I like it when people comment on my posts. Sometimes they agree; others have challenged what I’ve found and caused me to do more research. A question from a reader prompted me to look into whether feeding whole flax seed was indeed a good idea and resulted in, Update on Feeding Flax Seed.
So, when I received this comment on Beet Pulp: Fact & Fiction, I thought it deserved to be answered.
I felt I had to add a post because I do not agree with it. First of all I and my family have been breeding, racing and competing horses for generations. I would never recommend or use beet pulp one of the reasons why is because of the process it goes through. When seperating (sic) the sugar from the pulp chemicals and bleaches are used ie. it is the whitening process, and the left over scrap is the pulp. I love my horses and I would never feed them this. I give my horses natural products that are not GM and no chemicals thank you. Alfalfa pellets/bales, Carob, Hay, and fruit treats are a great way to feed your horses naturally! There is also very little nutritional value in Beet and it is only a filler. If you cannot afford to buy the right natural products for your horse then you should not have a horse. I have never had a problem with any of my horses, and they also keep their teeth to a good old age.
I’ve seen some of this before . . . especially the “just a filler” argument. To be honest, I’d never thought about whether processing the beet pulp left a chemical residue. So, I started to do some research. I think I found where this person got their information.
In my search I came across another condemnation of beet pulp from Lorrie Bracaloni. Readers might remember that I recently reviewed her DVD and Workbook “How to Identify and Release your Horse’s Pain Points.” Her article is entitled, Is Beet Pulp Toxic to Horses? The Real Story. In it, she re-iterates the issue about pesticides but adds some additional claims that make beet pulp look like the absolute worst feed possible.
In this article she writes:
Beet pulp originates from sugar industry. It is an insoluble fiber, meaning that it does not interact with the body. It rushes through the intestines taking with it whatever supplements have been given. Simply put, it cannot be digested. It takes four molecules of water for the body to process beet pulp-adding water weight, and making the horse appear heavier. Once beet pulp is removed from the diet, the horse loses weight quickly, leading the owner to believe that the horse needs the beet pulp.
Like many other crops, sugar beets are treated with an extensive array of herbicides to limit weeds and grasses in the fields. The herbicides are absorbed by the beets. Nothing removes the chemicals from the pulp. In addition, growers top the beet plants with a chemical defoliant to kill back the tops before harvest. These chemicals also end up by-product beet pulp.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, DMV, says that beet pulp is safe; it is washed with water to remove the solvents. However, the water only removes what is on the outside. The soaking process removes the sugar from the outside, but not the chemicals. Toxins are stored in the pulp not the juice.
NOTE: I cannot find any statement by Dr. Eleanor Kellon about toxins in beet pulp. In fact, she recommends beet pulp for insulin-resistant horses. Bracaloni goes on to say:
Often, if the horse is unable to digest the beet pulp. Their hind-ends “shut down” and become weak. The common complaint being, “my horse has a weak hind-end.”
Case in Kentucky – A lady emailed me about her paint that had been seen by vets, chiropractors, etc. to no avail her paint was weak from behind, bad stifles? He was 4yrs old they said arthritis, I said what are you feeding? Turns out she was feeding a product that was mostly beet pulp and rice bran. She took the paint off the feed, then sent a email stating her horse was moving much better and was able to ride him again.
A reputable event trainer, Katie Worley from Rock Solid Training Center, asked me to check her horses. I found was they were all weak in the hind-end, and Katie agreed. After looking at a tag from her feed, we found beet pulp listed as the third ingredient. After Katie took her horses off the beet pulp feed, she called to say they were using their hind-ends, and were much stronger.
At the end of this article she suggests that owners take their horses off any beet pulp if their horses show any of the following symptoms: weak hind ends, brittle hooves, weak stifles, lack of energy, a dull coat or loose stools.
Okay, I’ve heard the argument that horses are not able to digest beet pulp. What’s new to me is that beet pulp strips the gut of supplements; causes horses to appear to gain weight by causing them to retain water; causes your horse to become weak in the hind end or stifles; and may be the source of brittle hooves, lack of energy a dull coat and loose stools. The suggestion that beet pulp could cause hind end or stifle weakness to me is the most fantastical. How could a feed cause such an effect?
And, more to the point, why should we believe what she wrote? In her own words, Ms. Bracolini is “a holistic practitioner with more than 12 years of experience who assisted more than 100 horse owners with equine diets and nutrition.” There is plenty of data out there from scientifically robust sources that disputes these claims and they fly in the face of what’s been written by nutritionists and equine vets.
Now, I’m not saying that anyone must feed their horse beet pulp. Plenty of horses live their lives without a shred of beet pulp passing their lips with no problems. But are horse owners hurting their horses by feeding it? If that’s the case, then many of the big feed companies are doing us a disservice since beet pulp features prominently among the ingredients of many feeds.
Let’s look at the claims
The article written by Ms. Bracolini has been seeded throughout the Internet and it’s the source of some lively debates in several of the forums. On http://www.AmericanPasoFinos.com I found that one of the participants had sent the article to Dr. Susan Garlinghouse, an equine vet who has specialized in nutrition. Dr. Garlinghouse’s response was as follows (the original is posted here):
- The fiber in beet pulp is not even close to “indigestible”—the only fiber found in forage that *is* totally indigestible is lignin, which is almost non-existent in beet pulp, but considerably higher (it varies) in the hay pellets whats-her-name recommends. And even being indigestible doesn’t necessarily make it bad, just affects GI transit time, etc differently than fermentable fibers. The fiber in beet pulp is primarily pectin, a soluble fiber, which is highly fermentable and digestible. Apparently, no understanding by the author of how digestive physiology works here.
- The whole water weight argument is just total nonsense. Having a good reservoir of water in the hindgut is generally considered a good thing in performance horses and if all that water were just “rushing” through, the horse would have projectile diarrhea. Not loose stools. Projectile. One of the primary benefits of feeding beet pulp to performance horses is that there *is* more of a water reservoir in the hindgut. Doesn’t adversely affect absorption of anything else. I could go into a long dissertation of soluble fibers fermenting to primarily butyric acid, which in turn is the preferred substrate of enterocytes, thus optimizing a higher turnover (that’s a good thing), which then in turn optimizes absorption, water and electrolyte balance in the hindgut, but that’s way too long for this reply. And none of it is classified material. Find a qualified nutrition text and use that as an information source, not this twaddle.
- “Does your horse have loose stools” – Most people that feed alfalfa think that the ideal consistency to horse poop is a tight, dry little road apple.You don’t want diarrhea, but same as for other species, a softer consistency is not necessarily a symptom of disease. It’s usually a lot better than overly dry. Horses on pasture and on grass hays (and also beet pulp) often have a bit of a splat to their poop, which is highly fine-by-me.
