Compiled from these links:
The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp - Susan Evans Garlinghouse - written by a vet
- You do not need to soak beet pulp
- It will not cause choke any more than any other feed or grain
- It will not expand in the stomach or cause impaction
- It does have some nutrient value and protein
- It can be a low-energy way to put weight on horse (with beet pulp that does NOT contain molasses)
Although beet pulp, particularly that in the pelleted form, can cause choke, the choke is often in response to the particle size and the horse's feeding behavior, not necessarily due to the actual feed itself. Horses which bolt their food without sufficient chewing, or do not have adequate access to water, are far more likely to choke, regardless of the type of feed, than horses which eat at a more leisurely rate. Efforts should be made to prevent gobbling in these "wolfers"by putting rocks into the feeder or mixing in other feeds such as chaff to slow intake and encourage chewing. In any case, it should be clearly understood that, for whatever reason, some horses are more prone to choking than others. Therefore, decisions to soak or not should be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration whether feeding dry beet pulp is a necessity, the feeding behavior of the horse, and competition from other horses which encourage wolfing. In some horses, feeding soaked beet pulp may be the only alternative.
If you choose to soak it, it is currently recommended to soak it no longer than 1-2 hours, especially in hot weather, as it can begin to ferment. If soaked beet pulp smells sickly-sweet like wine, it has begun to ferment and should be disposed of.
The capacity of the equine stomach is 2-4 gallons, equivalent to approximately 4 ½ to 9 ½ pounds of dry beet pulp. Movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine can vary depending on a number of factors, but as the stomach begins to reach maximum capacity, stretch receptors in the walls of the stomach will trigger the release of motilin, a hormone which in turn stimulates the emptying of the stomach and passage of food into the small intestine, cecum and colon. As the capacity of the gastrointestinal system-approximately 38 to 48 gallons-is more than sufficient to adequately contain even a very large meal of beet pulp (or any other feed), the only horse in danger of a gastric rupture is one suffering from impaction or other severe lack of normal peristaltic movement.
The sugar beet industry is the industry responsible for making table sugar...so they take the sugar out of the sugar beets and leave everything else, EXCEPT the sugar. What's left is beet pulp.
In fact, most feed companies add a small amount of molasses to beet pulp to make it more palatable to horses and to reduce dust due to the lack of sugar. However, even with this added molasses, beet pulp is still lower in sugar than most other components of your horse’s diet.
Most old-timers will tell you beet pulp has no nutrition, "it's just a filler." Again, science has proved otherwise. Beet pulp is the fibrous material left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It's an excellent source of digestible fiber for the horse and can be fed in addition to, or instead of, hay. Recent research has shown that the fiber in beet pulp is easier to digest than the fiber in hays. In fact, horses may derive as much energy from beet pulp as they do from oats. 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. 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.
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 fiber rather than starch). And the low potassium content of beet pulp makes it an ideal forage replacement for horses with HYPP. Finally, endurance riders favor 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.
Now, I am personally not a fan of using beet pulp. I think hey pellets are a better alternative, but I wanted to put this information out there for those who don't know much about beet pulp and those who are misinformed about it.