The warming effect of mashes extends beyond the time of feeding. Because the bulk of the calories comes from fiber, not starch, they “burn slower” and generate more heat during digestion.
You may hear that the classic wheat-bran mash isn’t well digested and can cause gut upset if the horse isn’t used to it, or that you’ll just disrupt the horse’s digestive system tossing something new in his direction all at once. However, this usually only occurs if you feed a really large mash. If your horse does get too much gas or loose manure with a bran mash, you can make a satisfying warm mash for him with many different ingredients.
Another favorite criticism of mashes is they can upset the mineral balance in the diet. However, let’s use some common sense here. Small mashes fed sporadically — or even weekly — aren’t going to upset your horse’s overall dietary mineral balance. However, if you want to make them routine in cold weather, we have some formulas that balance the major mineral portion of the mash, which we describe in our box.
Measure by weight, not volume. Hay cubes take the longest to soften, so use near-boiling water and allow about 45 minutes. Beet pulp or hay pellets will soak up and soften within 20 minutes with near-boiling water.
In both cases, be absolutely certain you stir the mixture well and check that the bottom portion of the mixture isn’t too hot before feeding — don’t just check the top and sides of the mixture.
With beet pulp, add three to four times as much water as dry material. With alfalfa, add two to three times as much water. Add a half ounce of salt for taste and to help keep the horse drinking well. A good dollop of molasses is usually appreciated, and peppermint fiends will love a few drops of peppermint extract. Mashes can be mixed with grain or fed separately.
No time to cook’ If your schedule is tight, you can still work in a mash. Keep the ingredients in the house. Have separate measuring containers marked at the appropriate volume or weight for each. Meticulous mixing and stirring isn’t necessary. Just dump in the ingredients and let it sit. If you have to drive to the barn to feed, mix it up right before you leave and let it “cook” on the way. Your friends are used to seeing stranger things in a horse owner’s car.
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