- Sugar beets don’t “store” pesticides in the pulp. If they did, it wouldn’t be very effective in eliminating bugs on the outside of the plant,would it? I’ve seen the tox assay reports on beet pulp and the results were pretty much nil. I also ran my own on beets straight from the field and hosed off in my driveway–also nil. Also, shredded beet pulp gets tossed into a water bath and the water with soluble sugars (which is the cash crop here) is removed and dried to the table sugar end product. If there were residues, it’s more likely they’d be present in higher concentrations in the table sugar. It’s not. When whats-her-name can produce real data, we’ll talk. Until then, it’s apparent she’s not even familiar with the manufacturing process, let alone any inherent shortfalls.
- All that gibberish about “does your horse have brittle feet, weak in the hindquarters, yada yada” makes no logical point or argument. She makes claims of horses that had health problems that were being fed beet pulp, she totally changed their diets, their condition allegedly improved and therefore it was the beet pulp that caused the initial problem, not anything else having to do with its ration or management. Pretty shaky logic. It’s a lot like saying that there are pigeons in cities, and crime in cities, therefore pigeons cause urban crime. Sorry, there’s just no logical thought process here, no science or scientific background, no qualified views. But, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if those opinions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Susan Garlinghouse, DVM (no certifications, just university degrees)
For the record, Dr. Garlinghouse has long been a proponent of feeding beet pulp to horses and is quoted on many of the endurance sites on its benefits. Her assessment of the nutritional value of beet pulp can be found in this article on her website, The Myths and Realities of Beet Pulp.
I did an Internet search on residual pesticides in beet pulp and found a 1971 study conducted by the World Health Organization. The finding for sugar beets was:
Shuttleworth et al. (1971) studied the effects of sugar beet processing to determine if endosulfan or endosulfan sulfate residues in sugar beet roots would concentrate in the processed beet pulp. Mature sugar beet root samples from a plot treated with three aerial applications of Thiodan 2 EC at 1.0 lb active/acre were analysed 0 and 35 days after the last application. No endosulfan or endosulfan sulfate residues were found at the limit of sensitivity of the method of 0.05 ppm. Sugar beet pulp, obtained from processing the above.
I also found information on beet pulp in the document Horse Feeding Myths and Misconceptions, by Lori K. Warren, Ph.D, P.A.S, Provincial Horse Specialist, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development). In her article she states that:
Recent research has shown that the fibre in beet pulp is easier to digest than the fibre in hays. In fact, horses may derive as much energy from beet pulp as they do from oats (Table 4). In other words, a pound of (dry) beet pulp has almost the same amount of calories as a pound of oats. Because beet pulp provides these calories as fibre (as opposed to the starch in grains), it can be safely fed in larger amounts without the risk of colic or laminitis associated with feeding a large amount of grain. Furthermore, the protein content of beet pulp (averaging 8 to 12%) is comparable to most grains and good-quality grass hays (Table 4). And, beet pulp also provides a reasonable source of calcium, intermediate between the high calcium in alfalfa and the lower calcium content of grass hays, but much higher than grains (Table 4).
Whether used as a source of forage or as a replacement for oats, beet pulp is a useful addition to the diet of many types of horses. Beet pulp has been successfully fed at levels up to 50% of the horse’s total ration (approximately 10 lbs for a 1000 lb horse). More commonly, owners choose to feed 2 to 5 lbs of beet pulp per day. The high digestibility of beet pulp makes it a good choice for horses that are “hard keepers” (it’s very good for encouraging weight gain), as well as horses with dental problems, or older horses who have trouble chewing or digesting other types of forage. Beet pulp is also used as a grain replacement in the diets of horses that suffer from tying up (providing calories as fibre rather than starch). And the low potassium content of beet pulp makes it an ideal forage replacement for horses with HYPP. Finally, endurance riders favour beet pulp because its high water holding capacity provides the horse with a larger reservoir of fluid in the digestive tract that can be used to help prevent dehydration.
*Please note these are average nutrient values and are presented on a 100% dry matter basis.
After reviewing this information I’m going to continue feeding beet pulp. Yes, I do love my horse and I would never feed him something that I thought would be harmful. I’m convinced by the data I’ve found that beet pulp is a natural feed that offers many advantages, especially if you are working to minimize the amount of grain you feed your horse.
Researching this topic has also reinforced to me how important it is to consider the sources of the information you read on the Internet. There are lots of opinions out there — but they are not all informed.
If I just wanted to go with anecdotal evidence, hey, I’d use the fact that Elmer Bandit, the 38-year old competitive trail horse has been eating beet pulp for years (Caring for older horses: the Elmer Bandit diet). If it’s keeping him going, it can’t be all bad.
66 thoughts on “More debate on beet pulp — is it toxic?”
I agree whole-heartedly on everything Susan Garlinghouse had to say. While I’m no expert on beet pulp, I do have nutrition experience and the claims that the commenter made are false. Great research on an interesting topic!
I have been feeding my OTTB beet pulp for 4 years and he does SO well on it. He is a mild cribber and when consistently fed beet pulp he does not crib and seems very satisfied. I am convinced the fiber helps keep the acid production down in his tummy which in turn lowers the incidince of cribbing. I love the beet pulp for him! I would recommend it to anyone. I have witnessed excellent results with my own horse for years!!! Lynne Smith
I have to agree with Lynn. I have had two OTTB’s who ate their wooden barns even with outdoor runs and alternated rock hard lumps with runny stools (irritable bowel symptoms in people) unless I fed beet pulp. I figure that they need the fiber when they eat that much wood, so I feed one pint dry beet pulp pellets soaked twice a day to my 1400lb gelding. His guts are happy,and he doesn’t feel driven to eat the walls of his stall. I have been having to supplement magnesium, as well as keeping a free choice block of calcium/phosphorus available to him, but I believe that is most likely due to his trying to recover from a high carb/fat/protein race horse diet and stress. He is a big boy and and it takes a lot of mineral to build that much skeleton.
As for the horses don’t eat roots argument, out in a wild pasture they eat everything from twigs and leaves to roots and berries. Our old reining horse when I was a kid treated his arthritis by tearing up yucca plants and eating the roots. My current guy loves radishes and will pull them up, clean them off, and chomp them down.
Personally I worry much more about chemical residues in those bales of absolutely perfect hay with out one weed or insect nibbled leaf.
I went to a horse dealer and saw horse laying down in her stall and with no shaving or hay and a bag of bones. I told my husband can I have her since she wasn’t gonna make it much longer. This is what happen when parent allowed the children to feed the horse, without making sure she was getting fed. I brought her to our house and padded her stall well and fed her some hay and she didn’t have much for teeth. The next day my vet came over the next day and said she is probably not going to make it, he told me to go get some senior feed and soak her beet pulp and give her all she can eats so I soaked her several big huge pots of beet pulps and feed it through out the day along with her grain mixed in along with scraps of carrots and mash apples she loved it and the next day she was up and waiting for her food and still weak but improved and the day after that she was up again waiting for food and then walked her out to be out in the sun lay down in soft sand we brushed her softly while she way laying down and could tell she loved it. She was a TB with big ears and she was so well mannered and so sweet. I personally feel if I didn’t feed her beet pulp she would of never lived. She was over 28 years old and lived another 4 years with lots of love and passed away peacefully in her sleep.
