One of the most common struggles I hear from horse owners is that they always have one or two horses that they are trying to put weight on. When you feel as though you are doing everything right, such as deworming regularly, getting their teeth done, having great quality hay and feed, and consulting your veterinarian to see if there are any underlying issues, it can be easily frustrating to not notice an improvement in your horse’s body condition. Sometimes horses are simply hard keepers…just like some people! One practice that I have seen people have success with is supplementing with rice bran. There are many advantages to engaging in this feeding practice and a few precautions that need to be taken into consideration as well.
First, rice bran is the brown layer left from when the rice seed is harvested. So yes, it is a by-product of rice milling…which just goes to show you that by-products are not bad! There are many by-products that make great feed ingredients. These days, there seems to be many negative connotations associated with by-products so I just wanted to clear that up…now back to rice bran! Being that it is high in fat and fiber, it is a good product for digestive issues related to starch. Anyone that has horses who are struck with laminitis and colic often knows what I’m talking about. Some ailments call for a low starch diet, but you still need adequate calories for athletes, lesson horses, hard keepers, etc. This is where rice bran can come in and be a huge asset to your feeding program. Rice bran is also very palatable. Another complaint I hear is that someone has one horse in the barn who is just a picky eater. If this sounds like one of your horses, trying rice bran could be an effective strategy for getting those that like to turn their noses up from so many things to eat better. Furthermore, rice bran is high in vitamin E. For horses exercising heavily, Vitamin E is required in large amounts, and rice bran is a good, available source. From a cosmetic standpoint, you will likely notice an increase in quality of hair coat and skin condition. Rice bran will help your horse look slick and shiny for its next big competition.
Now for the precautions…there are several that people need to keep in mind when supplementing with rice bran. Make sure that you purchase fortified rice bran. This kind will have added calcium to balance an inverted calcium to phosphorus ratio. Also buy stabilized rice bran. If it is not stabilized, then due to the high fat content, it will go rancid quickly unless it is used within about a week. When feeding, keep in mind to not feed more than 2 lbs of whatever rice bran supplement you are using per day. It is very high in calories so don’t treat it like you would your regular feed!
So if you are one of those people out there struggling to find a solution for you skinny animal…this might just be it! Rice bran can be purchased in pellets or in powder form. So start taking advantage of the many benefits that a high fat supplement such as rice bran has to offer and enjoy your happier and healthier horse!