It's been around for years and most of us have scoped, soaked and fed our fair share of this sugar-byproduct to our horses. Yet, as simple as it is to feed, beet pulp has been the subject of many misconceptions and myths. Some are harmless, but others could lead horse owners to rely too heavily on it for the wrong reasons.
Despite what you have heard and all the warnings from the horse world, equine experts are unified in their assurances that beet pulp does not need to be soaked in water before it is fed to horses.
According to Pennsylvania State University equine nutritionist Burt Staniar, PhD, "expansion is not going to cause your horse's stomach to explode. It is not even going to cause him to colic. Beet pulp simply doesn't do that." There have been studies where horses have been fed large quantities of unsoaked beet pulp and they found no adverse effects.
The main role of beet pulp in a horse's diet is fiber but this fiber is not the same as the fiber in hay!
Beet pulp is more easily digested. Because it's digested quickly, the energy and the calories it provides are available to the horse much quicker than what would come from hay. Beet pulp would make an excellent energy source for horses who need a boost for athletic efforts or to support other functions such as lactation.
Beet pulp contains very little sugar. Actually, it is very, very, very low in sugar. In fact, molasses is often added to beet pulp to make it more palatable for your horse. If sugar or molasses is a concern, look for plain beet pulp which most feed companies sell in addition to formulas with molasses added. But even if you can't find unsweetened beet pulp, if you soak the beet pulp then squeeze it and drain off the water, you'll remove most of the molasses. This is an easy way to reduce the sugar content if you can't find the plain stuff.
Towards the end of the winter months, some horse owners may find their hay supply running low. This is where beet pulp can help! Beet pulp can take the place of hay, at least partially, helping you stretch your hay supply until you can restock. For every pound of forage you take out of your horse's diet, add in a pound of beet pulp. Don't replace all the hay in your horse's diet with beet pulp as the vitamin and mineral content of beet pulp is very different than that of hay. If you rely too much on it, you can create some nutritional imbalances in your horse's diet.