There are many articles published on the Internet, proclaiming that the feeding value of a bran mash is some kind of myth. Well, folks this is a genuine example of today’s veterinarians’ ignorance that completely disregards the knowledge and hundreds of years of horsemen’s experience, as well as the teaching of their forgone fellow veterinarians, who were for most part horsemen.
To point out their stupidity is the fact, that they read too many books and think that horsemen feed the bran mash because it is suppose to have the same effect as in people the bran muffin has, which is of course nonsense. Somewhere, somehow people here call the mash the bran mash, but it was always called just mash. The bran is not the main ingredient in the mash, but the water, salt (electrolytes) and flax seed are. It is not about some major laxative properties why we feed the mash.
First of all it would not make any sense why a horseman would wish that his horse would shit himself once per week, specifically on his day off. The primary reason why we feed mash is rehydration and regeneration of the horse (beside other values) and was commonly done after hard work and before the day off; hence the horse did not lose all the water again the next day. If the horse is supposed to shit himself from the mash, then we would only lose most of the precious water.
When we feed mash, most horses remain calm the next day, despite the large amount of grain fed the night before. There is another recipe for a mash (coming soon) that was primarily fed to mares right after foaling or to horses after colic. This is more of a liquid version, which the horse actually drinks and the point of the bran in it is to make the horse drink the solution that contained herbs, flax seed and electrolytes. Without the bran most horses would not drink it, hence one of the main reasons why we add the bran to the mash is so that the horse will eat it! Many racehorses do not eat well after the race; hence the bran is added to the mash so they eat it!
The bran has its own good qualities, good protein value, while it will not get the horse too high. Further, the addition of bran once per week to the mash hardly presents some major feed change, and stating that it does is just down outright ludicrous! When a horse starts first time on the grass, what does he get? One ounce of grass, may be a pound or two? Of course not, more likely 10 or 20 pounds. So, how could possibly one or two pounds of bran be considered a significant feed change? Of course it is nonsense! Second reason for the addition of bran is to provide needed bulk to refill the half empty gut after competition or shipping and it is not about some laxative properties as some vets or people think. Further more the bran provides a valuable source of protein needed for the regeneration of the tired body after competition or a long trip (shipping).
Many opposing articles by the veterinarians claim that there was some research done on the subject. Where is it?! How many horses involved 1000 or 2000, how long was the research, one year, two or three, how many breeds 20 or 30 in how many disciplines, what environments, what seasons etc? How about forty years, several breeds, many environments and disciplines with over 2000 horses. Well, that is my research, and I assure you, that the mash prepared as instructed did nothing but good to all performance horses after a hard day of work, and there where it was not fed there were more problems with horses, colic being one of them.
If the bran in the mash would create some mineral imbalance, as some vets claim, how is it, that the racehorses in my younger days preformed harder and tougher than today, stayed sounder longer, there were almost no bleeders (see today how many horses run on lasix), and they were getting the same mash once or twice per week as in our article on mash?
When I was a kid a thoroughbred racehorse ran sometimes two races in one day. For example a horse ran 2, 400 meter (1 and half mile) hurdle race, usually the first or second race. Rested up and then ran for example in the eighth race 3, 600 meters (2 miles and a quarter) steeplechase and often won both races. Today they would have to wheel the horses off the track and most of them would tie up, die or collapse, especially on a hot day. Guess what? Today racehorses have the veterinarians running around them before and after the race as if they would be some running sicklings, while in my younger days there were no veterinarians around the racehorses at all and horses received no drugs. As a matter of fact, when I was working somewhat later (early seventies) in Germany on the track, I’ve seen the vet only twice in three years, while the mash was fed once per week.
Do today’s vets help improve the life of horses in various functions or do they not? My research shows that they do not! As a matter of fact, the horses are living worse year by year, hence so many lame and abused horses these days, and one of the main reasons is that today we have almost no horsemen veterinarians. Yes, the veterinarian must be first and for most a horseman in order to be a good vet, and they were at one time, but not anymore; however, should you find one, consider yourself very fortunate, because such man or woman is truly a pearl in the sea. I knew one once, who was a professor in a famous university and who proclaimed to me that the graduates of the veterinary science are for most part nincompoops. That was twenty years ago and it is getting worse.
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison (He should be on the racetrack now)
Ask your self: Do the doctors or the veterinarians of this future prescribe less medicine or more than before? As I see it, we and the horses may live longer today, but more sick and on some drugs, thus spending more money on the vets, doctors or drugs. Over 50% of older people are on some drugs, while most horses are on some supplement or drug most of their lives in the advanced countries.
Research has shown that bran does not have a laxative effect (it is not supposed to have it, the flax seed does, and only mild one).
Studies have found that adding wheat bran to the diet did not soften the stools. In fact, the moisture content of the manure was similar whether the horses received wheat bran or not (that is the whole point! Who would want the horse to shit himself and lose more water via the manure when he is more likely slightly dehydrated after hard and/or exciting performance?).
Instead, wheat bran increases the bulk of the manure, giving the appearance that the horse is dumping a bigger pile (Hello? That is the whole point of the bulk, filing out safely the half empty gut after hard work, shipping or race! No able horseman feeds his horses a lot of hay or grain before a race or strenuous performance, hence the gut is emptier than on average days! The mash helps bring it back safely to normal. In addition many horses literally shit themselves from being nervous during or before performance or shipping. Their gut is often sucked in and half empty. The bulk of the mash serves the purpose to reestablish safely the depleted digestive tract.)
Bran at Olympic Games 2002:
Bran continues to be a popular feed stuff amongst the elite competitors of the Olympics with almost universal use of bran mashes after arrival in Australia and just prior to travel home. The average bran consumption was 250g per horse per day; and 30 countries used it.