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Are There Benefits To Feeding Bran To Horses?

benefits of feeding bran to horses

The benefits of introducing bran into horses' diets are many, offering them huge health and performance advantages. This article will cover the pros and cons of feeding bran to horses, looking at topics such as how its vitamins and minerals supplement the diet, improving digestion, maintaining good nutrition, providing enhanced energy level, boosting muscle development, and improving conditions such as laminitis.

We will also examine the potential risks involved, like introducing too much bulk for some horses and possible issues with mineral imbalances, as well as how it can benefit horses with compromised metabolic systems.

Finally, we'll explore any medical issues that may arise from providing bran-based feed supplements. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits your horse could receive from a bran-rich diet! Also see our article on psyllium husks for horses.


What are the Benefits of Feeding Bran to Horses?



A horse eating wheat bran mash from a bucket




Feeding bran to horses can offer a variety of advantages, from providing energy and protein to helping finicky eaters. Wheat bran, in particular, can be used as an addition for horses that are not getting enough fibre in their diet. It may also help with digestive regularity, digestion or absorption of certain minerals, and reduce the risk of colic. Furthermore, bran mashes can be utilized to tempt a sick horse that has gone off feed.

Rice bran is another type of bran that can be fed to horses, which provides extra energy without the danger of hyperactivity associated with some other carbohydrate-rich grains. Wheat bran consists of large flakes with a reddish or blonde hue while rice bran has a coarse texture and a buff colour. Both types contain more fiber than oats, hay or grain, but they may also have higher amounts of fat making them an inappropriate choice for overweight horses.

Bran mashes can be prepared using various ingredients such as carrots, molasses and other sweets however it is important to remember that only small amounts should be given since too much could cause digestive upset. When adding this supplement to a horse's diet one must consider the calcium to phosphorous ratio which ideally should stand at 1-to-1 or 1-to-2 otherwise big head disease caused by mineral imbalances might occur so rice bran needs fortification with additional calcium carbonate in order to neutralize the phosphorous ratio accordingly.

Moreover it is essential never to feed dry bran but rather wet so proper digestion takes place without causing any digestive issues plus salt added into the mash will help reduce reduced appetite if present in your horse's case.

In conclusion, feeding wheat or rice brans offers many benefits, yet one must take into account individual needs before introducing them into their diets plus consult veterinarians or equine nutritionists beforehand for optimal health results since these supplements do not provide all necessary vitamins and minerals needed on daily basis thus they should only form part once per week alongside hay oats and other grains forming balanced meals instead.


How Can I Safely Feed Bran to My Horse?


Feeding bran to your horse can be advantageous, but it's essential to do so safely. A bran mash should not exceed once a week, as it may cause digestive issues such as gas, diarrhea, and colic. Moreover, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus should range from 1:1 to 3:1; the total diet mustn't exceed 5-7% bran. It is also critical to provide a ration balancing feed or supplement for adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus.

When preparing a bran mash, warm water is best with an insignificant amount of salt added in order to replenish sweat losses after strenuous work. Furthermore, chopped carrots or other vegetables can enhance the palatability of the mash. For horses that are ill, an occasional bran mash might be beneficial; however, these should only be fed with approval from a veterinarian.

Horse owners need to recognize the potential downside when feeding bran mashes weekly. According to the 1983 8th Edition of The British Horse Society and The Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, wheat bran was seen as an expedient way for administering medicines; yet recent studies have found no significant difference in water content within feces when wheat bran is fed - implying that its laxative effect likely results from sudden changes in diet rather than solely due to the presence of said ingredient itself.

It's likewise important gradually incorporate bran into your horse's diet - making dietary alterations over 7-10 days since enzymes and digestive bacteria require time for adaptation purposes - this being what we refer to as "the golden rule" when feeding horses which must always be followed if you wish your horse gets the most out of its intake!


Other Considerations


In addition to the benefits of feeding bran to horses, there are other considerations to take into account. Wheat bran is high in phosphorus and has a low calcium to phosphorus ratio, which can lead to mineral imbalances. Too much phosphorus in the diet can lead to a serious skeletal problem, known as “big head” or “bran disease”. Although this is less common today due to milling processes and better understanding of horse nutrition, it may still occur if wheat bran is regularly fed as part of the horse’s diet.

For horses that need occasional bran mashes, such as those with digestive upset or those traveling, it is important to note that abruptly introducing bran mashes can cause mild digestive upset. The sudden change in the horse’s diet can lead to intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, excess gas, colic, and laminitis. To reduce the risk of digestive upset, oats and hay should be gradually increased and bran should be fed in small amounts. Additionally, it is important to provide more water and warm water to encourage drinking, as well as to add B-vitamins to the mash to help the horse’s gastrointestinal tract adjust.

Modern nutritionists are questioning the traditional practice of feeding occasional bran mashes. Unknowingly, the irregularity of these mashes can cause more harm than good. For example, if a horse is fed a bran mash once a week, this can disrupt the balance of microbial population in the horse's gut. This can lead to watery stools and diarrhea, and other problems. Additionally, bran mashes are often fed with the idea that they will provide a laxative effect, but there is no scientific evidence to support this notion.

Finally, while bran mashes can be a nice treat for horses, they offer little nutritional value. The bran itself is composed mostly of the outer husk of the grain, which has been stripped of much of its nutritional value during the milling process. Poor teeth can also limit a horse’s ability to chew and extract nutrition from bran mashes. In summary, wheat bran should be fed sparingly, if at all, and it is important to consult with an Equine Nutritionist to ensure the best nutrition for your horse.




In conclusion, bran can offer a range of benefits to horses and is an important addition to their diet in controlled amounts. When adding bran to a horse's diet, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to ensure the best balance and most nutritious diet.

Feeding bran in too large of a quantity may lead to indigestion and unbalance nutrients necessary for a healthy horse. However, if the individual horse's needs are taken into consideration and the bran is properly added, horses may experience numerous improvements from the enhanced fiber content.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is bran good for horses?

Overall, when given in moderation and within an appropriate diet, bran can be beneficial for horses as it is high in dietary fiber, essential B vitamins, and minerals.

However, careful precautions must be taken to ensure that the product is fresh and of good quality, and not fed too frequently.

Does bran help put weight on horses?

Yes, bran can help put weight on horses. Rice bran and wheat bran are two sources of fat and high in calories that are most commonly used to help horses gain weight.

Stabilized Rice Bran is a great adult horse weight gain supplement, providing additional calories and helpful for maintaining their weight and healthy coat.

Why not to feed bran to horses?

It is not recommended to feed bran to horses because it contains a high amount of phosphorus and its sudden inclusion in the horse's diet can upset the balance of calcium and phosphorus, creating issues like laminitis.

Additionally, an unexpected change in diet can negatively affect the bacteria in the horse's digestive system.

Can you give a horse too much bran?

It is possible to give a horse too much bran and potential risks include developing a calcium imbalance leading to secondary hyperparathyroidism. Therefore, it is important to feed bran in moderation.

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