Rice Bran For Horses

  • Does your horse have trouble keeping weight on?
  • Do you want to add more healthy calories to his diet?
  • Do you want to help your horse build lean muscle?

If you answered "YES" to any of these questions, a rice bran supplement may be just what you need...

...it can provide all these benefits and more.

Rice bran (RB) can be a great addition to many horses' diets.

But what is it?

When the rice seed is harvested, there are three stages. The first stage takes off the hull to make brown rice. Then the second stage removes the brown layer to make white rice. It is this brown layer that is the bran.

A number of national companies make a RB product, including Triple Crown and Moorman's/ADM.

When you buy rice bran, make sure you buy the stabilized kind (more on this later) if you will not be using the entire amount within a week.

This bran layer consists of almost 60% of the rice kernel nutrients, even though it is less than 10% of the total weight of the rice kernel. The high fat content makes it an ideal choice to feed to performance horses and other horses that need additional calories in their diet to maintain performance or increase body weight. Weighing in at almost 20% oil, RB has a very high fat content.

RB comes in two forms: powder and pellets (pictured below*). You can buy rice bran at many feed stores, though not every store will carry both forms.

Why fortified?

RB has an inverted calcium:phosphorus ratio ...therefore if it is going to be fed in significant amounts, the fortified version should be fed. Fortified RB contains additional calcium to ensure that the calcium:phosphorus ratio of the entire ration stays balanced.

Stabilized Rice Bran

Because of its high fat content, RB can quickly go rancid if it is not stabilized.

Stabilized rice bran is preserved in some manner, usually by adding mixed tocopherols (such as Vitamin E) to prevent it from going rancid.

Unless you are able to use an entire bag in a week or less, you definitely want to make sure you are buying the stabilized rice bran, or it will go bad before you can use it all.

If you are in a particularly warm or humid climate, it is even more important to have the stabilized version.

Even if you will be using all of your RB fast enough that you don't need the stabilized version, you may still consider getting the stabilized version.

I've heard of numerous owners that can and do buy the unstabilized version because they use it quickly enough.

However, when they've changed to the stabilized version, they've found that they need to feed less than the amount of unstabilized version to get the same results.

This is because nutrient loss starts immediately when the bran is removed from the rice plant.

Therefore, unstabilized RB has been losing nutrients for days or weeks before you get it...

...depending on how long it takes it to get from the field to the store, and how long it sits on the store shelf before you buy it.

Feeding Methods

RB weighs in at approximately 1200 calories per pound, making it a very effective weight building feed. It is not as high in calories as oil (4000 calories/pound) because oil is 100% fat while RB contains other things such as fiber, some starch, and protein.

Which form you choose to feed, powder or pellets, depends largely on your own preferences and what is available in your area. As owners of picky horses know, it also depends largely on your horse's preferences.

When feeding RB, no more than 2 pounds per day should be fed.

Benefits of feeding

Not only is RB a highly palatable fat source, it also has a few other benefits: It contains gamma oryzanol. Gamma oryzanol is thought to help muscle repair and rebuilding. Many horse owners have reported increased lean muscle mass in horses that are on RB.

It has a significant amount of fiber in addition to the fat. The fiber in the RB makes it less likely to cause digestive upset than other calorie sources that contain large amounts of starch.

Due to its mixed composition, RB is an ideal fat source for many horses.

Knowledge of what it is, and how it might fit into a horse's diet can help you make knowledgeable decisions about whether or not to incorporate it into your horse's diet.

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*Thank you to Arabians4ME from HGS Horse Forums for the use of the rice bran picture.