition for your horse.
Oats are a naturally grown type of grain that can be used as a feed for your horse. One of the primary benefits of feeding oats is that they are considered one of the most easily digested types of starch that you can provide for your horse. Oats can be fed on their own or used as an ingredient in commercial horse feeds. If you choose to feed oats alone, you will have to supplement your horse's diet with additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals because oats will not provide your horse with everything he needs to be healthy.
Oats need to be fed in addition to forage. Your horse should be given free-choice access to a good quality pasture or hay supplemented with oats. The University of Illinois recommends feeding 2 to 2.5 pounds of grain, such as oats, or hay per every 100 pounds of your horse's weight each day, although your horse's age, health and activity level will play a part in determining how much hay and grain he should get. Increase or decrease grain quantities depending on your horse's needs. If your horse is losing weight, add more grain. If he's gaining, lower his grain ration. If you're unsure how many pounds of oats your horse should get every day, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Types of Oats
Oats can be purchased in several forms. Whole oats haven't been processed and still have their husks, or the outer casing surrounding the oat. Crimped oats are made by taking whole oats and partially flattening them, damaging the husk and making them slightly easier for horses to consume. Rolled oats have been completely flattened and are considered easier for horses to eat. Hulled oats have been removed from the husks and are the most nutritious option because everything you're feeding is pure oat seed. Crushed oats have had both the hull and the actual oat smashed into small particles.
Choosing a Type of Oat
The type of oat you choose for your horse depends on his needs. If you lack the knowledge, ability or motivation to properly monitor and supplement your horse's vitamin and mineral intake and needs, you should look for a complete grain product that contains oats as a primary ingredient. These feeds provide oats plus a mix of vitamins, minerals, corns and other ingredients. If you're willing and able to adequately supplement your horse's diet, choose a type of oat based on your horse's needs. Hulled oats are the most nutritionally rich and digestible option. You'll need to feed fewer hulled oats than other types of oats because the nutritionally lacking husks are not included in hulled oats. Rolled, crimped and crushed oats are similar in terms of digestibility and nutrition, but your horse may have a preference when it comes to texture and taste. Some horses simply like one type of oat more than the others. Whole oats, which still have their husks, can also pose a problem for older horses or those with dental issues.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.