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.



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  2. 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.

    • 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?

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  6. 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!!

    • 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?