Star Milling

Equine Nutrition - Feedstuff / Nutrients

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The old school practice of feeding a warm bran mash was not based on a true understanding of the horse’s gut and the practice most likely evolved because of the known effects it had on humans. Humans have a much shorter gut with one small compartment – the stomach – thus the gut anatomy does not parallel that of a horse whose gut is much longer and has two larger compartments – the stomach and cecum.

Bran has approximately 12% fiber which is the same fiber content as oats. Granted, the fiber portion is more available because it’s a grain byproduct but the quantities that need to be fed to cause the gut to contact with consistency and strength would need to be significant. The practice of feeding a cup or two per day adds insignificant levels of fiber to cause the behavior of the gut to contract differently. Also the composition of the fiber in bran is not like the fiber sources beet pulp and soy hulls, which have “bulk-laxative” like properties.

It depends. Pellet beet pulp will have some molasses, and some shreds purchased in the bag may also have molasses. Beet pulp is very rigged and dry and molasses helps soften the feed. The feed bag ingredient label should indicate if molasses has been added, but not always. If it’s unclear you can always check with the company.

Phytate is not bad for horses. More than 80% of the phosphorus in plants including grains is found in the complex phytate. Alfalfa is high in phytate.

Animals do not have the enzyme that can release the phosphorus but the gut’s bacteria can unshackle some of the phosphorus from this compound; hence why phosphorus is only about 45 -50% available from most plant sources. That poor availability is taken into account when formulating feeds which is why formulated feeds contain added phosphorus to meet requirement specifications.

Feeding corn oil as a fat source is not an issue. Corn oil has high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and much less omega-3.

The important relationship between omega-6 & omega-3 fatty acids in humans cannot be applied to horses. In fact, fatty acid requirement has not been established for horses, much less an omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio. Most fatty acids can be made by the body as needed which is why most are not essential in the diet.

Fatty acids have a role in all warm-blooded animals but their level of importance varies relative to the type of gut system. A horse on only grass forage (pasture or hay) consumes less than 2.5% fat. The omega-6/omega-3 ratio is much more important for mammals that consume high levels of fat, such as cats, dogs, and humans.

Omega fatty acids’ importance is that they play a role as building blocks for hormones that have inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties. The balance in these inflammatory and anti-inflammatory hormones is important in nurturing the immunological response of animal systems. Since horses have such a low fat requirement, does that translate to omega fatty acids as not important? NO! However it does explain why one cannot parallel the importance to that of humans.

I do believe in the benefits of different fat sources for a number of reasons which is why Integrity has a combination of fat sources including whole ground flaxseed, canola oil, rice bran and soybean oil.

You are most likely referencing a study that was presented last year at a symposium in France. In their study, 16 lactating mares grazed what was identified as good quality pasture. Half of the mares only had pasture and the other half in addition to the pasture were fed a barley based feed. Horses, like most mammals, eat to fulfill their energy needs and we know pasture horses will continue to graze to meet that energy requirement.

Although the study has an intriguing perspective, there are limitations with some of their conclusions.

  • First the study involved only 16 mares and they were of the same breed
    • 16 animals is a small sample size for a study to provide subjective feeding recommendations.
  • The grain was barley-based and provided 60% of the energy requirement during 4 months of lactation. The barley based feed group of mares actually lost more weight than the pasture-only mares
    • Depends on how much weight was loss and the authors stated that “weight loss at the end of the study could be due to a variety of factors.” Free-grazing horses will have a gut content that is heavier than those who consume less forage.
    • The study did not measure intake of pasture which limits any conclusions that could be considered for practical use. Pasture is approximately 80% water. More pasture consumed translates to more water consumed.
  • All the mares were infected with roundworms as a component of the study to determine if nutrition influenced the outcome.
    • Although the study did not note any differences, the roundworm infestation adds a variable that can influence the outcome of the study. Parasites are an immunological challenge that has an energetic cost. That cost is difficult to measure.
  • The authors noted that the pasture-only mares may have consumed more grass at a faster rate.
    • Perhaps the opposite is true that mares fed the barley grain diet reached an energetic satiety (sense of feeling full) and therefore had less grazing vigor.
    • This study’s observation does not agree with a NCSU study in which horses' total daily feed intake (pasture plus hay, if hay was provided) was not affected by length of turnout time. In other words, horses consumed the same amount of feed regardless of the amount of time they were allowed to graze. The strong ability of mares to ingest green forages explains this result, which is consistent with previous studies. The NCSU study also supported the opinion that horses who have less time on pasture will consume more at a faster rate.

