Dig out your chef’s hat!
During this delightful cold snap we’re experiencing, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for our horses standing around in the single-digit temperatures and snow. Although we know they don’t get cold as easily as we do, it does seem a little unfair that we’re curled up with chicken soup while they’re chomping on some frozen hay.
We can’t give horses chicken soup of course, but one thing we’ve found they love is a good bran mash. Most tack shops sell a dry bran mash which needs to be mixed per the package instructions with hot water, and occasionally a dose of salt/electrolyte. Mashes should cling together after the water is added but not be soupy.
Although veterinarians warn that bran mashes shouldn’t be fed in place of a well-balanced diet or in too great a quantity to horses who aren’t used to it, they are great occasional treats for a horse who enjoys them.
The most fun part of mixing up a good, hot mash is flavoring it. Many people add apples and carrots, but we’ve come up with a few more creative flavoring sources, as well:
- Applesauce: keeps better and mixes in well texture-wise with a mash as compared to a chopped apple.
- Carrot or apple juice: for flavor that packs a punch
- Apple cider: liquid or dried forms both work well in our experience
- Beer: beer by itself is a favorite of many horses, most famously Zenyatta, but it works well in a mash too. Guinness or other dark beers with a strong flavor seem to appeal to most. Apple-flavored beers like Reds provides the best of both worlds. Straight beer is the old wives’ remedy for anhydrosis. We can’t say for sure if it works, but the horses sure enjoy it.
- Molasses: Can be quite sticky, so a dried form sometimes works best (and it won’t freeze)
- Peppermint: Either the candies or the essential oil (from a health food store)
- Coffee (in small amounts): A coffee pots have long been the sources for hot liquid to make bran mashes
- Ginger snaps: These have a long shelf life and bring some extra flavoring to the mash
- Licorice: Either the candy or the essential oil
- Orange-flavored Metamucil: It provides extra fiber and the flavor is appealing to some horses
Recent studies have suggested that horses also enjoy less traditional flavors. Among them–banana, cherry, and fenugreek (a spice you can find at the supermarket).
Your turn: What flavors do you like to add to your horse’s mash?