Weekly Bran Mashes are Asking For Trouble!

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

It's getting cold and you want to offer your horse a nice warm bran mash. But what may seem comforting, could lead to a dangerous colic attack. 

It all has to do with your horse's microbiome - the microbial population residing in the horse's digestive tract. These microorganisms are responsible for digesting fibers from forages and other feedstuffs, to provide energy for your horse. They are sensitive to changes that can alter their pH but are able to adjust to small, incremental changes to their environment. 

Abrupt alterations to the diet, however, can trigger a sudden episode of gas colic. Make sure to give your horse’s microbial population time to make the transition. Consistency is key. A bran mash, or any new feed for that matter, must be fed every day, not once a week. Introduce it gradually, taking two to three weeks to build up to the desired amount. Finally, be aware that bran is very high in phosphorus; therefore, it is best to choose a commercially fortified version that has added calcium.


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