Benefits of Beet Pulp for Horses

(This is a re-post from my previous blog, ‘The Handy Horse Owner’)

With the wide assortment of commercial bagged feeds available today, many horse owners can become overwhelmed when trying to choose the best feed for their horse.  A few years ago, I went back to the basics, feeding such things as whole oats, rice bran, and beet pulp.

If you look at  feed labels, these are common ingredients in most commercial feeds, but you can buy them individually much cheaper usually.  I’d like to focus on beet pulp for this post though–many folks just aren’t aware of what it is or what it can do for the horse.

When you look at beet pulp, it hardly looks edible, but the horses don’t seem to notice.  A by-product in the table sugar-making process, beet pulp surprisingly contains relatively little sugar itself.  Manufacturers usually add molasses for palatibility and to reduce dust, though.  Beet pulp contains approximately 10% protein and 18% fiber, making it easily digestible.  It comes in shreds or pellets, but most prefer the shredded form.

There are quite a few myths surrounding the feeding of beet pulp (despite the fact that it’s a common ingredient in many commercial feeds).  One feed store owner told me it would ‘swell up’ in the horse’s stomach and cause colic.  Others have said it causes choke or has no nutritional value.  These myths have all proven to be false, however.

While you wouldn’t want to feed beet pulp as your sole source of nutrition since it’s relatively low in vitamin and mineral content, it’s great as a ‘carrier’ for minerals, (this is why I feed it) and it can also be fed mixed with another feed such as oats, rice bran, etc.  Most people choose to soak beet pulp before feeding, but it can be fed dry.  The following are some of the benefits of beet pulp for horses:

  • Can be used as a forage replacer (up to 25-50% of forage) for horses who can’t eat hay or when hay is in limited supply;
  • Helps ‘hard-keepers’ hold weight and can safely help underweight horses gain wieght;
  • Acts as a pre-biotic, setting up favorable conditions for the ‘good bacteria’ to grow in the horse’s gut;
  • Contains relatively low sugar content, making it safe for obese, insulin-resistant, or laminitic horses in most cases (use non-molasses beet pulp or soak and rinse for the least amount of sugar); and
  • Safe to feed for older horses with dental problems when served as a mash.

Beet pulp may not be the answer for every horse, but I’ve fed it to my horses for the last few years as part of a forage-based diet and have been very happy with it.  It may be something you’d like to add to your feeding program as well.




Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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15 Responses

  1. Wendy McComas says:

    The problem with feeding beet pulp is all the chemicals they use to grow it are then left in the pulp that remains behind. I myself, choose not to feed it.

    • then5925 says:

      I’ll have to look into that more, Wendy. I would prefer not to feed anything but forage, but I need something (low starch for my IR horses) to use as a carrier for my minerals. What do you feed?

    • Most beet pulp in the US is genetically modified, another reason to think twice about feeding it…unless you can find organic.

  2. Sheila says:

    As I googled beet pulp for horses and came across this blog…Im sitting here waiting for the vet to get here because feeding beet pulp for couple of weeks has almost killed my horse! It stops up there system. Right now he has drained every bit of water in his system out of his nose like a water hose…pouring out! Dont feed it!!

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Sheila,

      I’m sorry to hear about your horse. Beet pulp is somewhat controversial, especially as of lately. I’ve seen a lot of information circulating around the web about it–some negative and some positive. I learned about beet pulp in an equine nutrition class and have fed it on and off for several years. I haven’t experienced any problems with it and it has been especially helpful at adding weight to my senior horses who have trouble eating hay. If fed dry, it is a risk for choke though. Is this what happened to your horse maybe?

  3. Kara says:

    Hi Casie; beet pulp (pelletted or shredded) is the worst thing possible to feed a horse, based on my experience; my horse has choked on it twice (he was fed it without my knowledge); it is actually a WASTE product of the commercial feed industry and I have actual vets tell me it can and does swell up and cause choke and colic. Plus it is not GMO free and is just all around junk food. I would never recommend it to any one for their horse. It’s like feeding an infant baby macdonald’s burgers 🙁

    • Casie says:

      Hi Kara–I always recommend that beet pulp be fed soaked. It’s true that many brands are not GMO, but a few are (such as Speedi-Beet). I know that is a big concern for some people. I don’t currently feed beet pulp, but I like to use it for older horses who have trouble eating hay (especially during the winter months). Sometimes, it’s one of the few feeds that can help them keep their condition.

  4. Meghan says:

    I have feed my horse beet pulp for the majority of the 13 years i have owned him. Never ever had ANY problems. He is a hard keeper and it helps get him through the winter months. He is 26 this year and gets beet pulp every day, twice a day. I have never given it dry, always always pre soaked.

  5. maggie says:

    I first fed soaked beet pulp this year. my Arabian gelding is 27 and had lost about 150 pounds – he looked awful. I feed quality feeds and coastal hay but he did not do well any more. I changed him to my old, original feed products, steamed oat, flax see, diatomaceous earth, and beet pulp. they get 28 acres of coastal Tifton grasses that are kept mowed, organic… and hay at night and Progressive vitamins. teeth done annually, for him every six months, and feet kept up every six to 8 weeks. These guys will outlast me. his color is back he is sleek and looks half his age in the last six months. no issues with the beet pulp and he likes it. I feed it soaked and wet the diatomaceous as well to keep the dust out of their throats, etc. my horses are healthy, glowing and fantastic.

  1. December 26, 2012

    […] several years ago.  I can’t say “forage-only” because I feed a small amount of beet pulp (considered a forage alternative) along with something like hay pellets or rice bran (something […]

  2. January 22, 2013

    […] heaves will need to be altered as well.  Feeding a pelleted feed (soaked, if possible), soaked beet pulp, or whole grains is better than rolled grains, which can be dusty.  If possible, replace hay with […]

  3. May 18, 2013

    […] beet pulp (or thoroughly rinsed-soaked-rinsed mollassed beet […]

  4. November 7, 2013

    […] Beet Pulp: Beet pulp is an excellent source of fiber and contains about 9% protein which is comparable to many grass hays.  It should not replace a horse’s entire hay ration though as it is not balanced in minerals or vitamins (high in calcium, few vitamins) and does not provide ideal ‘chewing time’.  Most beet pulp has added molasses, so rinsing, soaking, and rinsing it again is recommended for horses that are sensitive to sugar.  Beet pulp can be fed dry, but you may want to soak it to increase palatability and reduce the risk of choke.  According to this article, you should feed no more than 10 lbs. (dry weight) of beet pulp a day.  (Read more about beet pulp in this post.) […]

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