It’s that time of year. As many horse owners know, extreme weather change can be accompanied by bouts of colic. At the same time, we often see the benefits of a warm bran mash being touted to thwart the digestive upsets that can occur. But before you rush to the health food aisle of the feed store, you may want to think for a moment if it is the right thing for your horse.
A warm bran mash, with any number of additives such as Epsom salts, molasses and medications are a rather traditional addition to the feed regime. Often said to soothe and settle a horse after a particularly strenuous workout or at times of extreme cold weather, there’s no doubt horses usually delight in this occasional meal. However, like anything else involving horse care, we should not look at these things in isolation.
There was a time that bran was widely used as an integral ingredient in the horses’ diet when rations were mixed by the owner or trainer. High in phosphorous, several B group vitamins, and very palatable, quality bran was found in most feed stores. However, with a growing reliance on pre-mixed feeds, quality bran can be hard to come by, usually only found in the health care aisle of the local supermarket. If “bran” is found in the feed store, it is often low quality and dusty, more like pollard than true bran which should consist of large, clean flakes. Pollard and poor-quality bran are not so desirable as a horse feed.
Unless bran is a normal part of your horses’ balanced diet, you may want to think twice about providing a bran mash. Why? Well, answer me this…… when is it advisable to make a sudden change to your horses’ diet, including a one-off meal of something they don’t normally eat? That’s right, never! One of the golden rules of feeding horses is to make changes gradually. A bran mash does not have some magical, medicinal property, it represents a change to the normal diet and therefore the inclusion of bran should be incorporated into a balanced diet gradually if you wish to provide the occasional warm mash. If you do choose to include bran in the diet, keep in mind the ideal 2:1 calcium to phosphorous ratio, and if in doubt seek the assistance of a qualified equine nutritionist.
Jenni Fugate is a team member of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases, legal matters, appraisals, and business affairs. Jenni is an expert in Arabians, Teaching, Dressage and Biomechanics. She is a native of Australia and has been working with horses since she was a child, she studied at Melbourne University and graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Equine). She now lives in Utah on her farm where she trains and teaches. For more information on Jenni visit www.theequineexpert.com or you may contact Jenni at Jenni@theequineexpert.com. The opinions expressed are those of Jenni as an expert equestrian.