Research is a stepping stone to guide us to a better understanding but caution is always needed when linking a study’s outcome to practical recommendations.

It depends on the feedstuff that makes up the pellet, but in general, if the pellet is a hay pellet, the opposite actually occurs. Fiber feeds that have been ground for a pellet form will actually reduce a horse’s water intake when compared to the same forage from a bale (hence, long stem fiber requires the horse to drink more water).

If the pellet is high in protein, then the amount fed to the horse could also influence its water intake. If an animal consumes more protein than its protein requirement, then the excess protein translates to excess nitrogen (protein is approximately 16% nitrogen). Excess nitrogen is eliminated as a waste product through the urine, which is why the horse drinks more water—to get rid of the nitrogen. In addition to fiber and protein, electrolytes and starch concentration are other feed components that will influence water intake.

The temperature for pelleting a feed varies depending on the amount of moisture (steam) needed to form the pellet. The typical temperature threshold for pelleting is around 160 °F, so that organic nutrients, like vitamins, protein, amino acids, etc., are not denatured or broken down. Minerals exist in the simplest form and cannot be denatured. High fiber feeds require steam or pressure, which is why the Teff hay pellet has a shiny appearance and is harder in consistency. The hay pellets will break up when soaked in water but it does takes longer. There is no general rule for soaking time because the maturity of the hay that makes the pellet, the hay type and the manufacture’s pelleting protocol all determine how much steam and pressure are used to turn the hay into pellets. 170 °F is usually the maximum temperature of the steam used in order to minimize any denaturing of nutrients during the pelleting process. Fiber is not affected by the pelleting process. However, reducing fiber length does influence gut motility. Horses consuming long stem hay (bale hay) will consume more water than horses that consume the same hay in a pellet form, which is why in my feeding guidelines for process hays, pellets or cubes cannot be more than 50% of the total forage intake.

So you are feeding 13 lbs. of pellets and forage/molasses combination with a little bit of oil. Is the mare fed any long stem hay (from the bale) or is she on pasture? One of my general recommendations for forage is that processed hay (cubes and pellets) can not be more than 50% of the total forage intake because of the importance of fiber and fiber length to gut motility and gut integrity. Forage mixed with molasses is not in my portfolio of feed choices for horses.

The oil amount is insignificant relative to adding calories but depending on her body weight, the small amount of oil may benefit hair coat appearance. I really need to know a lot more. In Dr. Bray’s Corner there is a fact sheet titled “What to Feed Your Horse,” which provides a series of questions that helps in determining amounts and types of feed that should be considered. Take a look and help me understand more about your mare. I have addressed the issue of choke in another recent Q & A entry found under Nutritional Management.

The guarantee analysis for Oat-Molasses (OatMo) and Alfalfa- Molasses (AlfaMo) must be printed on a tag attached to the feedbag. The ingredient listing on the tag tells you what’s in the feed. If you are buying by bulk/truckload the store will have that information (it’s required by law). The nutrient and energy content will vary substantially depending on the product, manufacture, etc. The nutrient/energy content will also depend on the forage quality and how much molasses is added.

There is no industry standard for this common mixture. Usually alfalfa-molasses will range from 10 – 13% crude protein, with energy content less than 0.8 Mcal of digestible energy/pound; oat-molasses will range from 6 – 8 % protein with energy content less than 0.7 Mcal of energy/pound. I have seen higher numbers for both mixtures but those products contained more than just forage and molasses, and may contain other forages, grains, or fat, etc.

Happy to hear all is well with your mare. Wheat mill run (aka wheat middling) is a kissing cousin of wheat bran. It is a byproduct from processing wheat for flour but it’s slightly higher in protein and has less fiber than wheat bran. Wheat midds are actually a reasonable energy source (about the same as oats). But when evaluating any feed ingredient, think about what other ingredients are in the formula and will they provide a balanced concentrate. If you read the Label Fact Sheet in Dr. Bray’s corner, you’ll note that the first four ingredients will frequently tell you a lot about the product quality.

