Bran Mash: What’s It Really Good For?

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Are you seeing more horse owners asking for wheat bran during winter? These well-meaning people are likely to make homemade bran mash for the horses. You might be wondering what’s in bran mash.

Here’s a simple recipe. Simply put, the two main ingredients are wheat bran ( notrice bran) & boiling water. The desired consistency of the mash will determine the amount of water needed. Mix well and let it steep for at most 15 minutes. Cover the bucket with a towel. Add any additional ingredients to the mixture just before feeding. A few common additives are diced apples, sliced carrots and a pinch of molasses. This all depends on the taste of the recipient. Voila! A bran mash has been created.

Bran mashes are still a staple of the horseman’s feeding regimen. They continue to be a traditional food for horses in recovery from sickness, foaling mares, and older horses with dental problems. Bran mash is a popular meal for horses after intense training, particularly for those who are unable to drink enough during and after exercise or are on the verge of becoming dehydrated. Are all those purported uses of bran and water magical or old-fashioned relics from the past?

Wheat bran is not very nutritional, as it is often said in South. It contains little nutrition, other than the B vitamins, thiamin and niacin. Wheat bran is a fiber supplement that contains 10-12% crude fiber. This is significantly less than the 20% or 34% of other fiber sources such as grass hay (28-34%), and beet pulp (20%).

Bran Mash on  Horse

Bran mashes can cause problems in terms of macromineral imbalance. Although no cereal grain, grain byproduct or cereal grain has an equal amount of calcium and phosphorus (except wheat bran), it does contain a high level of phosphorus. The imbalance in wheat bran can cause skeletal problems in young horses if it is fed too often. However, a bran mash may not affect the body’s mineral levels. Young horses should not be fed bran mashes and mashes should not exceed 10% of their daily diet.

Recent years have seen bran’s long-standing properties as a laxative under fire. Horsemen believed for decades that bran could prevent colic by keeping horses’ ingesta flowing smoothly throughout their digestive system. However, research suggests the contrary. Cornell University’s study disproved this myth. Wheat bran, whether it was dried or wet, had no significant effect on stool moisture. Even in the most sloppy condition (imagine drinking watered down applesauce here), the fecal water content increased only three percent. Researchers are trying to figure out how loose manure is produced by horses after being given bran mash. Researchers believe that this is due to mild digestive upsets following a sudden change in diet. Some scientists believe that bran mashing may have a negative impact on the intestinal tract’s population of fiber-fermenting microbes.

Contrary to popular belief a bran mashing will not warm horses in bitter cold. The best way to accomplish this task is to provide the horse with adequate amounts of forage. Hay and other roughages generate more heat than any grain, or grain byproduct.

Although current research does not support the lure of bran mashing, some horses may still require periodic feeding. Finicky eaters may be unable to resist warm bran mashing. There may be no better way to conceal medications than to make them taste good with bran mash. Sprinkle medications in the mash just before you eat to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!