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.
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.
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!