Distiller’s dried grain is what is left over from the distilling of corn or rye for alcohol products (whisky, scotch, etc). I typically do not consider using distillery products in formulas for horses but have used them in other animal products. The nutrient profile of distiller’s dried grain usually does not meet my criterion as an ingredient for equine products that I develop. But, again, emphasis must be that a good formula is a combination of the ingredients that meet the nutrient profile for the animal's requirements.

The half-life of a pesticide product will vary depending on the active ingredient but I am not aware of any nutritional or health issues that raise concerns relative to spray products used with sugar beets or beet pulp production. I also do not have any concerns with using beet pulp as a feedstuff in animal products.

Molasses has two fundamental contributions to feed mixes: It binds the small feed particles to reduce the dustiness of the feed when handled or consumed by the horse. It adds a sweet flavor to the feed. Horses like sweetness. The horse industry is currently in overdrive with concerns regarding the sugar and starch makeup in horse feeds, thus molasses has been negatively targeted. Some commercial feeds have higher levels of molasses than others. Please read my example in Dr. Bray’s Corner about Nonstructural Carbohydrates. It covers sugar content in a feed containing molasses and may help with keeping molasses concerns in perspective.

Example: A 1,100 lb. Quarter Horse is consuming 4 lbs. per day of a popular sweet feed that contains 6% molasses in addition to 18 lbs. of grass hay. The horse owner is concerned with feeding molasses, which contains sugar. So, how much sugar is the horse actually receiving from the 4 lbs. of sweet feed?


  • 4 lbs. feed X 0.06 (6% molasses) = 0.24 lb. or 3.84 oz. of molasses in the 4 lbs. of feed
    • 6% is the same as 0.06; companies will share the % molasses added to a feed; it is not a trade secret
  • 3.84 oz. X 0.40 (40% sugar in molasses) = 1.54 oz. of sugar from molasses
    • 40% is the same as 0.40; commercial molasses is approximately 40% sugar

Answer: The horse is consuming 1½ oz. of sugar each day from the 4 lbs. of sweet feed. Do you think that 1½ oz. of sugar will be an issue with an 1100 lb. Quarter Horse?

The white salt block is just salt (sodium chloride). The brownish-red salt block is salt with a few selected minerals added. Most horse owners use the brownish-red block. If your horse is being fed a balanced formula (balanced for all the nutrients including minerals), like one of the Integrity products, then the white block is fine. There is a red salt block that contains iodine and should not be used for horses. There is also a blue salt blocks that contain cobalt and iodine; do not use this one either.

If the beet pulp you purchase contains molasses then it should be listed as an ingredient on the feed label. Molasses is added to beet pulp shreds to make the feed more pliable and easier to consume and chew, otherwise the feed would be very stiff and most horses do not like the texture and the pricking of the edges into their gums. Also as one would surmise, molasses is added to provide flavor and to reduce the inhaling of the finer particles and dustiness that is common with many feedstuffs including a by-product such as beet pulp.

Over-the counter supplements are usually dosed at very small amounts so most any feed concentrate that the horse is currently being fed will work. If the supplement has a particular taste that the horse is reluctant to consume with its typical ration then you will need to camouflage the flavor or prepare a direct-dose mixture so they eat it.

The easiest flavor cover-up is to sprinkle brown sugar onto the feed with the supplement. A texture feed that has molasses and different feed forms like the Integrity Lite will work as well. The molasses content in the Integrity Lite is low (there is an Integrity Lite without molasses as well) but adds flavor so that the a horse usually will ignore the supplement that is not taste appealing. If the mild sweetness of the feed is overpowered by the taste of the supplement then you will need to consider a paste form that can be dosed directly into the mouth. Smooth peanut butter is the easiest selection.

The starch content in oats is approximately 44% compared to corn’s 72%, barley’s 54%, wheat mids’ 26%, rice bran’s 19% and beet pulp’s 2%. Oats has the highest crude fiber content and the lowest starch content of any cereal grain. These characteristics are one of the reasons oats are traditionally a common “horse grain” because it’s consider safe. That is, it is less likely to promote digestive disturbances because of the higher crude fiber content. Conversely, corn is the grain with the highest energy content and has the lowest amount of crude fiber. The high starch content, if fed in large quantities, can cause changes in the microflora (bacteria) in the gut.