What a wonderful act of kindness to take that horse and save her!
I feed my family non GMO foods ( not genetically modified) and stopped feeding my horse beet pulp when I found out it is genetically modified.
It is definitely worthwhile avoiding genetically modified foods. However, you don’t have to stop feeding beet pulp. Some manufacturers specifically advertise they use non-genetically modified beets, such as Emerald Valley!
So tell me what do you feed your family. I can’t think of ONE crop that hasn’t been GMO’d. Corn been modified for 1,000s of years same with potato, wheat, barley, Wild Corn is about the size of your thumb, wheat would fall off the stock long before you could harvest it, same with barley. A huge wild potato is about the size of a half dollar. Yes we are more efficient at altering plants to suit our needs but we have been modifying plants for a long time. In fact there are wild plants that you eat the wouldn’t pass the health and safety test that “GMO”s are required to pass.
So tell me just what ARE you feeding your family?
I am gluten, fructose and dairy sensitive and I try to eat as healthy as possible by buying organic and growing my own. Just because GMO is everywhere it does not mean you have to succumb to it….more and more people I know are getting fed up with what the food industry is forcing down our throats and are doing the same.
There is a huge difference between selectively breeding and genetically modifying!
Thanks for standing up for GMOs. I don’t have a problem with them at all and I get very sick of everyone acting like GMOs are the food of the devil or something. Not to mention how much good they’ve done for medecine and such, and people are still fighting them harder than the do the actual problematic things our diets.
First one needs to separate fact from fiction…selective breeding is completely different from inserting foreign genes into a living being! And secondly saturating crops with a pesticide (and use already needed to be increased because things don’t work so well anymore) is not so healthy either…Round-up is a poison and more and more concerns about it are starting to surface! We should be focusing on LESS use, not MORE use. When in the past has that concept EVER worked well?!?
Non-GMO BP is a great alternative,…I wish it was more readily available and most horses do not get enough forage to start with. They were designed to eat 24/7…they should be able to nibble on something all day long, preferably with the help of slow feeders….
I’ve read repeatedly that sugar beet plants are typically treated with fertilizers, pesticides and defoliants, which is quite enough to prevent me from feeding it my horses.
If you read the comments by Dr. Garlinghouse she addresses that in point #4: “Sugar beets don’t “store” pesticides in the pulp. If they did, it wouldn’t be very effective in eliminating bugs on the outside of the plant,would it? I’ve seen the tox assay reports on beet pulp and the results were pretty much nil. I also ran my own on beets straight from the field and hosed off in my driveway–also nil. Also, shredded beet pulp gets tossed into a water bath and the water with soluble sugars (which is the cash crop here) is removed and dried to the table sugar end product. If there were residues, it’s more likely they’d be present in higher concentrations in the table sugar. It’s not. When whats-her-name can produce real data, we’ll talk. Until then, it’s apparent she’s not even familiar with the manufacturing process, let alone any inherent shortfalls.” I tend to believe her findings since she has first hand experience, has specialized in equine nutrition and feeds her own horses beet pulp. That said, there’s no reason for everyone to choose to add beet pulp to their horses’ diets. There are plenty of ways to feed your horse! Just be careful to read the ingredients of commercial feeds because beet pulp is incorporated into many of them.
My My ,very good points except you are forgeting the horse the one you stuff beet pulp into. seems to me wild horse never go near a beet pulp plant so why feed it to them . I can tell you I have hundreds of testimonies wher gorse owners have taken thier horses off beet pulp and restored thier horse back to health, sorry people Beet pulp is a waste product , a empty filler for all commercial feed manufactuers, the only who loses being fed Beet Pulp is the horse.
Sigh. No one is forcing anyone to feed their horse beet pulp. It is a useful feed for people who choose a forage based diet but don’t want the high protein levels of alfalfa. Really, your article would be more compelling if it was scientifically accurate. Since you are neither a vet nor an equine nutritionist and your article is rife with errors, I simply can’t endorse your point of view. Beet pulp is not an empty filler, it is about 10 percent protein, 0.8 percent calcium and 0.5 percent phosphorus. There is an old saying: many anecdotes don’t make data. You may have “hundreds” of testimonials from horse owners who took their horses off of beet pulp and are now healthier but unless those horses were part of a study that looked at their diet before, their diet after and which evaluated them in a measurable way, it means nothing. They could be healthier now because they have a more balanced diet, or because whatever was ailing them no longer affected them, or because something else in their environment changed. In general it’s not a good idea to manage your horse’s diet through anecdotal theories, especially when there is so much scientifically backed nutritional data available.
this answers question 1-5-6
As far as the hind gut it takes 4 molecules of water to process 1 molecule of beet pulp , so water it retained in the hind gut thus over working it as horses can only have food on their stomachs for only 2 hours , so since the beet pulp is a insoluble fiber meaning
insoluble fiber that is metabolically inert, absorbing water as it moves through the digestive system, easing defecation.
taking along with it valuable nutrients, plus taxing the kidneys
Equine Digestive Tract Structure and Function
Dr. Bob Wright, Veterinary Scientist, Equine and Alternative Livestock/OMAFRA
01 September 1999
01 September 1999
I certainly agree that beet pulp all by its lonesome doesn’t come close to providing an adequate and balanced mineral profile. Few feeds do. Great grass hay is about the only one that really fills the bill of being one-stop shopping, and even that not 100% of the time.
Susan Garlinghouse, DVM
Mountains of unusable waste from the beet industry were marketed to the equine feed industry for weight gain. The gains in weight appear to be mostly water weight; it is lost quickly when the horse discontinues it. Water is retained when the body attempts to dilute a toxic substance.
Julie Montgomery Dragon Fly farms Tennessee
You’re absolutely right — beet pulp is not a complete feed and must be balanced
with a proper vitamin and mineral supplement. It is very high in oxalates, as
…your link showed, which bind calcium, so though it appears to be high in
calcium, it actually isn’t a good source since the calcium is not well absorbed. Feed Your Horse Like A Horse wrote Juliet Margolin Getty
If you want to feed your horse as though he is living in the wild, then he will have to travel about 20+ miles per day looking for forage. Along the way, he’ll have to respond to predators, such as mountain lions, coyote packs and wolves. Our horses are far too domesticated to even talk about “how horses eat in the wild”. I am about as natural and organic as they come, however, I can’t abide by the way horses survived to live not a very long life when they actually were foraging on their own and spending most of their time looking simply looking for forage and avoiding predators.
