Myth: A Bran Mash has Laxative Effect on Horses

Feeding bran mash does not have a laxative effect on horsesOne of the old traditional horse feeding regimes is the feeding of a hot bran mash regularly once a week.

It was believed that bran mashes had a laxative effect on horses that would cleanse their digestive system and as a result help to prevent an attack of colic.

However studies have now shown this to be a myth and that feeding a bran mash to a horse does not have a laxative effect on horses or ponies.


When horses were used for farm work, a bran mash was usually given as a feed on a Saturday evening - the night before their one day off work during the week.

Although few horses today are used for farm work, many horse owners feed a bran mash for the same reasons once a week.

Researchers have found that the addition of wheat bran to the equine diet does not soften the stools.

Instead, the bulk of the manure is increased by the feeding of bran mash - which gives the impression that the horse is producing a larger pile.

Horses are known to be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet - when a horse is fed a bran mash instead of his normal feed, it can cause a mild digestive upset - resulting in diarrhea or loose manure on the following day.

This could be a reason why horse owners have believed for many years that a bran mash has laxative properties.


So why else was it thought for so long that bran DID work as a laxative for horses?

The assumed laxative effect of a bran mash on equines was thought to be caused by the fibre found in wheat bran from which mashes are traditionally prepared.

It is recommended that humans eat a bran cereal to stay "regular," so it is often assumed that wheat bran should work in the same way for horses and ponies.

But, in fact, wheat bran is not a very high fibre feed - it contains around 12% fibre - the same amount of fibre as oats and less fibre than in hay.

An equine diet is typically made up of more than 35% fibre - a typical human diet usually contains less than 2%.

Adding a pound or two of wheat bran to a horses feed won't make much of a difference in the already high-fibre diet of a horse, but a bowl of bran flakes will add a large amount of fibre to the normally low fibre human.

Article: Feeding a bran mash does not have a laxative effect on a horse or pony