Bran Mash: What’s it Really Good For?

During the colder months, many horse owners go on a quest for wheat bran, probably so that they can make their four-legged friends a bran mash–a warm treat for horses on frosty winter days.
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During the colder months, many horse owners go on a quest for wheat bran, probably so that they can make their four-legged friends a bran mash–a warm treat for horses on frosty winter days. Aside from the obvious, what's in a bran mash? And what is it meant to do?.

Here's an easy recipe. The two basic ingredients, simply enough, are wheat bran (rice bran, which is relatively high in unsaturated fats and is often used as a fat supplement in the diet of high-performance horses) and boiling water. The amount of water used depends on the desired wetness or sloppiness of the mash. Blend thoroughly and steep for at least 15 minutes, covering the bucket or feed tub with a towel. Just prior to feeding, add any other ingredients that might tempt a horse to dive in, such as diced apples, sliced carrots, a pull of molasses, or a handful of oats. And voilà … a bran mash is created.

Bran mashes remain a staple in the feeding regime of some horsemen and continue to be a traditional meal for horses recovering from sickness, for mares immediately following foaling, and for aged horses with dental problems. A bran mash also is often the meal of choice for horses following an intense workout, especially for those that do not drink adequately during or after intense exercise and teeter on the brink of dehydration.

However, aside from the B vitamins niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, wheat bran offers little in the way of nutrition. Even as a fiber supplement, wheat bran contains only 10-12% crude fiber, which is considerably less than other sources of fiber such as beet pulp (20%) or grass hay (28-34%)

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