Fact or fiction: oats make horses excitable

  • Myth: “Oats cause horses to be excitable”

    Truth: Yes, but don’t let that put you off feeding them

    Nutritionist Katie Lugsden says: “There is no hard and fast rule about this — it depends on the individual horse. The energy in oats is readily released into the bloodstream, and some equines, mainly ponies, can react badly to it. Naked, huskless oats are not as high in fibre as traditional oats and the energy in these is particularly concentrated.

    “In fact, maize, wheat and barley are all higher in energy than traditional oats — oats are higher in fibre but lower in energy than these other cereals, so traditionally they were a popular and useful foodstuff — but oats are more popular, so they also get more bad press. Oats are a useful foodstuff, but should be fed in moderation and only when needed. These days, most horses don’t need them at all.”

    Ruth Bishop adds: “Oats are also high in starch, although not so much so as other cereals. Feeding too much starch may cause digestive discomfort, as the starch bypasses the small intestine and goes straight into the large intestine — it may well be discomfort, rather than excitability, that the horse is showing.”

  • This formed part of a feature in Horse & Hound’s feeding special (13 October, ’05)

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