Just as you enjoy a hot cup of soup in the winter, horses appreciate heated snacks, too.
When the thermometer dips to single digits, I like to treat my horses to a hot bran mash in the evening.
Start with about a quart of hot water. Add bran to create the consistency your horse most enjoys. Bran is created when wheat is milled, leaving reddish flakes from the outer husk and is relatively inexpensive at most feed stores.
I add a bit of corn oil to help with digestion and to help their coats be more rain and snow resistant. A dash of salt seems to make the mix more palatable. Since this was a heavy apple producing year, I add a bit of homemade, no sugar added applesauce. My horses love applesauce and would eat it alone. You also could add some molasses if you like.
I have a friend who also chops up carrots and apples in her horses’ daily ration.
Feeding bran mash is more for the horse’s taste buds than actually keeping them warm in the long term. Hay is what really helps horses withstand the cold because it provides heat as it is digested. Just five pounds of extra hay will raise the horse’s core temperature by 1.2 degrees for about four hours.
As with any horse food, add it gradually. Horses’ digestive systems are very delicate and swift switches in food can bring colic, laminitis and other dangerous conditions. Watch horses closely whenever you switch feeds to make sure there is no stomach upset.
Age also is a consideration in choosing a bucket feed. People start considering horses to be senior in their late teens. Both low-carb and senior feed have reduced starch and sugar to enhance the horse’s health and digestion. The feed provides a slow energy source that causes very little or no insulin response.
Senior horses sometimes have additional food challenges if their teeth are worn out or missing. You should watch all your horses to make sure the food in going down the gullet and not on the ground. Any horse that is regularly spilling food out of its mouth should see the vet or horse dentist right away.
The senior and low-carb feeds don’t tend to hype horses up like straight grain will. If you want extra stamina without the “racehorse high,” I recommend rice bran. It also makes coats really shiny.
Of course, there are specialty foods for pregnant and nursing mares, for foals and various levels of high performance horses. Your vet will be able to tell your which is best for your horse considering its age and activity level.