There are a great many myths and facts that get passed around about what horses should and should not eat. Much like how it was once thought that tomatoes were poisonous to humans, beet pulp has long been thought to explode a horse’s stomach. This article addresses the facts when it comes to dried pulp beet and horses. ~ HfH
Feeding unsoaked beet pulp will not cause a horse’s stomach to explode. But there are reasons to keep soaking it before feeding — and why you should keep feeding it, despite the rumors.
Beet pulp is one of the best tools in a horse owner’s arsenal of feed choices. A fibrous byproduct of the sugar beet, beet pulp is dehydrated and sold in pellets or shredded in bags. However, beet pulp is very dry when you buy it, and expands when water is added to the mixture. These tendencies have led to a rumor that it causes choke (esophageal obstruction) or even makes a horse’s stomach explode if it isn’t soaked before feeding. But studies have shown that these rumors are myths.
Benefits of Beet Pulp for Horses
Beet pulp, a complex carbohydrate that is fermented in the hindgut, is often referred to as a “super fiber,” thanks to its high digestibility and low lignin count. (Lignin is what gives stalky, over-mature hay its structure and makes it harder for horses to digest.) It’s an excellent source of digestible fiber and has a similar calorie content as oats — but with fewer starches and sometimes sugars, which can cause problems if they reach the hindgut undigested. That absence of starch and sugars makes beet pulp a good choice for hard-keeping horses. Nutritionally, beet pulp is a more natural source of concentrated energy. It’s nutritional qualities compare to good-quality grass hay and it’s an easily digestible supplement to your horse’s roughage intake.
And rest assured — just because beet pulp is the by-product of the sugar beet doesn’t mean that it’s a high-sugar feed, as extraction removes the majority of sugar. In fact, since it has a low-glycemic index, it causes only a very small rise in blood glucose levels, giving your horse steady, slow-burning energy. All of these qualities make it an excellent addition to a horse’s diet — but be sure to skip beet pulp with added molasses, which can be detrimental to the horse’s digestive system.