by Emanuela Valle, veterinary, Prof. at Torino University
Old horselore says a mash a week is a good thing to refresh the horse’s gut. However, many of us have seen the real effects of this ‘tradition’ the following day: very often the horse will have runny droppings, and anyone who thinks this is beneficial for the prevention of constipation is sadly mistaken.
Often after eating an occasional mash a horse will have diarrhea the following day
This is due to an imbalance within the gut which affects its micro-organisms and therefore the consistency of the faeces.
So, any sudden changes in diet, such as that of the occasional bran mash, possibly also containing cooked cereals, is absolutely not a healthy thing for a horse, and there are various reasons why this is so – let us examine each of these.
Cereals are very high in starch, which the horse is unable to digest easily. This is why we need to be very careful with the amount of cereals we feed.
(photo: Veterian Key)
Alternatives to mashes
If we really want to help the gut to function better, and to absorb water, we have to look at fibre-rich products. We can choose:
polpe di barbabietola
Advice for the preparation of a healthy mash:
A good mash will contain fibre-rich foods, and must be given every day, having initially been introduced gradually to the horse’s diet. So for a 500kg horse we would give
Once we have selected the most viable options for our personal situation, we add around 2 litres of boiling water and let that stand for at least one hour. Before feeding, add in a few carrots or apples, provided the horse chews well, and 30g of brewer’s yeast.
This should be introduced to the horse very gradually, starting off with 300g and increasing the amount very gradually over several days until we reach the desired full dosage*. Feeding this every day will provide water, fibre and gut-friendly probiotics.
*All changes to diet should always first be checked out with a qualified equine nutritionist, or your vet.
Other articles by Emanuela Valle:
The horses' stomach and nutrition
The teeth and chewing