I received an email from one of my clients asking for a recipe for a “Safe Warm Mash” for her senior horse. She thought a bran mash would be a good choice, but was unsure as to ingredients or cooking instructions. The particular horse is 23 years old and a body score of a solid 6. He is showing some early signs of Cushing’s disease. His current diet is grass hay and Nutrena’s Life Design Senior horse feed, as well as daily pasture turnout.
I have never understood why so many educated consumers, that take the time to transition a horse gradually from one feed to another over 5-7 day period would want to take this chance. A one meal change in a horse’s diet may not cause colic or founder, but it can cause enough of a change in the microbial balance to cause diarrhea or gas, especially in a senior horse. The fact that the calcium and phosphorus ratios in bran are also so out of balance for horses makes me uncomfortable, as we strive for a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus, not 1:12 as is in bran. This is important for proper metabolic function and to maintain bone integrity.
The good news is that there is a safe alternative to making a bran mash! I contacted my client and told her that she already had the ingredients to make a mash for her horse – his senior horse feed - and the most important nutrient in a horse’s diet – water. Senior feeds are high in fiber, as well as properly fortified with calcium and phosphorus. By simply soaking a serving of her horse’s senior feed with warm water for 5-8 minutes until it reaches a consistency her horse will enjoy, she will have a nice warm mash for her senior horse.