Why Using Rice Bran For Horses

Last Updated on December 26, 2022

Ever heard of people feeding their horses something called “rice bran”? Rice bran for horses is a newly popular horse feed, especially on the west coast of the United States.  Some horse owners have adopted this feed in replacement of normal grain, and some simply use it as a supplement to their horse’s normal diet, like a snack or a treat.

But what is rice bran? What nutritional value does it have? Could it replace a horse’s grain-based diet? Is rice bran suitable for your horse? Are there different types of rice bran, and which types are best? All of this and more I will be discussing in this article!

What is Rice Bran?

Kentucky Equine Research describes rice bran as being the brown outer shell on a normal kernel of rice.  Though humans don’t normally eat it, it is packed full of nutrients and vitamins that are great for horses.  

However, since rice bran is such a small part of a small piece of food, it takes almost 100 pounds of rice to produce an average fifty-pound bag of rice bran. Thankfully, most rice is sold in large quantities, so it’s not an issue to acquire large amounts of rice bran.

It is also cheap to acquire rice bran for animal use since it is very rarely used for humans.  It’s almost like using the scrap metal to make something completely different.

So, rice bran is a part of a normal rice kernel, a part that is not found in the rice that you or I might buy from the grocery store.  Think of rice bran like the peanut shell of a peanut. We eat the actual peanut, but the shells are still edible and could be used for other purposes.

The same concept is true of rice bran.  The “shell” of a rice kernel is gathered during rice production and repurposed to create nutritious food for our equine friends. 

Why Feed Rice Bran?

One of the biggest reasons horse owners like feeding their horses rice bran is simply because the horses love it! Most horses, even picky eaters,  think that rice bran tastes good, like a snack or a treat. 

Rice bran is also a great source of calories, so it can help horses gain weight or help hard-keepers maintain a healthy weight.

A few more desirable features of rice bran are that it is low in sugar and starch provides a high supply of vitamins B and E, and helps balance the nutrients that are not present in a horse’s hay portions.

Think back to the picky eaters liking rice bran and it helping horses to gain or maintain weight.  Typically, your picky eaters are going to be the ones that are hard to keep weight on. So, if you can give them a food that they enjoy (i.e.- rice bran), they’re more liable to eat and therefore maintain a more healthy weight.

Why Feed Rice Bran to Horses

Also, as I said earlier, rice bran is, in some places, being used as a replacement for a horse’s normal grain meals.  This is because it provides horses with the nutrients they are missing when they just eat hay.  This is also the purpose of grain.  

If a horse just eats hay, he is missing out on certain nutrients, and the high levels of other nutrients in the hay can actually be detrimental to his overall health.  So, he needs something else to counteract this. Normally, this is grain. But, due to its nutrient content, it can also be rice bran!

When to Feed Rice Bran?

So, how do you know when it’s appropriate for you to feed your horse rice bran? This question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.  Every horse is different, and every horse’s dietary needs are different.

It’s important to keep in mind that, while most horses seem to enjoy rice bran as a snack or a treat, it may not be suitable to replace the grain meals of every horse.  

Rice bran has a reputation for being desirable for horses that are hard to keep weight on, horses that have digestive issues, and senior horses that might have trouble chewing their grain.

But, before you switch all of your horses over to rice bran, it’s important to evaluate their current, individual diets.  Take into account what works for them, and what doesn’t. What have you fed them in the past? Why did you change their feed? Is there any aspect of their health that needs to improve?

And, most importantly, always consult your vet.  These are also questions you could pose to an equine professional, such as your trainer or your barn manager or owner if you have them.  More people than you think may have experience with feeding rice bran.

Different Types of Rice Bran

So, you’ve decided you want to try rice bran! What’s next? It’s important to understand what different kinds of rice bran are out there so that you know what you want (and don’t want) to buy.

Different Types of Rice Bran

Rice bran doesn’t stay good for very long; it has a very limited shelf life.  Because of this, you always want to purchase rice bran that has been stabilized.  All stabilized rice bran is still good and is fit for human consumption.  With rice bran that has not been stabilized, this may not be the case.

Rice bran is available from most local feed stores and manufacturers, as well as from many big equine feed manufacturers.  Some of the names you may recognize include Triple Crown and Alliance Equine Nutrition. Try Rice Bran Oil from Manna Pro.


Rice bran can be great for your horse! Horses enjoy eating rice bran, and it can be a great snack or supplement to their diet.  In some cases, it can replace a horse’s grain diet, but be sure to do your research and vet-consultations before making this switch.

I hope this article helped you learn more about rice bran and the benefits it can have on your horse’s diet! If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences feeding rice bran!


How much rice bran should I feed my horse?

It is a good idea to start feeding a small amount to a maximum of 4 lbs per day. If your horse is on a diet that is not high in grain, it is best to gradually increase the amount fed over several days. For example, if you are feeding 1 lb of grain each day, feed 1/2 lb for 2 days, then increase to 1 lb for the next 2 days. This will help to reduce the chance of a digestive upset. 

Do you have to soak rice bran for horses?

The rice bran has a high amount of tannin and this can cause problems for horses if they do not get used to it gradually. Soaking rice bran in cold water overnight helps tannin to dissolve, making the rice bran more digestible. You can also prepare it with hot water in a form of a bran mash but it needs to cool down before you serve it to your horse. The water that was used to soak up rice bran can be added to the feed in place of water. This way, no nutrients are lost.

Does rice bran give horses energy?

Rice bran is a very good source of energy for horses that are active and need higher amount of calories for their optimal performance. Rice bran has high fat content and contains vitamins, minerals, fiber and essential fatty acids. Rice bran contains many minerals, especially iron and calcium. It also contains vitamins like vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D. Calcium is an important part of the skeletal structure of a horse.
If you add rice bran to your horse's diet, it will help him or her to feel fuller and get through t he day without excessive grazing. Because rice bran is a rich source of fiber, it keeps the digestive tract clean and aids in the elimination of waste products.

Can rice bran cause diarrhoea in horses?

Rice bran is a by-product of the milling of rice, used as a feed additive to increase weight gain in livestock. It is often added to feed for horses because it is cheap and nutritious. 
Rice bran is used in human medicine as a laxative and it's also known to cause diarrhoea in humans and some animals. Some people have reported rice bran causing diarrhoea in horses, but this has not been scientifically proven. It is possible that the bran may be a cause of diarrhoea in horses, but other factors are more likely to be the cause.

How can you tell if rice bran is rancid?

Rancid rice bran has a distinct smell, and it also tends to be darker in color. Rancid rice bran should not be used as a horse feed as it can cause digestive issues and stomach pain in horses.