In an effort to keep horses in good weight and warm, feeding a warm bran mash has long been a go-to routine for horse owners during cold winter months. Modern veterinary science, however, suggests that this may not be the best option for keeping horses' gastrointestinal systems healthy and working properly.
According to Dr. Clare Thunes, PhD, an equine nutritionist and owner of Summit Equine Nutrition, cautions that feeding a bran mash occasionally can disrupt the balance of bacteria in a horse's cecum and colon and can also cause issues with the calcium-phosphorus balance in some horse's rations.
Alternatively, she suggests feeding horses plenty of quality forage in the winter to keep them warm and in good weight. Forage is rich in complex carbohydrates, which are converted to usable energy for a horse and their body's process of breaking them down creates heat, thus allowing them to maintain a core body temperature and stay warm. Thunes says that a horse consuming an all-forage diet can meet approximately 80% of their daily calorie requirements from the fermentation process of the complex carbohydrates, and the other 20% comes from fats and simple carbohydrates in the forage.
Mashes can offer some benefit though, according to Thunes. Horses and other large animals consume less water during cold temperatures, thus putting them at a heightened risk for impaction colic. Soaking bran or other concentrate helps to keep a horse hydrated.
Read more at The Horse.
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