Vital Pros and Cons of Rice Bran for Horses Revealed!

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Last Updated on February 28, 2023

Rice bran is becoming more popular as a feed additive for horses, but what are the pros and cons of rice bran for horses? This feedstuff is rapidly rising in popularity for many reasons, but, like any horse feed, it is important to learn the full facts about it before including it in your horse’s diet.

So, what exactly is rice bran and what nutritional value does it have? Could it replace a horse’s grain-based diet, and is rice bran suitable for your horse? Are there different types of rice bran, and which types are best? Today we’ll be providing all the answers to these questions, and more!

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 this part of a grain of rice, it is packed full of nutrients and vitamins that are great for horses.  

However, since rice bran is such a small piece of an already small piece of food, it takes almost 100 pounds of rice to produce an average fifty-pound bag of rice bran. Thankfully, rice is one of the most widely grown and consumed grains around the world, so rice bran is normally widely available.

The fact that rice bran is considered to be a waste product from the human food industry also makes it relatively cheap to acquire.

So, rice bran is a part of a normal rice kernel, a part that is not found in the rice that you normally buy from the grocery store. Rice bran is effectively the ‘shell’ of a rice kernel, and these are gathered during rice production and repurposed to create a nutritious feed for our equine friends. 

Pros and Cons of Rice Bran for Horses

Like any addition to your horse’s diet, it is important to understand the nutritional properties of rice bran. In some situations, it can be the perfect feed for horses, but in others, it may be very detrimental to your horse’s diet.

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. However, it should not be the sole or main source of food for your horse, as it is not nutritionally balanced.

Rice bran is also a great source of calories, so it can help horses gain weight or help hard-keepers maintain a healthy weight. These calories come from oil within the rice bran, which is known as a ‘cool’ energy source. This means it helps the horse gain weight without affecting the behavior of the horse, unlike diets that are high in starchy grains and cereals.

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.

Rice bran is most commonly fed to horses that are picky eaters or that have a poor appetite, to help them gain or maintain weight. It is highly palatable and provides energy without making the horse over-excitable and fizzy.

Why Feed Rice Bran to Horses

In some situations, rice bran is used as a partial or complete replacement for a horse’s normal grain feed. This is particularly useful for horses that get fizzy and lively when fed starchy feeds, and horses with certain metabolic conditions that need to avoid sugar and starch-laden feeds.

Another big advantage to rice bran is that it is high in essential fatty acids, primarily alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These are highly beneficial to the skin and coat of the horse, helping to keep it shiny, supple, and soft. Many show horses are fed rice bran to boost the appearance of the coat.

Does rice bran make a horse hot?

Rice bran is an energy-dense feed that will provide vital calories to horses in hard work or those that need to gain weight. Because this energy comes from fat rather than starch, it is believed that rice bran will not make a horse as hot and lively as a high-starch diet.

So, if you have a horse that needs to gain weight but gets too lively on cereal-based feeds, switching to rice bran could be the solution. However, remember that rice bran is not completely nutritionally balanced, so it should be fed as a supplement rather than as the entire feed source.

When to Feed Rice Bran

So, how do you know when it is appropriate or necessary 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.

Rice bran is an ideal source of energy for horses that are hard to keep weight on, horses that have digestive issues, and senior horses that might have trouble chewing their grain. It is also useful for boosting skin and hair conditions, giving a lustrous shine to your horse’s coat, mane, and tail.

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 for every horse.

Rice bran is a high-energy food source, and will cause excessive weight gain if fed to horses that are considered to be ‘good doers’. So, if you’ve got a native pony or draft type that puts on weight at the mere sight of grass, rice bran is not a good idea!

It is also important to remember that rice bran is not nutritionally balanced, and if fed in large quantities your horse may become deficient in certain nutrients. A particular problem is the imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in rice bran – if you can, try to feed a commercial brand of rice bran that has added calcium. Only ever buy rice bran that has been stabilized, as this prevents the fat content from going rancid.

While rice bran is high in certain B vitamins, it is lacking in other vitamins and minerals. If rice bran makes up the bulk of your horse’s feed, it is essential to also add a complete vitamin and mineral supplement or feed balancer to the diet.

How much rice bran to feed a horse for weight gain

If your horse needs to gain weight, rice bran can be a useful high-energy addition to the diet. However, the quantity of rice bran to feed must be carefully calculated, to avoid any nutritional deficiencies.

As a rule of thumb, an average-sized horse can be fed rice bran at a rate of 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) per day. This might not sound like a lot, but just 1lb of rice bran can increase the amount of energy your horse receives by as much as 10%.

If you are feeding rice bran for weight gain, it is a good idea to weigh your horse or carry out a body condition score assessment every week. When your horse reaches the ideal body weight, you will need to reduce the amount of rice bran and other energy-dense foods accordingly.

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. This is because the fat and oil in rice bran quickly turn rancid, making it smell and taste unpleasant to your horse. Because of this, you should always purchase rice bran that has been stabilized.

You should also aim to buy rice bran that has been fortified with additional calcium. Rice bran is high in phosphorous and low in calcium, and feeding it in large quantities can unbalance the ratio of these two essential nutrients. Feeding rice bran with added calcium eliminates this problem, reducing the risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Where to Buy Rice Bran For Horses

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. 

When buying rice bran for your horse, remember to stock up on a good-quality vitamin and mineral supplement or feed balancer at the same time. While rice bran has many nutritional benefits for horses, it does not contain all the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive. Using a supplement will reduce the risk of any nutritional deficiencies occurring.

Is Rice Bran Oil Good For Horses?

Like rice bran, rice bran oil is also ideal for horses that need to gain weight or those that need extra energy. It is added to the horse’s normal feed, providing extra energy and skin-boosting fatty acids.

Rice bran oil is extracted from rice bran and is supplied in a liquid form. This makes it messier to feed than rice bran, but it is much higher in energy on a pound-for-pound basis. It can be used as an energy source for horses that suffer from certain metabolic or hormonal problems, but only under veterinary supervision.

Try Rice Bran Oil from Manna Pro.

Summary – Pros and Cons of Rice Bran for Horses

So, as we have learned, rice bran can be a useful addition to your horse’s diet, and brings many nutritional advantages! Most horses enjoy eating rice bran, and it can be a great way to add extra energy to the feed of horses that are underweight or in hard work.  It also boosts the health of skin and hair, giving your horse a lustrous shiny coat.

We hope that this article has 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 comment below with your experiences of feeding rice bran to horses!


How much rice bran should I feed my horse?

When adding rice bran to your horse's diet, it is a good idea to start feeding a small amount to begin with to reduce the chance of a digestive upset. Gradually increase the amount until you reach the desired amount but remember to reduce the amount of grain fed accordingly.
Most nutritionists recommend feeding 1-2lb of rice bran to an average-sized horse per day. This will increase your horse's energy intake by 10-20%.

Do you have to soak rice bran for horses?

Rice bran for horses normally comes in the form of pellets or a fine sawdust-like powder. It is not necessary to soak rice bran for a prolonged period before feeding it to horses, but it is a good idea to damp the feed down with water before giving it to your horse.

Does rice bran give horses energy?

Rice bran is an excellent source of energy for horses that are active and need a higher amount of calories for their optimal performance. Rice bran is high in fat and contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids. It can be a beneficial feed for horses that lose weight easily, especially during the colder winter months.

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 distinctive unpleasant 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. It also has an unpleasant taste, and your horse is unlikely to eat it.

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