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Really dumb questions about bran mash

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    Really dumb questions about bran mash

    So I got a bran mash as an Xmas gift and stupidly realized that I have no idea what to do with it. I mean, I know the part about adding it to hot water in a bucket and letting it steep outside the nose range of my horse. But what about the rest:

    1. Do I substitute the mash for my horse's usual dinner? Or do I give regular dinner AND the mash, separately? Or together? Or as a separate third meal some other time during the day!?

    2. I'm pretty sure that my beast has never had a bran mash in his life. Should I give him a little bit the day before and see how he reacts, or is that overkill? Don't plenty of horses eat bran mash now and again and survive just fine?

    3. Is the mash supposed to be watery, or more like oatmeal consistency?

    4. If my horse ends up liking it--and duh, of course he will--is there any point in giving him mashes in the future?

    I feel like such a dumb horse owner. Help!
    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog

    1. I've always given them separate--something special on a wintry day--not a substitute for dinner.

    2. To get an idea, just offer him a handful, dry, and see what he thinks of it. My horses think it's yummy.

    3. Depends upon the horse's preference. Some of mine looove it in a mashed potato consistency, others in a cream soup consistency. If I get it just right, they paw the ground while they're eating it because they can't get it down fast enough. This time of year, though, I'd feed it on the wet side.

    4. Mashes have been around practically forever. I've never met a horse who didn't like them, but I'm sure there's one out there somewhere who doesn't. People think that it adds fiber (true) and so helps move things along. People think that it adds water to the diet (true), so it's beneficial when water is apt to be too cold to appeal to horses. People think that it's often a good way to give medicines or supplements (true) that you'd ordinarily have to dose.

    Look at your package to see if it contains flax seed or linseed oil in addition to the bran. If so, that will help provide a balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. If you feed a LOT of bran, you'll want to make sure that you do add some flax.

    It's fun to watch them eat something messy that they really like. They get mustaches.
    Barbaro Cultist, Metabolic Nazi


      damped with warm water to -breadcrumbs

      dont do sloppy just atad of water - then mixed to breadcrumbs


        our horses get it ever sunday night (they arent worked on mondays) and at shows, they get it every day they are not worked and the night before they arent worked. helps their stomach and keeps them hydrated with all the water.

        we do it as a substitute to grain...but still add supplements...i on occasion (as in, when i remember) add a little bit to night feed to mix the supplements. my horses LOVE LOVE LOVE their mash! my 6 year old plays in it, comes out with his face COVERED in it!
        "If you are nervous you arent focused-if you are focused, there is no room for nerves!"


          Consistency is a matter of personal preference (the horse's preference). It's like making oatmeal - some people like it moist, some like it dry. I tend to make my bran rather moist, to get some warm water into my horses. They don't really need the extra water, since they drink plenty on their own, but it makes me feel better.
          It's less messy when it's more dry, because when it's really wet they will slop it all over the place. Mine really like it when I add some molasses, although some of the pre-packaged mixes already have sugar or other stuff added.

          There are some nutritional concerns if you feed too much bran, but I don't think you have problems with an occassional mash. I was at one barn that fed a bran mash weekly to all the horses. The barn owner would take the leftover veggies and fruits from her fridge, and mix them in. I think this is common in competition barns after a long weekend of work, where the horses get Monday off.

          If you're worried about giving your horse too much, mix up half of what you have and see how he does with it. I'm sure he'll enjoy it!


            We mash every Sunday night and the horses LOVE it (they know what it means when they see me bring the "mash wagon" out). I make mine very wet as the biggest thing to me is the added water to their diet. And they all seem to enjoy it that way. I also throw in some carrots for an extra treat and will dress meds on top for those who get them.

            My recipe is equal amounts Ultium and bran, and everyone gets a scoop, more or less. Lots and lots of hot water, well mixed, and allowed to sit (I cover it with towels so it keeps the steam in) while the kids get brought in. Yeah, it's messy, but it's good for them, they love it, and it makes me happy!

            The only real time I've had a horse turn her nose up at a mash was last winter when it was part of little mare's re-feed after she had a little colic. She wanted NOTHING to do with the mashes I was giving her. She sucks it down like crazy every Sunday night now and begs for more...I think she was just being difficult (not suprising!).


