Bran mash is a meal that was traditionally given to horses after a hard day’s hunting. Mashes were also a popular feed for convalescents, elderly animals with poor teeth or mares which had just foaled. A warm, fragrant mash enhanced with the addition of salt and molasses conjures up images of times long past, but is there a place for a bran mash in a horse’s diet today?
Wheat bran is a by-product of the milling process. It’s a fluffy, feedstuff characterized by broad flakes that are about half the density of oats. Bran contains high B vitamin content but is relatively low in protein and fiber. It is also very high in phosphorus and low in calcium and this can present a problem if bran is fed regularly in high quantities.
A horse needs calcium for bone strength and growth amongst other things and an imbalance in the phosphorus to calcium ratio causes the horse’s body to metabolize calcium from the bones to correct the imbalance. This can result in a weakened skeletal structure and causes problems particularly in young horses that are still growing.
For this reason, it’s not advisable to feed a regular diet of bran although an occasional mash as a treat is not harmful. It is also useful when encouraging a picky horse to eat as it is very palatable.
Making Bran Mash
To make a basic bran mash:
· Put about one pound of dry bran into a large bucket.
· Pour in boiling water and give it a good stir. The mash can be crumbly in texture or sloppy, depending on what your horse prefers.
· Place a cover over the bucket and allow the mash to steam for about 15 minutes until the mash has cooled to a comfortable temperature.
· Stir in molasses, sliced root vegetables, and a little salt.
Bran can also be used in an emergency to make a hot poultice for application to a puncture wound in the sole of a horse’s foot or to draw infection from a cut or prick wound. This is very effective as the bran poultice will stay warm for quite a while, although it’s not advisable to leave the horse unattended for any length of time if the poultice is within reach. One of my horses once removed a bran poultice from his leg and proceeded to eat the filling!
A bran mash makes a tasty treat as an occasional reward or for a horse that’s recovering from illness and off his feed. Don’t feed bran regularly as it can have a detrimental effect unless you add suitable supplementation to balance its nutritional content.
Image courtesy: Novice Life
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