One of the most heartwarming parts of the book "The Scottish Prisoner" is when Jamie, begins to be able to enjoy the companionship of his illegitimate 3 year old son William, the young Earl of Ellesmere in the stables at Helwater, the estate where he has been serving out his sentence for having led his clan to fight during the Scottish Rising. The interaction between father and son is delightful and it is absolutely wonderful to get glimpses of what Jamie Fraser must have been like as a young boy, especially with the horses; a passion that they both share. The time that they have together is precious. In a few years William begins to resemble Jamie, who has earned his parole just in time to make the wise decision to leave Helwater to protect Williams true parentage from being discovered.
There is a particular moment that completely enchants me and that is when they are in the stable together and Jamie asks William to help him make the hot bran mash. The description of the steaming hot ladles of water, the thick molasses being poured over the bran and the young Earl of Ellsmeres absolute joy as he tastes the mash, takes me completely back in time to my earliest moments with horses. That and the scene where young William starts sucking on a horseshoe nail!
I had an Irish trainer who made everything for our horses and ponies from scratch, even the liniments. I used to love to spend the night in her home as she lived above the barn and I could hear the horses all night long, snuffling, stamping and chewing. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in. Everyday in the winter we would get up early and make a steaming hot bran mash for the horses. We would take all of the buckets down, fill them and then pour water over the top, stir with a large wooden spoon and cover each one for 5 minutes with towels of Irish linen. Then we'd take the towels off , give the buckets one last stir and then serve. The smell was amazing and I always had to have a taste.
To craft a proper mash is really an art and it was years later when I realized that all that I needed to do was change a few of the ingredients and I would be left with the perfect winter breakfast for myself! A bran mash really serves two purposes. It's a warm comforting breakfast that's filled with plenty of liquid, emollient and fiber so it serves as a moisture source in a time when there is no fresh grass to speak of. It's very soothing on the stomach and helps keep the horses from having nasty bouts of colic which can be very common during the winter months when the air is dry. It brings a soft bloom to the coat and helps to condition the skin.
A proper mash is a combination of love, hot water and fresh ingredients. I've never deviated from the first recipe that I learned which was given to me by my original trainer. When I would make them at home for my horses I would use a scoop of fresh oat bran, a cup of dark molasses, 1 cup of whole oats, 1 cup of dried beet pulp (for fiber and sweetness) and a handful of chopped carrots and apples to add some love! Many people that I know add oil to a mash, but I don't. Instead I use a cup of flaxseed jelly.
I find it interesting that flax seed has become such a trendy superfood because it's been used in horse feed for centuries to help keep a shine on the coat and ache out of the belly. I won't use ground flax, because as soon as it's ground it gets rancid almost immediately and loses 90% of it usefulness. Instead I take several cups of whole flax seed and two quarts of spring water and set it to simmer on the stove in a non-reactive stainless pot. In several hours you will be rewarded with a lovely gelatinous mixture of flax seed and water that you can use in your horses mash or your own oatmeal!
Add all of the ingredients into a feed bucket and add very hot water and stir. The mixture should be somewhat soupy but still plenty soft, fluffy and thick. Cover each pail with a dishtowel and wait for five minutes. Uncover each pail, give each one a final stir and serve, but before you do, shut your eyes and inhale deeply! The aroma of a properly prepared mash is absolutely wonderful and there are not as many things that you can do for your horses that they will appreciate as much! You will be rewarded by the sounds of chewing, slurping and overall horselike contentment. The friendly knickers you'll
hear when they see you coming their way will just be frosting on the cake!
I have absolutely no idea who to attribute this image to as I cannot find the original source.