There has been a long tradition of giving your horse a bran mash once per week as a treat. The treat was usually given to ‘working’ horses on Sunday, their day of rest. These days we turn to the bran mash as a treat, change or just as something different to give our horses.
Reasons For a Bran Mash
Some tout the bran mash as a preventative measure to prevent colic. This quite true as the bran will loosen the horses bowels and has a laxative nature. On the other hand some feel it may cause to much irritation in the horse’s bowel and cause the horse to lose too much fluid.
Wheat bran is the outer husk of the wheat kernel. The wheat kernel is the part which gets ground to make flour which is used to make bread. When the bran, or outer covering is stripped off it is used for livestock feed, as well as for human consumption.
The stable where I grew up included a bran mash once per week for the horses. We used to love to mix the sweet smelling bran and scoop it to the horses. These days I concern myself with the balance of the calcium to phosphorous ratio. For horses we like to keep the calcium:phosphorous ratio 1:1. Bran, however, has a calcium:phosphorous ratio of 1:12.
This extra phosphorous can build up in the horse’s system and rob the horse of calcium.
A once per week treat is ok, but as a regular food, bran and bran mashes should not be fed regularly.
Alternative to Bran Mash
Rather than giving a bran mash once per week consider giving your horse a ‘mash’ once per week. By mash, I mean add boiling water to your horse’s rations so their feed is a warm mash which can be easily eaten.
To make a ‘mash’:
- Put your horse’s feed rations in a clean feed bucket or tub.
- Add some special ingredients such as carrots cut up lengthwise, apples and a bit of molasses.
- Boil enough water to cover the feed.
- Pour boiling water over the grain, pellets and treats.
- Cover and let ‘steep’ for 5 -10 minutes.
- Make sure the pellets have crumbled and are warm to the touch, not hot, before you,
- Feed your horse.
Using your same rations, just wet down, avoids introducing a new, unfamiliar grain, into your horse’s diet. There is a possibility of getting colic from introducing a new grain into your horses diet, so using your own regular rations can avoid this possibility.
How to Make a Bran Mash
- Put approximately 1 litre of dry bran in a feed bucket or tub.
- You can add some cut up carrot, a cup of sweet feed or other treats.
- Boil enough water to cover the bran.
- Pour boiling water over the bran until it is moist and crumbley, not too wet and not too dry. The Goldilocks factor of ‘just right’.
- Cover the bucket and let the bran, cook, or steep until the bran is cool enough to touch. This may take 5 – 10 minutes.
We used to also add a teaspoon of epsom salts to help keep the bowels moving.
These days I do not subscribe to bran mashes, but rather use the regular complete pelleted feed that is fed every day and make a mash of the regular pelleted feed. This way they get:
- the benefit of the mash
- they keep on their same diet – no sudden changes which may cause colic
- I feel good for giving them a mash.
Do you have a favorite bran mash recipe you would like to share? Send an email…