From Stagecoach, NV, the heart of wild horse country. Actually wild horses are root eaters as well as grazers. They teach the domestic horses how to dig for roots. Of course beets don’t grow out in the desert however if a local gets careless and leaves some beets or rutabagas outside, watch how fast they disappear.
Dehydration is an issue in our environment. We will occasionally provide beet pump to the (former) wild ones in our care to promote water retention in the secum when manure balls start to have the consistency of stones. They scarf it up. Beet pulp seems to help prevent impaction colic. Regarding digestibility, it seems to help less thrifty older horses retain / gain weight, especially when combined with rice bran.
I can’t say much about GM beet pulp other than I tend to avoid any GM products when I can. It pays to read the label on any feed or supplement, including country of origin for pet foods.
Liz – Great article with credible citations. Thanks!
Really , anecdotal theories?
The horse on beet pulp will throw off calcium, as a result you will see the calcium deposit along the horses neck , once the beet pulp is removed , more flextion and absorption of calcium results
Lon Lewis DVM-Feeding and Nutrition care of the Horse 1982 states quoted:
Excess amounts of oxalates (form of salt) may be present in these plants-halogeteon, greasewood, BEETS, dock, rhubarb-(Beets =product beet pulp) – If the horse consistently eats theses plants over a LONG extended period of time, calcium deficiency will result. Insoluble oxalate crystals will deposit in the kidneys resulting in kidney damage – Could be the reason for the water molecules trying to flush the kidneys?
Every horse I have seen that is on beet pulp has kidney reflex point that is hot.
I never go by science as they are just theories anyway , I go by results and experience and my horses well being.
Excuse me, please point me to the study that shows horses that eat beat pulp get cresty necks? Typically that is a symptom of magnesium deficiency. And those are fat deposits, not calcium deposits.
One study that is nearly 30 years old that says feeding certain plants “may” result in a deficiency does not provide enough evidence in the face of current nutritional guidelines. In any case, horse owners should feed a balanced diet so that there is a calcium/phosphorous balance.
Once again — don’t feed beet pulp to your horses or your clients’ horses. But I think you are doing a disservice by presenting your “anecdotal theories” as fact.
I have fed beet pulp to many horses as do many of my colleagues. I have yet to see any of them develop “calcium deposits” on their necks.
I have been feeding my horse beet pulp and cubes for 2 years and he has never felt better. He has trouble breathing when on hay and this mixture has fixed his breathing, his coat is shiny and very healthy all threw the winter and he has more energy than he knows what to do with without having to feed him any grain. I have never noticed any of the symptoms spoke of in him or any other horse we have have fed beet pulp to.
I would like to add to this discussion that some points could be valid when considering beet pulp, however due to its proven fiber profile it is worth finding solutions to these. For example, it is a fact that most beet pulp today is GMO, however it is reasonably easy to find alternatives since there still are companies using solely non-GMO beet pulp. Furthermore, if worried about calcium imbalance or quality issues, choose a product that is under strict quality control and also has balanced calcium and phosphorus. They are out there. It is not that hard to work around these. Beet pulp might not be for everyone, however it is beneficial to many horses and far better for them to use than high amounts of starch cereals such as barley and corn for adding calories…
I have a 17 year old Grand Prix dressage Mare and live in Charleston SC. Last summer (2010) my mare was not breathing well, so I put her on 1AC. She did better and made it through the summer fine. This summer, I started her on beet pulp shreds, and she did not need the 1AC. Her coat blossomed to a dark bay/black, which in our Southern sun is quite lovvely. but her normal rear end movements, and her way of going began to change as the summer progressed. She now starts out sluggish, with tiny steps, and her rounded top line has changed noticably, appearing like a weaker back. She wants to move more on her forehand. She is a Hannovereian/TB and your article caught my eye. One of my very good friends is having similar issues with her percheron/Tb who is only 7 years old. This mare is being trained for endurance competition and also steps out gingerly, not wanting to use her back end also. this mare is on a beet pulp based feed.
If this is a clacium/phosphorous issue, would feeding some alfalfa take care of this problem? She loves her beet pulp, but if it is harming her, I will take it away.
The rest of her diet is Triple Crown bagged Safe Forage (timothy and orchard grass hay,) Seminole Feed “Calm and Cool” (Wellness) and timothy -orchard grass square bales, lightly fed to keep them from getting bored. They are now eating bahaia pasture and winter rye but our growing season is ending..
Gee wonder why????????????????????????????
Excuse me, but anecdotes and data are not the same. There is NOT a shred of scientific evidence that feeding beet pulp causes a horse to become weak in its hind end. There are PLENTY of other reasons why a horse would develop these problems and most have to do with how they are ridden, saddle fit, shoeing issues, etc. rather than what they are fed. There is no way you can tell from that letter what is causing the issues experienced by that woman’s horse and you do her a disservice to speculate that it’s beet pulp. If you do want to play the anecdotal evidence game, please explain to me why endurance horses are so widely fed beet pulp!
Well this is all very interesting. The bottom line is unless our horses are on pasture or hay that we ourselves manage, we have no idea of the chemicals that they are consuming do we?
Alfalfa is sprayed with all manner of pesticides and when in pellet form you have no idea of the quality of what you are feeding.
One could argue until the cows come home (or horses in this case) about what is safe to feed and most information that we have available to us is from nutritionists who are paid to do research by the feed companies themselves so this information will of course be biased. We are not going to be told if a feed could potentially harm our horses in the long term are we?
It is up to us as horse owners to feed our horses well and most of us do the best we can with the information that is available to us. There will always be conflicting opinion and every horse is so different in its needs that there can be no black and white, right or wrong.
I am gluten intolerant and it is a poison to me, that does not make it bad for every one.
The bottom line is KNOW YOUR HORSE, get blood work and allergy tests done if you suspect your feed is harming him.
A little knowledge can be dangerous,we must remember that for the good of the horse
horse lover (and beet pulp feeder)
I have a horse in his late 20s. However, he has developed a severe problem over the last 6 months with choke. His teeth are in great shape, we just had them checked and the vet count no tumors or obstructions at all. He is unable to eat hay or chaff, even soaked. He stays in a pasture that has a very small amount of grass to eat because it will choke him as well. I tried feeding him the senior complete pellets soaked as his only feed and he was unable to maintain weight on that alone. I’ve been feeding him soaked beet pulp with soaked senior pellets in the morning, and soaked timothy pellets with soaked senior pellets in the evening. His body condition has normalized and he has not choked at all.