              Horse people have ALWAYS been taught to keep a horses diet consistant and not to make any sudden feed changes. Feeding bran mash only once a week, is a major diet change once per week! There are no studies that show that bran actually helps "clean them out." Now, I have fed bran and been at different barns that have fed bran and most of the horses are fine with it. I would be very careful though if I had a horse with a sensitve stomach or a tendency to colic. If you are concerned about water intake and want to give them a boost, a beet pulp mash daily or wetting their grain should do the trick. If you are concerned about them not getting enough water, it should be a daily concern anyways, not just a once a week concern.


                Most horses love a nice bran mash...
                However, bran will also upset the Calcium/Phosphorus ratios, which is why I do not feed it at all.


                  Originally posted by JSO View Post
                  Horse people have ALWAYS been taught to keep a horses diet consistant and not to make any sudden feed changes. Feeding bran mash only once a week, is a major diet change once per week! There are no studies that show that bran actually helps "clean them out." Now, I have fed bran and been at different barns that have fed bran and most of the horses are fine with it. I would be very careful though if I had a horse with a sensitve stomach or a tendency to colic. If you are concerned about water intake and want to give them a boost, a beet pulp mash daily or wetting their grain should do the trick. If you are concerned about them not getting enough water, it should be a daily concern anyways, not just a once a week concern.
                  I've considered this on many occasions, but having never seen anyone in distress the following morning, I've not worried too much about it. About six weeks ago or so, both our vets came together on an emergency call on a Sunday afternoon, right as I was starting to feed the mash. I chatted with them both about it and some of the things I've heard regarding the pros and cons in feeding a mash on a weekly basis. They both LOVED the fact that we did it, encouraged me to keep doing it, and said the hydration value alone was a great reason to do it. So, I don't mind too much now, and still enjoy how happy the kids are when they see that "mash wagon" come out on Sundays! And I love the slurpy-gobbly noise as they eat it!


                    Feeding bran mash on a Sunday night to hunters is most common and as a traditional method in order to reduce risks of azutoria otherwise known as Monday morning disease.

                    Don't forget though there is still a lot of nutritional value in it.
                    Last edited by Thomas_1; Dec. 31, 2006, 04:56 AM.


                      Let's keep this in proper perspective. For people who feed grain everyday with a NSC content of 50-60 %, changing to a lower NSC mash of 20-30% before their day off is a good thing. It is higher in fiber than grain, and lower in starch.
                      For people who do not feed grain on a regular basis, the NSC in bran is too high, and can cause an upset in gut microbes. Check out the database at

                      Bran is too high in starch for carb intolerance horses. Look at the wide range of 'normal'. Some bran has a lot of flour left in it.
                      It also has more simple sugars in it than flour, because it includes that part of the wheat kernel that has the embryo and it needs rapidly available energy sources when it germinates.

                      Some people have been lead to believe that bran is mostly fiber and can be fed on an occasional basis. I disagree. It can be fed alternatively with grain.
                      Are you feeding your horse like a cow?


                        I think it's too rough on a horse's gut.. I have at one point had a nutritionist tell me that it is like sandpaper-- thus the diarrea and the reason why people think it has a "cleaning of the gut" action. And it upsets the whole calc/phos ratio. At least if you are going to do it I would not substitute it for their regular meal, and do not feed too much, if you insist on feeding it. Other mashes will hydrate them.


                          There's no magic to them, they're simply a nice little goodie. Treat them as you would a snack for a kid--not too often, not too much, only if they clean their plate (their "regular" dinner), make it the way they like it, then simply sit back, smile, and watch them enjoy it.
                          Click here before you buy.


                            Sorry this is long. Feeding bran is not really good.

                            Feeding bran mashes has been a tradition that has been going on for generations. Horse owners believe they are doing something positive for their horses when they feed them bran mashes: feeding bran to warm them up in winter, keep them loose (extra fiber), or add water to their diet.

                            Bran has a calcium-to-phosphorous ratio of 1-to-12. The ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorous in a horse's diet is 1-to-1 or 1-to-2. The ratio is badly out of balance. When bran is fed an increase in calcium is also needed.

                            It is well known that a sudden change in diet causes digestive disorders in horses. When a change of feed made over a period of days or even weeks, the microbes in the gut have time to adjust. But, when a sudden change is made, many of the micro-organisms die. The dying microbes are unable to assist in digestion and they also give off toxins that can be a detriment of the animal's well being. If the sudden change is a small one, like the once a week bran mash, the horse may experience abdominal distress and discomfort, such as mild gas or maybe some diarrhea but nothing serious like full colic.

