Benefits of Beet Pulp for Older Horses

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

Most horses thrive on a fairly standard diet of hay and water. Grass, alfalfa, oat, or a combination of those types usually provides adequate nutrition and keeps the average horse at a healthy weight. But senior horses can benefit from adding beet pulp to their diet in addition to providing plenty of high quality hay.

What is beet pulp? 

Beet pulp is the fibrous material that is left over when most of the sugar is removed from sugar beets. This pulpy material has a high water content that makes it prone to mold quickly, so it is dried into the form that we recognize at the feed store. It’s a great way to add fiber to a horse’s diet without adding too much sugar and starch. Beet pulp can be purchased as either shreds or pellets.

Why should you feed beet pulp?

Beet pulp is high in digestible fiber and a good source of carbohydrate-based calories, two things that older horses often need a little more of. It’s easier to chew than hay for senior horses, who may have teeth issues. Beet pulp is also a good choice for hard keepers or as a fiber replacement for low-quality hay.

Nutritional benefits of beet pulp

Beet pulp has a crude protein content of 7%. For comparison, alfalfa hay has a crude protein content of 12-15%; grass hay ranges from 8-14%; and oats are generally about 13%. The fiber found in beet pulp is easier to digest than that found in hay, so it is converted to energy more quickly.

Despite its name, sugar beet pulp is actually low in sugar. It’s the byproduct of the sugar industry, what’s left over after they’ve extracted all the sweet stuff out of it. Therefore, it’s a great way to add more fiber and energy without giving your horse too much sugar.

Nutritional drawbacks

Beet pulp has relatively high calcium levels and low amounts of phosphorus. Feeding too much of it could imbalance the calcium to phosphorus ratio in a horse’s diet, potentially interfering with bone development in young horses. But we’re talking about beet pulp’s main use – as a supplement for older horses – so excess amounts of it in a young horse’s diet isn’t usually a concern.

Important note about rehydration

You should soak beet pulp in water before feeding to prevent choking. This rule always applies to pure beet pulp, and it can apply to feed products that use it as a main ingredient if the bag or bin has been opened for a while, allowing the beet pulp to dry out. The dehydrated nature of the beet pulp means moisture needs to be added before it is easily swallowed by horses. Allow about 30 minutes of soaking if using warm water and 60 minutes for cold. Once the reconstituted beet pulp has absorbed the water and reaches a fluffy consistency, you can drain off the excess water to eliminate nearly all of the sugar from the feed.

So if your senior horse is having trouble chewing and digesting the same hay he’s eaten for years, check out the beet pulp options. It’s a safe, inexpensive way to boost your horse’s diet and overall nutrition and help him through his golden years.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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