Though many horse owners are inclined to offer their steeds warm bran mashes as the weather cools, this tradition has fallen out of favor in recent years, and for good reason: Wheat bran mashes are not nearly as beneficial as once believed.
Many older equestrians remember feeding warm mashes to their horses after they had exerted themselves in cooler weather; they may remember adding salt and breathing deeply as their horses slurped the liquid concoction from their buckets. Used generally once a week, the mash had a laxative effect that was deemed beneficial, reports The Horse.
The addition of this once-a-week, novel meal is completely contrary to how horse owners are taught to care for their animals: to change feed slowly and over time, increasing the amount of new feed incrementally over a period of days. It's not a surprise that the mash had a laxative effect as it caused intestinal distress.
Additionally, wheat bran has a high phosphorus content; horses that consume a diet that is too high in phosphorus can develop musculoskeletal issues, though this is traditionally more common in horses that are consistently fed diets that are not in balance.
Even with these issues, bran mashes do have a place in the feed room: they can entice sick horses to eat and adding salt to a mash can help horses that have lost loads of salt through excessive physical exertion. If owners are reluctant to add unique mashes to a horse's diet, adding warm water to a familiar feed can offer the same benefits without the potential gastrointestinal upset. Additionally, adding water and salt or an electrolyte to hay pellets can also entice horses to eat. If a weekly bran mash is ideal, adding a small amount of bran to each meal will help ensure it doesn't upset the horse's digestive tract.
Read more at The Horse.
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