For those who are saying to feed the complete feeds to your horses to avoid beet pulp, don’t you realize that beet pulp is probably the primary fiber used in those feeds? Also, if you are trying to avoid chemicals and GMO products, most of the grains used to make animal feed are not completely pesticide free and GMO. Unless you are purchasing feed that specifically states on the bag that it is organic and non-GMO, you will have both of those in your feeds. I have a chicken farm, it has been a daunting task to find organic, non-GMO grain that is remotely affordable for our layers. Many of the major feed companies I spoke with indicated that they do least cost formulation.
For my horse, he would not be able to maintain his weight without beet pulp, and it has been a lifesaver for him. I will continue to feed it to him without any hesitation.
I was so impressed with this post that I linked to it on my equine nutrition page on Face Book. I probably should have checked with Liz before doing so, and I do apologize for that. I was just so excited to find someone that actually looked into the negative claims made about beet pulp & refuted them with facts, not hearsay. I have had & presently have several horses with insulin resistance. I have fed beet pulp shreds for years as a carrier for their supplements & have also used it to put weight on horses with Cushings & older horses. I have nothing but positive things to say about it. It is an excellent way to provide fiber and safe (without causing a glycemic spike) calories for horses. I do thoroughly rinse and soak my beet pulp before feeding it & have found an excellent local source of clean & good quality shreds. Thank you Liz for setting the record straight & disputing the bad press on beet pulp.
You are welcome to link to any article on the blog. Glad you found this one useful. I think Beet pulp is a very useful feed for many horses and should not be dismissed out of hand because of pseudo-science. You certainly don’t have to feed your horse beet pulp, but at least you should be able to make an educated choice!
Claire, thanks for mentioning the rinsing issue regarding IR horses. I had posted that suggestion in my original post but the Internet hiccupped and the post disappeared. I forgot to include it in my second attempt. The rinse – soak method seems to resolve the sugar residue issue for IR horses and it’s something that owners of IR horses should be aware of. Other than that, I certainly can’t find anything of concern regarding beet pulp. Again, as Liz and others have mentioned, different horses have different needs. Know your horse’s particular needs and issues, and adjust your regimen to address them.
I agree with Claire! I too have linked this to my Equine Nutrition page on FB after Claire shared it on her page. It was so refreshing to see an article that address the concerns with beet pulp in a point by point format. I have used beet pulp in IR horses, Cushings horses, to put weight on my OTTB client horses, in draft crosses, in older horses – you name it. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but it is, is my opinion a good safe feed for certain issues. Everyone thinks beet pulp is loaded with sugar, just like they think Purina Equine Senior is loaded with molasses, neither of which are true! Thank you for your article!
H Squared Wellness
We should start a Myth Busters Club…..lol
LOL! We should indeed!
As long as you don’t mind, I’m posting a link to this page as well.
Please do! The more the merrier.
First of all, THANK YOU for sharing all of your findings! This was a valuable read!
I run a boarding facility in Florida and do my best to get every horse that comes to my farm off concentrated grains. I replace with soaked alfalfa cubes and beet pulp and have only ever seen the benefits from the switch. But the benefits from being off concentrates and on more “whole” foods diet is usually starkly obvious.
I am constantly trying to keep up with the new and alternative nutrition research and recently came across the “beet pulp debate.” Your post took away my immediate concerns, and despite knowing that beet pulp is a “processed food”, I’m comfortable feeding it as a better alternative to concentrates.
In Florida, it’s hot! And our horses will ferment their meals so much that it causes gas colic. Adding beet pulp was what stopped our gas colic-prone horses from colicking ever again. It also puts weight on our hard keepers when we take them of concentrated, sugary grains.
I’ve seen nothing but benefits during my years as a boarding facility feeding dozens and dozens of horses of all ages (young to geriatric).
My goodness. First, let me say I really appreciate your approach: research, current findings, facts, and a point by point answer from a DVM. Hudson became unable to process oat hay (1 flake at lunch only), his stomach hurt all the time, he was ferociously crabby.The only stone the vet and I had left unturned was the possibility of parasite load. We had a sample analyzed. No parasites. What the vet did find however: he was unable to digest the oat hay properly.
Adding pre-soaked shredded BP for lunch has made a world of difference to his well-being. And he definitely does not have a weak hind end. 🙂
Clearly no feed is going to be correct across the board for all horses. It turned out to be a blessing for my guy. If anything, he’s digesting his supplements better, if his coat, skin, and eye can be believed as indicators.
I feed beet pulp to everyone, and I will continue. My friend said she was told by a vet that feeding beet pulp can cause calcium deposits on the knee’s of mini’s, and cause over the knee in unborn foals. I have never been told this, I would appreciate if you could clear this up for me. Thank you
I have never heard this before and have NO experience feeding minis. In general, I am suspicious about second hand information from someone else’s vet. Often times this information lacks context or may be flat out wrong. I suppose that if your calcium/phosphorous ratio is really off the excess calcium might cause a problem. Your best bet would be to consult an equine nutritionist as they often can give you more well-rounded advice than even your vet.
Beet pulp is high in calcium but you can balance it by adding wheat bran. One pound (dry weight) of beet pulp & 8 oz of wheat bran gives you a 1.7:1 Ca:P ratio.
Add 1 gram of Magnesium for a 1.6:1 Ca:Mg ratio. Note: the desirable Ca:P:Mg ratio is 1.5-2:1:1.
This is an excellent review of beet pulp and, in my opinion, well balanced. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most people who take a stance on beet pulp can’t tell me if their horse is receiving adequate trace minerals or whether the diet is balanced. Complaints of brittle hooves and poor hair quality point to copper, zinc and fatty acid deficiencies. If a horse is on a balanced diet and cannot tolerate beet pulp, that’s one thing. But if someone blames beet pulp without taking into account frank mineral deficiencies, that’s just ignorance. Address the basics first!
All mine are on beet pulp (or sugar beet as we call it here).
I’ve read some of the comments against using it on another site, which made me wonder if I was doing the right thing. My horses are all barefoot, they are a PRE (Pure Spanish) gelding 9 yrs, another Spanish horse, no idea really how old.. hmm 20 something or 30 something, she is a rescue with a foundered back hoof and and English bred lady of 28, had her shoes off for a year, been shod all her life, feet are fine and I’ve only had her a year.. . I’ve fed them sugar beet for around 5 months now. I had to find something else to feed which doesn’t have alfalfa in it, as it make the Spanish ones itch and EVERYTHING here some to have alfalfa in it!
English farrier friend who has run stud farms and polo places suggested sugar beet, as he has always used this, along with other foods, depending on what the horses were doing. never a problem, good playing polo ponies, brood mares and stallions etc.
So, I’ve given it a whirl, so far… no dull coats, feet are still rock hard, nothing wrong with their hind ends (save the one with a knackered hoof) and no sloppy poop and if its none soluble, wouldn’t I find traces of it in the poop? Like you get sweet corn pieces??? 🙂
I just see hay, they have this ad lib all day and are fed sugar beet mornings and evenings.