Over the years, nutritionists and manufactures have identified other feedstuffs, specifically by-products (beet pulp from sugar beets, wheat mids from wheat, soy hulls from soybeans, etc.) that when used in a formula will provide the nutrients and energy required by the horse with other benefits. For example the Integrity line is based on promoting gut health which is why beet pulp and soy hulls are primary ingredients in the product line.

Do not fear feeding balanced formulas containing grains. Horses that have high energy demands need feeds that supply the required energy from sources of fat and starch. On the flip side if your horse does mostly easy pleasure riding, then grain type formulas would not be the appropriate choice.

An understanding of your 2 yr. olds feeding program history is needed. The fact sheet in Dr. Bray’s Corner “What to Feed your Horse” will provide the guidelines of the information that is helpful.

Calcium, the mineral that is in the highest concentration in the body and diet, is well regulated in the blood thus total serum calcium is not considered a good indicator of calcium status. That study was conducted in the mid 60’s so even with a diet that is not balanced for calcium, calcium blood levels would remain at a constant level. Forages, common feedstuffs, and balanced commercial formulas provide more than enough calcium but the relationship of calcium with phosphorus and other minerals is critical. The calcium - phosphorus ratio for a 2 yr. old is 1.8:1 (that is, 1.8 parts calcium for every one-part phosphorus). More information on the filly’s feeding program would be needed before I can provide a useful recommendation with calcium intake.

The commercial product you referenced has been around for a very long time and contains a selective group of nutrients but the primary ingredient is an inorganic form of iron (sulfate form). Iron requirements for a 2 yr. old that will reach 900 lbs. at maturity is approximately 430 mg/d and according to that product label, one ounce provides 300 mg. Forages and by-products feeds are considered good sources of iron and iron requirements are easily met by common feedstuffs fed to horses. Iron should not be an issue for a horse that is fed forage and a balance formula such as those in the Integrity product line.

The filly still has some growth to obtain and even after she reaches height maturity, there are body tissue changes that will continue until she is near 4 years of age. In general for a 2 year old, the Integrity Growth formula is the Integrity product that should be fed. You should not be feeding the 2 yr. old filly the Integrity Lite.

You are right on target with your assessment in feeding alfalfa as the only forage and the volume of urine. Feeding only alfalfa as the hay (forage) can provide 60 to 125% more protein than the horse requires. Excess protein in the diet means excess nitrogen in the diet. Proteins consist of approximately 16% nitrogen. As the protein is broken down to amino acids, carbon fragments, etc., the excess nitrogen becomes a waste product that needs to be eliminated. Nitrogen is primarily eliminated by the body through the urine. Excess dietary nitrogen translates to the horse drinking more water, which is necessary to transport the urinary waste product, and drinking more water means more urination, larger volume of the “wet-spot” and more ammonia odor as well.

Any of the three grass hays will work and remember my guidelines on feeding forages. Those guidelines can be found in the Fact Sheet section of Dr. Bray’s corner in Feeding Guidelines for Horses. I am not a big fan of cereal grain hays because the amount of seed-head can vary a great deal. Often horses will pick through the hay, eating the seed heads first and thus not consuming adequate amounts of the hay’s fiber portion. As you know from attending my seminars, I place a lot of emphasis on fiber and gut integrity. Also remember that any changes in feed must be gradual. The rate of recommended changes with hay type and amounts can also be found in Feeding Guidelines for Horses. Protein “fuels” the microbe so when there is a feed change that includes a high protein feed or hay (such as alfalfa) and a much lower protein feed (such as grass hays) the change must be gradual to allow the microbes to adjust. The bacteria that live in the gut need to adjust whether you are removing or adding a protein source.

You will hear in the horse circles different views of forage sources. The bottom line is that the nutritional management of the forage being fed is the key factor.

