Beet pulp pellets are a relatively popular feed for all types of horses. Feed consultants may disagree on whether the product is suitable for both the thrifty and hardworking horse. However, most agree that it is an excellent product to give one's horse. Older horses, in particular, can benefit greatly from the pellets, especially if they have dental problems, as beet pulp pellets are recommended to be soaked.
However, this recommendation is somewhat ambivalent. Many horse owners have always been told that unsoaked beet pulp pellets were "dangerous" for the horse's digestion. The horse could practically explode if it received the pellets in their pure form. This, however, turns out to be somewhat of a myth. We provide information about beet pulp pellets, why your horse may benefit from them, and explain more about the myth.
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It's not that simple, although most of us would like a clear answer. If you have an overweight horse, professionals disagree on whether the horse benefits from the feed. Some believe that the high fibre content can contribute to further weight gain. Others see beet pulp pellets as an excellent product for thrifty horses. We recommend contacting your veterinarian and feed consultant to discuss the options.
Beet pulp pellets are a by-product derived from the extraction of simple sugar in ordinary sugar production. Feed manufacturers are so efficient at extracting sugar from the product that almost nothing is left. Therefore, molasses are often added to provide more flavour and reduce the amount of dust in the pellets.
Many horse owners are concerned about whether beet pulp pellets contain "too much sugar" in the form of molasses. However, there is about the same amount of sugar in 5 kilograms of beet pulp pellets as in a couple of apples - so not very much.
If you buy beet pulp pellets without molasses, there is a very low amount of sugar in the product. Therefore (despite disagreement among some professionals), the general view is that beet pulp pellets are suitable for thrifty horses. There is a high content of fibres, which are released relatively slowly in the horse's digestion, avoiding a sudden and very active horse. Other advantages of beet pulp pellets:
• Ideal for very hungry horses and ponies, as the feed appears to be very satiating.
• Seems to stabilise the horse's digestion.
• Good energy source as an alternative to oats, barley, or maize.
• Usually soaked, providing water in the gut for the horse's benefit during sweat loss or prolonged transport.
• Dust-binding in the crib feed.
The practical downside of beet pulp pellets is that they are recommended to be soaked, preferably for a longer time before feeding. It can be a bit of a hassle to remember to soak the product overnight. At the same time, be mindful of the weather when soaking. In very cold weather, the water must not freeze. It is a good idea to get hot water. Not all stables have access to hot water. You either need to use an electric kettle or fetch water from inside the main house. If you use an electric kettle, remember to unplug it after use to avoid fire hazards. If the weather is very warm, make sure the pellets do not soak for too long, as this can cause undesirable fermentation.
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As a child, you may have been told that it was very important for beet pulp pellets to be dissolved before the horse got it in its crib. Otherwise, they would expand in the horse's stomach, and the horse could risk "bursting" internally. It is still recommended that the feed be soaked, but this is mainly due to the possibility of oesophageal blockage. The pellets have an inconvenient size for consumption without being soaked. The myth that they damage the horse from within is simply a tall tale that has lived on in the horse world.
However, there are several advantages to soaking them. The horse gets more fluid. There is a larger amount of feed. The horse gets a good portion of fibres, an increased feeling of fullness (here again, some professionals disagree), and a feed with a low sugar content if you buy it without added molasses, of course.