                            The research is suspecting that that is what is happening when horses get the weekly or occasional bran mash.
                            It would be far better, if you wish your horse to have bran, to give the bran on a regular basis and then supplement with feed-grade limestone. People think that bran has fiber and that is the reason for feeding it - extra fiber in the diet but the fiber in bran is indigestible (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin).
                            One pair of good hands is better than having a thousand different bits.


                              since your new make sure you make your bran mash with hot water and feed it while still warm the warm meal is nice on winter nights and part of the whole idea, oatmeal to a little wetter is good and i made mine with half whole oats and half bran mash and a dollop of red cell which is cherry or whatever it is flavored and smells wonderful and the horses were screaming in their stalls for it before it got there because it smelled so good , one of my favorite school horses would shove his whole face down in the bucket and have to have his face washed after he ate his mash dinner LOL, I fed it once a week in NY in the winter at night on the day off, daily for lunch to the stallion and the older over 18 crowd in the winter for lunch


                                I agreee with no changes to the diet. There are no benefits to feeding bran mashes, and definitely some negatives.

                                Bran has a LOT of phosphorous. Horses should have at least one part calcium to one part Phosphorous, preferrably 2 parts calcium, so giving them bran really throws their mineral balance off unless you figure out how much alfalfa to feed to balance it out.

                                It IS a sudden change to feed once a week, and CAN make a horse colic.

                                Bran has always been fed for the fiber content, but HAY has a highter fiber content, and grass hay is perfectly balanced..

                                The only other benefit would be water, but you can always feed soupy grain, or soaked hay to help "try" to increase their water, BUT if they "eat" more water, they usually just drink less


                                  While I agree that bran shouldn't just be fed because "it's always been done", I also want to point out that even though yes, the phosphorus content of bran is very high relative to calcium, a healthy animal is MORE than capable of handling the occasional load of phosphorus with no difficulty. It's not poisonous, and as with any other occasional treat, it is unlikely to upset the system of your average, healthy critter.
                                  Click here before you buy.


                                    Really dumb questions about bran mash

                                    Originally posted by Fairview Horse Center View Post
                                    IBran has always been fed for the fiber content, but HAY has a highter fiber content, and grass hay is perfectly balanced..
                                    Without a hay analysis, how would you know that? I've yet to find a grass hay that was "perfectly balanced". Far from it actually.


                                      According to research, feeding bran once a week can cause excess gas and diarrhea and does upset the microbes in the gut.

                                      Feeding bran for the fiber content is a waste of time since the fiber in bran is indigestible.

                                      When you feed your weekly bran mash, you can in fact be doing more harm to your horse than good.

                                      From Horse Illustrated Magazine (just read this the other day) article called 7 Feeding Myths Shattered

                                      MYTH #6: A weekly bran mash is good for my horse's digestive health.
                                      FACT: Wheat bran is actually junk food for horses. Yes, they love the taste, but it's not really good for them. First, as a fiber source it's not that digestible, and second, bran contains about 13 times as much phosphorus as calcium, an imbalance which can eventually affect a horse's bone structure. Third, its famous laxative effect doesn't really exist. Horses are quite sensitive to sudden changes in their diets, so when you feed your horse a bran mash instead of his regular meal, it causes a mild digestive upset, and the result the next day is loose manure. An occasional bran mash on a cold winter's night does no real harm, but your horse's digestive system would prefer beet pulp (soaked in warm water has a similar effect). If you feed bran on a daily basis, try to make it no more than 10 percent of his total diet. Avoid bran if you're feeding a young horse—the calcium/phosphorus imbalance can interfere with his growth. On the whole, there are better feeds than bran.
                                      Edited to site url of above quote.
                                      Last edited by Trails; Jan. 1, 2007, 09:35 AM.
                                      One pair of good hands is better than having a thousand different bits.


                                        I've always

                                        added to my big horses mind you, I have mainly minis, 1 large 3qt scoop of bran to 1/2 their normal dinner and have not had any issues. Never have I had a diarheea bout from it, unless I put too much oil in it. I add some oil, particularily if there wasn't as much poo as normal for the horse, some molasses and some carrots or apples depending on the horse, I have had a TB and now a Mini that will not eat an apple no matter what. Now instead of bran I'm doing alfalfa cubes and rolled oats I can't find decent hay that they will eat so they are eating the alfalfa cubes, I add some beet pulp to it and they slurp it up like no tomorrow.