The Unexpected Origin of “Feeling Your Oats”

When someone wanders outside the boundaries of maturity, we tend to say that they’re “feeling their oats.” Out all night and until the wee hours of the morning, avoiding responsibility, embracing newfound authority — it all falls of the definition of “feeling your oats.” So how did the grains become an idiom for uninhibited behavior? The phrase is not really intended to refer to the tactile act of feeling oats, but experiencing the effects of ingesting them — like a horse would. When horses are fed oats instead of the hay or grass they're accustomed to, they tend to get a burst of energy. Galloping around, the horses seem to be imbued with a new drive. They stride with confidence and purpose and seem to stand a little taller. They’re feeling those oats. Horses typically get oats when they need some quick energy from starches and sugars, though there’s a good amount of protein and B vitamins in there, too. Unlike other starches, horses can munch on oats raw. Then, presumably, they tear it up. This is especially true of racehorses, who might consume up to 35,000 calories a day, some of it in the form of oats or processed feed with more fats and fiber. So, when you need a little boost, a pick-me-up, slam down some oats and start feeling them.