If these things manifest themselves due to eating sugar beet, how long do they take to appear?
I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion and interpretation of events, data etc. and though Liz may not agree with Lorrie, at least it got us, (well me at least), looking and doing a bit of investigating rather than just blinding feeding horses what we’re told by big feed companies and got us looking at labels.
Maybe, some horses do have a problem sugar beet, like mine have with alfalfa so it might just point someone in a direction they hadn’t considered before.
From my own experience thus far.. I’m happy to keep feeding it but will look more into how the one I buy is made, if I can (I’m in Spain so it’s probably all GMO and full of sugar! lol)
Great article 🙂
I agree. Thinking about what you feed your horse is what it’s all about. Too many of us (myself included for many years) take advice without giving it the “smell test.” Sometimes it stinks! What I’ve learned over the years is that vets are not always experts when it comes to nutrition (although they are getting better) and 50% or more of everything on the Internet is fiction. The problem is figuring out which 50%.
The best thing we can all do is read as much as possible, try to keep an open mind, and listen to our horses.
if you buy hay that hay might have been sprayed with chemicals to prevent weeds growing in your hay. its just like the food we eat. I have always tried to feed my horses the best possible feeds and I think beet pulp is a good food to use. All these articles have opened up my eyes and I now will choose more carefully which horses will get beet pulp. I am going to try one horse off beet pulp for the 3 months “prescribed” but we shall see as show season is here and I like the beet pulp to give added water to the horses at show day.
I, personally, don’t mess with a feeding regime that is working for my horse but if you are simply trying to make sure your horses get enough water on show days, you can also just soak your grain. I always soak my horse’s grain — it eliminates any dust (I feed alfalfa pellets) and minimizes any chance of choking. I also like the added hydration. I no longer feed beet pulp separately but I do feed Triple Crown Senior which is a beet pulp based feed. You don’t need to soak it (one of the reasons why I switched because in a co-op barn it is sometimes not possible to make sure your horse’s feed is soaked) but it can’t hurt.
So happy to see this rebuttal article and I’m sharing the heck out of it. I am a huge fan of research, the real kind not anecdotal theories. While there have been conflicts even among the scientific world about beet pulp, it has not been proven “toxic” in any way.
I was appalled when I first read the article in question online. I have been feeding horses for more than 20 years now, beet pulp is always an old friend in my barns. I have my own anecdotal results with it, and that is, it works. I sure won’t be throwing my hat into the ring as an expert on it though, even with 20 plus years experience! I leave that to the folks who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in education and more experience than I could ever hope for, as well as scientific evidence and funded large scope studies with proper procedure.
We ran 35-50 head at the track. Only horse in the barn that ever required ulcer treatment was a cranky old gelding who refused to eat beet pulp no matter what we added to it. We had not a single episode of colic even with the high rations we fed, all our horses had great weight, glossy coats, and certainly didn’t lack in the hind end department. Touch wood, in all my years I have never had a colic while feeding beet pulp, even on the 24/7 fed to the eyeballs racers.
Don’t worry about beet pulp if you feed Alfalfa. All Alfalfa seeds available in the US are now GM.
I agree that BP is a great, low sugar , fiber alternative and it pains me to see that now we also have GMO sugar beets to deal with. Simply put I will not support something tha harms the environment even more , which Round-up Is already doing. Weeds are becoming resistant to it and more and more is sprayed. This can only create more problems and not solutions as we have seen in the past with other pesticides……and non-GMO sugar beet is hard to find and VERY expensive.
Otherwise overall very good research article 🙂
My mare’s back-end has been getting weaker and weaker over the last year…which is exactly how long she’s been on beet pulp. She was taken off grain because it destroyed her feet (they were so flat and thin that she was lame for two weeks until I took her off grain completely, put her on a round bale, and she almost instantly got better, emotionally and physically, and her feet have been improving a LOT since). Since she is boarded, and all the horses were getting a bucket of something at dinner time, though, she was getting very angry about not getting any (broke a gate one day), so I started her on beet pulp with a little handful of alfalfa pellets for flavor (cause she didn’t like it at first) and a supplement made for horses who don’t get grain. The original foot problems were mostly her front-end, which were much flatter and thinner than the back ones. This issue, like I said, has gradually gotten better. However, at the same time as her front feet were getting stronger, she started tripping with the back-end. Noticed it riding sometimes and though it was just a hole she stepped in or something…but then started realizing she was doing it on perfectly flat ground. It felt like her back-end would just fall out from under me for a second. Then I started noticing her having issues on the ground too. Her massage therapist said her back-end seemed weak, like she wasn’t using it enough, so I should do exercises that make her use it more. This didn’t help. I would longe her and she’d be going along find and then suddenly FLIP out like she got smacked in the butt and run. I started thinking it seemed like something was popping her rear-end when she moved a certain way. This year with the horrible winter, she got more beet pulp, just to have more to digest to stay warm. She has deteriorated to the point where I can’t do anything with her. She is totally locked up, and her back end is so bad that her back legs literally shake when I ask her to do anything with them besides stand around. She HATES the farrier making her pick up her back legs for any amount of time. She shakes and wants the person to hold her weight. You can tell its hard for her to hold her leg up. Her farrier agrees it is not sore feet, its something with the hind-end/legs. I found the article you are debunking while I was desperately trying to find what’s wrong with her. I’m sure you could say it could be a coincidence, but this issue started at the same time I started beet pulp and had gradually gotten worse while she’s been on it, while her other issues healed. I took her off it just recently, and also as the article said, she dropped weight so fast that there’s no way it was fat she was losing. Its like it literally drained off…as if it was water. She was fattened up for winter pretty well, and now she’s about at the bottem end of what I’d consider a good weight. I am changing up her feed again to try to get weight back on, but since everything in that article described what I’ve been going through with her, I thin its definitely worth a try to get through this weight-loss stage and see if she improves without giving the beet pulp back to her. The article said they should be off it for about 3 months to see results, so that remains to be seen. I just think its not a good idea to debunk experiences people have, even if they are rare, there could be someone out there with a rare case desperately searching for this article that you are saying people shouldn’t take seriously. In the end, we can all agree that beets are NOT part of any horse’s natural diet that they evolved to consume. That’s impossible, they don’t dig and beets are roots. Therefore, it is not something they evolved to digest with absolute efficiency, so it is never going to be as good as what wild horses consume. People can claim they have insanely healthy/fit horses all day that eat tons of beet pulp and I won’t accuse them of lying, but in the end, I also see people who live on mainly McDonald’s and Taco Bell who exercise enough that they look healthy and fit….and no one is going to use that evidence to claim McDonald’s and Taco Bell is health food.