The high-moisture feed you reference is not a feedstuff I recommend because of concerns with adequate fiber intake. Forages are the essential food source for horses (in fact, for all non-ruminant herbivores). Forages provide a source of energy and nutrients but more importantly, provide a source of fiber. Fiber is not a nutrient but is an essential component of a horse’s diet because of its role in promoting a healthy gut. Hay is approximately 90% dry matter (10% water) compared to the high moisture feed which is 55% dry matter (45% water). When comparing feeds, the comparison MUST be with equivalent dry matter or moisture content. The feeding recommendations of the high moisture forage provide inadequate fiber to the horse’s diet. In addition, the feedstuff relative to the cost per unit weight of dry matter is much more expensive than grass forage in the form of hay. Anytime a feed is processed, the cost of the feed is higher.

There is much confusion in the industry relative to non-structural carbohydrates (includes starch and sugars) being fed to horses. That confusion is perpetuated by internet blogs, some feed reps, and even professionals whose intentions are perhaps good, but usually limited relative to their knowledge with nutrition and nutritional management of horses. In the May 30, 2011 Feedstuffs, Dr. Pagan of KER wrote an excellent article on non-structural carbohydrates that address the misleading information circulating in the industry.

Our approach at Star Milling is to address the specific questions of customers, which is one reason why Star Milling setup Dr. Bray’s Corner so that the company can directly help our customers with questions. The Integrity Lite, No Molasses formula is the feed that best serves your needs and I have provided a table with the % starch and % starch + % ESC information regarding both Integrity Lite products. However please note that the emphasis is on total starch consumed not just the starch that is in the concentrate. The amount of concentrate being fed relative to the type and amount of forage being fed are key considerations when reviewing a horse’s diet that has been diagnosed with IR. Please note that Integrity Lite with no molasses is significantly lower than the formulas you are currently feeding.

Horse Feed and Form % Starch % Starch + % ESC
Integrity Lite, textured 3.3 10.6
Integrity Lite, No Molasses, textured 1.6 7.5
Your current Lite Pelleted  being fed 4.5 9.5
Your current Senior Textured being fed 6.4 13.2

The Integrity formulas are based on my years of experience as an equine nutritionist, horseman, and University professor in Animal & Veterinary Sciences. My approach is to provide a balance formula to complement the forage portion of the horse’s diet. There are a plethora of factors that influence a horse’s energy and nutrient requirements besides the two fundamental factors of body weight and production stage which are listed in the 2007 NRC Nutrient Requirements for Horses. The NRC publication is not and should not be consider as an absolute for energy and nutrient values but is actually a guideline for minimum requirements.

Nutritional management is the key to a successful feeding program and unfortunately too much emphasis is sometimes placed on one or two of the nutrients required by the horse instead of a balance formula approach. The relationship of nutrient to nutrient and the relationship of nutrient to energy are important factors that must be considered in formulating a balanced feed for horses.

The oil type is not important—corn, soy, canola—select for best price. The question of oil type has evolved from the emphasis of the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid relationship for human diet. Horses are herbivores and fat is not a significant portion of their diet compared to a carnivore (meat eater) or omnivore (meat & plant eater). Horses actually have a low fat requirement because they are herbivores and what’s interesting is that we know there are 3 essential fatty acids that are required by mammals but that requirement has never really been established via research as with other domestic animals.

Both Integrity Lite products are low in starch and non-structural carbohydrates but obviously the no molasses product will have less non-structural carbohydrates. There is a Q&A recently posted on Integrity Lite starch content on this page.

Liquid measuring cups do NOT equate to dry measurements. I prefer you weigh the feed but the last time I checked, approximately 1/2 of a small coffee can is actually 1/2 lb. for the Integrity Lite with molasses.

Why do you want to feed beet pulp? Beet pulp in often used to provide benefits as a “bulk laxative” because of its fiber and water attraction properties. I do not generally recommend it as an added ingredient on a daily basis unless there is a reason to complement an existing balanced diet.

If a bulk laxative is needed, then depending on the forage source, other feed and fiber sources, activity level, etc. an 1,100 lb. horse would be fed 0.5 – 2.0 lbs. per day of shredded beet pulp (before adding water). Relative to the Integrity product line, beet pulp is the first ingredient in several of the formulas so I would usually not recommend adding beet pulp.

