Barley Benefits to Horses

Barley, known under the Latin name Hordeum vulgare, is considered to be the oldest human-made grain. Archaeological finds suggest that barley existed around 800,000 years ago. They began to be domesticated for consumption in southern Central Asia and the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. Barley has also made a name for itself as horse feed over the years. However, often, there is a discussion among the owners about what would be more suitable for the horses – barley or oats? Does that give you more “power”? Is the other easier to digest? is barley worth it for horses? Or are there any other alternatives? We want to get to the bottom of these questions in the following expert tip. One of the most important principles of horse feeding is meeting energy and nutrient needs.


Barley compared to the other types of concentrated feed for horses.

In addition to oats and barley, maize is also available as a starchy energy source for feeding the horses. But if you have the choice, you are also spoiled. Because:

Which of the three feeds has the most readily available energy?

In which dosage form should which be fed so that the horses can be optimally provided with energy?

Which feed also has other important components such as high-quality fats, amino acids, etc.?


We draw a direct comparison:

a grain of barley is very hard per se and can only be broken up with difficulty by the horse’s teeth and is therefore considered difficult to digest – also due to the starch structure it contains. Compared to oats, this quickly becomes clear: around 84% of the starch from whole oats can be digested in the small intestine, that of whole barley only 22%. It is therefore advisable to feed the barley in flaked or popped form. Because in this way, it even reaches a higher content of digestible energy than oats.



For comparison: Around 900 grams of broken down barley corresponds to the ratio of one kilogram of oats. Since the energy from barley flows more slowly into the horse’s organism than oats or maize, this is called “longer-lasting energy.”

Compared to barley for horses, oats have larger and softer grains that the horses chew better and, therefore, “open” easily. Compared to the non-preprocessed cereal grains, it is ahead in terms of the usable starch content and the rapid energy availability. Besides, it contains higher quality fats than barley, and its high proportion of essential amino acids should not be neglected. All in all, he is considered to be “the horse’s grain.”


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