Not trying to debunk your experience, but there is no medical or scientific evidence that there is anything wrong with feeding beet pulp. I personally have fed beet pulp or a beet-pulp based feed for more than 10 years and over a number of different horses with no problem. Endurance riders feed a lot of beet pulp and their horses certainly aren’t having problems with their hind ends. Certainly not every feed works for every horse but there are generally nutritionally based reasons why something doesn’t work. For example, many people feed sweet feed. It is very high in sugar and can cause a lot of issues for many horses, yet people still believe it is a “good” feed and some horses do fine for it.
In your shoes, I would contact a vet and/or a nutritionist to find out what would work best for my horse. You don’t say what type of grain you fed or what the nutritional profile of your hay is. That can make a huge difference in the overall health of your horse including it’s ability to build/sustain muscle and the quality of the hoof wall grown. If the grain you were feeding “destroyed” her feet, it may well have had a very high sugar (Non structural carbohydrate) content. If they hay your are feeding doesn’t have a high enough protein content, then your horse does not have the nutritional building blocks to develop muscles.
My own TB had a lot of hoof issues when I first got him and he’s on a low NSC feed (Triple Crown Senior which is beet pulp based) and a mix of alfalfa and grass hay. He’s now been barefoot for three years.
If you don’t have a nutritionalist near you, I also think the program http://www.feedxl.com does an excellent job of letting you know if your feeding regime is meeting your horse’s nutritional needs and will highlight any areas where it is deficient.
I wish you luck with your horse. In the end, you need to feed what works best for your horse. The more you read and educate yourself, the better the choice you can make. Remember that anecdotal reports are not data because they do not look at the other elements that can contribute to an issue.
Carrots are roots, TOO, and I’ve yet to meet a veterinarian that says carrots will hurt your horse, and have yet to meet a horse that won’t eat one.
As for horses digging..yours may not, but I’ve got one who is worse than a dog burying a bone.
Hmm. I wonder about the authenticity of that last post….
I realize this blog post is 5 years old now but I see that “article” by “what’s-her-name” come up every so often and it makes my blood boil!!
I pointed out the inaccuracies of her statements regarding fibre with this research from KER:
No mammal can digest fibre. That is why they have colonies of bacteria in the intestines. Those bacteria digest the fibres and the animal then benefits from the volatile fatty acids produces from the fermentation process. As Dr.Garlinghouse pointed out, only lignins are truly indigestible.
GM foods are everywhere. It is next to impossible to find GMO free foods. Even “organic” foods can be contaminated.
Yes, I would feed my horse a plant that requires LESS pesticides than one that requires more chemical applications.
Some horses, which are FAR removed from their wild ancestors, are no longer capable of thriving on pasture/hay forage alone. Humans have “genetically modified” many modern horse types and so, many times we need to feed them modern feeds to help them cope.
I also have to wonder about the parasite status (parasite burden and deworming practices) in these horses with “weak hind ends”.
What other feeds were these horses getting? Hindgut acidosis sounds like a reasonable culprit in some of these cases, as well. Something commonly found in horses off the track.
I am willing to give some thought to an article based on science, facts and research but I do not fall for an article that only serves one’s agenda by blatantly stating uninformed facts without references to back up those statements.
Secondly, I don’t think other authors (who hold PhDs and various university degrees) would appreciate their words being used out of context.
“Consider beet pulp instead of oats!” by Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.
While she makes mention of calcium being bound in oxalates, she does so regarding the balancing of Calcium:Phosphorus ration.
As a side note: In my research, it seems that the oxalates are concentrated in the leaves of beets, not in the roots. Have not confirmed this yet, but studies only make note of oxalates in “leaves” and do not mention the roots.
While this is a human study, it shows that the low bioavailability of oxalates is offset by beets’ high mineral content (calcium and magnesium).
I found one statement that oxalates decompose on drying of the leaves but it’s really late (or really early!), so I must retire for the night.
So far, the only valid argument is regarding the GM status of sugar beets. I would bet that argument is debatable as well 😉
I have to share… after reading your post in response to the beet pulp myth, we recently took 4 horses off beet pulp that fit the description Bracaloni described. We were feeding beet pulp daily hoping to achieve the benefits beet pulp promises to deliver. Each of the 4 were dull, skinny, hind end issues etc… never improving. Not anticipating huge results I failed to take before photos. Now month later the phyiscal change in these 4 is astounding. I can truly agree that beet pulp is not for every horse.
Interesting results. What else were you feeding — before and what did you replace the beet pulp with?
Beet pulp needs to be balanced. I think this is the most common oversight and most of the negative symptoms can be attributed to not balancing the feed ration. Beet pulp is high in calcium and iron and unless it’s balanced appropriately, it will exacerbate the most common and ubiquitous frank mineral deficiencies in forage – copper and zinc. I wonder how many of the complaints about beet pulp would be resolved if people would take into account the nutritional profile (including minerals) of their forage and the amount of beet pulp they’re feeding?
That is an excellent point! I agree that it’s very important to look at the overall feed program and make sure that your horse’s nutritional needs are being met. People tend to feed so many supplements that sometimes they are overfeeding one thing and underfeeding something else. I know lots of people who feed very small amounts of “complete” feed but don’t realize that in the amounts they feed their horse is not getting the vitamins/minerals that they need. Periodically, I run my feeding regime through http://www.feedxl.com as it gives you a quick overview of where any nutritional gaps might be.
makes me laugh that every time someone writes they took their horse off of soaked or not soaked (not beet pulp in commercial feed as Liz feeds…she isn’t feeding straight beet pulp from what i can tell), Liz rebutts with, what I liken to “cant be the beet pulp, what else are ya doing”. It can be the beet pulp, just like it can be alfalfa or other feeds. cannot it not be accepted that some horse will not THRIVE on soaked beet pulp? PLEASE give it a break.
If you are going to paraphrase me, please get it right. I have never said that all horses will thrive on beet pulp and it DOES make a difference what else you are feeding because beet pulp alone will not meet a horse’s nutritional needs.
Currently I am not feeding just beet pulp but for about a decade I fed three different horses soaked beet pulp plus a ration balancer and they did just fine. My current OTTB just needs more calories than beet pulp can provide which is why he gets a high-fat, beet pulp based complete feed. When I have a horse I look at the specific animal and what it does and then build a feed regime that supports it.
And, unless you show me scientific evidence (anecdotes are not data) I still do not believe that beet pulp causes hind end weakness. Please provide the data that explains how that could happen?
In the meantime, I stick by my belief that beet pulp is a great forage feed and can be successfully incorporated into many feeding programs. Your mileage may vary.
I’m not sure if this debate is still active but I find it amazing the controversy over feeding beet pulp. I’ve fed beet pulp for over 20 years. I do not use it as a main feed but I do supplement with it. I’ve fed Grand Prix Jumpers to my rope horses and they have all done well on it. I’ve had my rope horse for 11 yrs and he has not coliced a day I’ve had him and is still roping at the age of 24. My horses all get good hay a very small amount of extruded feed and beet pulp. People are amazed at how good my horses look on the tiny amount of feed they get. I would never push someone to feed it but I can say from years of experience that my horses do great on it.
