Feeding beet pulp provides another source of forage and fiber for your horse, at less cost than hay. The amount you'll feed depends on your horse's condition and whether you intend for it to substitute for hay or add beet pulp to his current diet to help him gain weight.
Check commercial feed labels before deciding how much beet pulp to give your horse, as it's possible you already are feeding your horse a significant amount in his grain concentrate. As with any equine dietary changes, introduce beet pulp to your horse slowly, upping the amount gradually so that your horse receives the total intended daily ration over a week's time. It's common to mix beet pulp in with a horse's grain.
Beet pulp is what's left over after sugar is removed from sugar beets. Beet pulp is available in shredded or pelleted versions, which make little difference once soaked. The shredded type might soak up water more quickly. However, some manufacturers add molasses to the product, and that's important information, especially in horses suffering from insulin resistance or other metabolic disorders. Such horses should receive beet pulp without molasses additives.
Why Beet Pulp
Beet pulp is digestible and inexpensive, containing 10 percent protein. Its calcium/phosphorous ratio is 10 to 1, when ideally the ratio is 2 to 1. Feeding beet pulp without adjusting for this imbalance can lead to various issues, such as kidney stone formation. Before feeding beet pulp, make sure your horse has other sufficient sources of phosphorous in his diet, including grain concentrates. While feeding grass or timothy hay with beet pulp isn't a problem, feeding alfalfa or alfalfa cubes -- high in calcium -- can disrupt the calcium/phosphorous ratio even more.
Beet pulp benefits older horses with poor dentition, as little chewing is required. Because it's higher in calories than hay, adding beet pulp to the diet can help "hard keepers" gain or maintain weight. It's also recommended for horses with heaves, a respiratory disease, who can't deal with the dust from hay. Based on your horse's individual situation and the availability and quality of hay in your area, your vet can recommend the amount of beet pulp your animal should receive.
Measure and Soak
Perhaps you've heard that feeding dry beet pulp can cause a horse's stomach to rupture. That's an old groom's tale, but feeding dry beet pulp can cause choke and is less palatable than soaked beet pulp. Since feeding soaked beet pulp in winter is an easy way to hydrate your horse and keep his gut moving, feeding it dry defeats that purpose. For best results, measure out the amount of beet pulp you're feeding, then put twice as much water in the soaking bucket. While beet pulp should achieve proper consistency -- soaking up the water -- within an hour, for most barns setting up the evening beet pulp feeding in the morning and vice versa is the most convenient method. Make just enough for one feeding at a time, as beet pulp begins fermenting if left too long.