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 SafeChoice Senior horse feed, as well as daily pasture turnout.
The Pitfalls of Bran Mashes: Considerations for Senior Horses’ Diet
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 Safe Alternative: Senior Horse Feed Mash
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.