Reblogged this on The "backyard" rider..
I am a newer horse owner (less than a year) but have been around horses most of my life. My current horses are a TWH mare, her 18mth filly (twh/pp) and 7mth colt (twh/?). As both babies were born late (Sept/Oct) I knew that feeding grain wasn’t going to be an option. They are pasture only, with access to covered areas, including a big barn stall. They had free access to excellent hay (approx 50-60% alfalfa/40-50% brome/timothy/orchard grass). They were never blanketed. The mare and filly were fed from Sept through to Feb on the below formulas, then tapered off until colt was weaned beginning of March, then they were cut off and fed only hay. Colt continued with his feed.
I started feeding the filly first as she was underweight at the beginning of the winter, I even wormed her an extra time with Questplus just to make sure it wasn’t a parasite load. I fed her 1.5 lbs Nutrena Safechoice Senior, then switched to Mare and Foal later, 1/2 c ground BP pellets, 1/2 c vegetable oil and 1/3 c molasses (for taste as she was picky). She got that twice a day from Oct-Jan. During that time I noticed a few things…1) her feet were fair to good before, they were significantly improved by the end, 2) her coat had been dry and almost brittle, became shiny, smooth and THICK, 3) she gained over 80 lbs and was energetic and sassy! No longer could I feel her ribs! She grew 3″ this winter!
The mare was started on just 2 lbs Nutrena Safechoice Mare and Foal, twice daily, for the first couple of mths, then I added some BP, 1/2 c oil and 1/4 c molasses as I noticed the demands of nursing were causing her to lose weight. Within weeks, she was looking much better and her milk supply was much higher. Her feet also grew much faster and so much harder than before and her coat was amazing!
The colt ate with his mom for about a mth before I set up the stall as a creep feeder and started free-feeding him Masterfeeds Frisky Foal, which he did very well on. By 6 mths, when I weaned him, he had gone from 99 lbs and 8.1hh at birth to 13.1hh and 448 lbs with an extremely thick coat!
CONCLUSIONS: I will continue feeding BP to my horses, when they need it.
IN RESPONSE to the other commenters: if YOUR horses don’t do well on it or you don’t like feeding it, then don’t. All horses are different. Some people can’t eat eggs or peanut butter, doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone. Maybe YOUR horses are having an allergic reaction to BP. To KNOW what’s wrong, have them tested by a professional vet/equine nutritionist.
I also noted that most of the ones who had horses with ‘hind end weakness’ had been feeding BP with ‘other things’….did you ever think that MAYBE the cause was one of the ‘other things’ you were feeding? Something could have been out of balance (too much/too little), so many other things could have been going on than just the BP.
~from Central Alberta Canada
I have a PhD in Toxicology and do hair testing on horses. I use body hair (tissue) and fetlock hair (cuticle) to determine mineral interactions. I specialize in nonsweating horses that One-AC has not worked to get them sweating. My findings are that a lot of horses on beet pulp have high levels of aluminum which is a toxin for horses. Processing beet pulp uses aluminum and most beet pulp contains 250+ ppm aluminum after it is processed.
As horses have different genetics some are affected more by aluminum than others.
Aluminum can cause Cushing’s disease as it inhibits uptake of important chemicals by nerve cells …especially dopamine. In addition, aluminum kills dopamine producing cells in the pituitary. The causation for Cushing’s is supposedly a pituitary tumor but loss of dopamine is really due to aluminum in beet pulp or aluminum used as a flow agent in feeds. Lowered dopamine causes overactive adrenals. Increased cortisol causes high blood sugar and aldosterone causes the kidney to retain sodium. The mineral profile shows elevated potassium and sodium. Over time the horses gets Cushing’s. The way to stop this is to feed an aluminum free diet. One-AC can be used to elevate dopamine levels. It is less expensive than prescription drugs and does not have bad side effects except for pregnant mares that are the same as those induced by fescue in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Beet pulp can cause nonsweating in horses in hot weather as it contains a lot of fiber which generates too much heat in some horses and they stop sweating. Aluminum interferes with iron, manganese and chromium and renders them biounavialable (non useful). Iron is needed in an essential enzyme for sweating. In addition, dopamine is needed for sweating and aluminum interferes with that. Aluminum also interferes with copper which is needed in another essential enzyme for sweating. In short, nonsweating is caused by diets that are inappropriate. Each horse is an individual and there are many different causes of nonsweating that require hair testing to get the horse sweating. If a horse is on beet pulp that is my #1 item to remove from the diet.
Aluminum has been overlooked as a toxin for horses. When I first started horse hair testing in 2007 I requested Equi-Analytical to test for aluminum. No one else had requested that. The lab tested Mormon’s salt for me and it contained a lot of aluminum.
They tested it twice to make sure the amount was correct. Now they are not surprised
at how much aluminum is in some diet items. Unfortunately, most horse nutritionists ignore aluminum and heavy metals in general. As I am a toxicologist I am aware how much damage toxic metals can do to horses and how much control they can exert on mineral profiles. I use Analytical Research Labs in Phoenix AZ as they do not wash the hair. Most other labs wash hair and since aluminum is water soluble their test results are not accurate for aluminum.
For further info my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Cook PhD Toxicologist
Coming very late to this re-posted post: Whether or not beet pulp is good or bad, MetalCowgirl mentioned that beets are roots and horses don’t dig roots, so they shouldn’t be eating beets.
Ummmm, maybe I’m wrong, but a carrot is a root, TOO, and I don’t know of a single horse that doesn’t like carrots, I’ve never met a horseman who swore carrots aren’t good for horses, and have yet to hear of a horse suffering some metabolic problem after eating a carrot.
That’s an excellent point! I don’t currently feed beet pulp as a separate ingredient because I feed Triple Crown Senior, which is beet pulp based. In the past, I’ve found it to be an excellent way to feed more long-stem forage, especially at times when hay is hard to come by or very expensive.
If you don’t want to feed beet pulp that would eliminate a lot of the complete feeds on the market.
Re returning to this thread…the toxicologist who advocates avoiding feeds that contain aluminum as it ’causes Cushings’. My arab had to be put down for advanced Cushings. He was on a straight hay diet with some crushed oats. Cushing’s may be exacerbated by aluminum, but I don’t believe it’s the sole cause. I’m still convinced pituitary tumors are the cause of Cushing’s. I wonder, too, if there’s not something going on genetically…so many grey Arabs..or even those with grey parents…develop Cushings, that I’ve heard it called “grey Arab disease’. . Yet the most famous of grey horses…the Lipizzans…don’t.