The questions are a bit general and more information would be needed relative to the horse(s) involved. The fact sheet in Dr. Bray’s Corner “What to Feed your Horse” provides a guideline of specifics information that is helpful for me to provide meaningful recommendations; those categories include Body Weight, Hay & Forage Feeding, Feeds Fed other than Hay, Exercise Schedule, and Exercise Intensity. Also take a look at the fact sheet section titled “Feeding Guidelines for Horses”.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) has been around since I was a kid and originally was promoted to provide missing nutritive factors in an animal’s diet. The missing nutritive factors were suppose to provide benefits similar to known required minerals or vitamins. The definition of DE appears to have strayed over the years. Still today, many believe it is rich in minerals and that its unknown nutritive factors will improve the health of an animal.

Bottom line: there are no benefits, no magical nutrients, and you should not waste your money.

We do not add glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate to our equine formulas. Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications need to be administered by body weight of the animal. Feeds that contain OTC arthritic medication thus would have different levels of the ingredients relative to how much is being fed. For example a horse fed 2 lbs. of a commercial formula would receive ½ the glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate of a horse that is fed 4 lbs. In addition, studies strongly indicate that feeds containing glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate vary greatly in levels and in the vast majority of products are less than what is actually advertised on the product.

There is also the question of effectiveness. The injectable forms have demonstrated success but the oral forms are only supported by anecdotal stories. I wish I could provide more encouragement to the benefits. Also, there is zero evidence that administering oral glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate will prevent joint issues. Even if you do decide to use one of the OTC products you would be better serve to top dress the ingredients and feed relative to body weight.

Restricting a HYPP horse’s potassium intake is the most important consideration in nutritional management of the disease. Potassium levels in the total diet should be less than 1.0% potassium. That’s total diet, not every individual feed or ingredient in a formula. If you are only feeding a couple of ounces of a supplement or small portions of beet pulp then the potassium contributions to the total diet are not an issue.

Soybean meal, alfalfa and molasses are feedstuffs that have higher levels of potassium. Average potassium content in shredded beet pulp without molasses approximates 1.0% potassium and beet pulp with 3% added molasses is 1.1%. Most commercial shredded beet pulp has molasses added to soften the feed and to improve palatability.

Vegetable oils, such as corn oil, do not contain potassium and are a good option to provide additional calories for weight management. Keep in mind that forage is the primary feed of a horse’s diet and thus are the primary source of potassium in the diet. Hay maturity, type and region are factors that will influence the potassium levels and the only way of knowing the potassium concentration is to have the hay analyzed. This translates to buying quantities of the hay to ensure consistency in managing your feeding program.

Bermuda hay is one of the lowest potassium containing forages with an average of 1.6%. Managing your horse’s feed intake with more than two meals per day and using hay nets to slow consumption are solid nutritional management tools.

Your horse’s diet is lacking a balanced formula or at least a supplement that provides required vitamins and minerals to complement the forage portion of the diet. The Integrity formulas are not formulated to be low in potassium and most of the formulas approximate 1% potassium or higher. There are companies that specialized in feeds for specific problems such as lower potassium levels for HYPP horses.

The production of gas in the gut (gastrointestinal tract) is normal for all mammals and especially for those animals whose gut is designed to eat large quantities of plant materials. Horses are classified as non-ruminant herbivores. Their hindgut, which includes the cecum and colon, is the major site for fermentation of the plant materials that are not (or can not) be digested in the foregut through chemical and enzymatic digestion. In the fermentation process, it’s the “job” of the microorganisms to digest the plant materials and produce selective nutrients and energy that are available to the horse. “Gas” is a by-product of the fermentation process and the horse’s gut is capable of moving the gas though the colon to be released. Excess gas production, which has the potential of causing a first class bellyache, known as colic, can result from numerous factors. These factors include inadequate fiber in the diet, inadequate exercise, inadequate consumption of water (note: fiber and exercise influence water consumption), inadequate management routine, certain drugs, especially antibiotics, over feeding starchy feeds, changes in feeds and amount fed, inconsistent daily meal frequency and amounts fed, and (perhaps the cause that will step on the toes of horse owners) inadequate nutritional management experience and knowledge.

Beet pulp and soy hulls contain a type of fiber that is fermentable and is broken down by the microorganisms that live in the gut. The grasses that are fed via pasture and hay also have some fermentable fiber as well as the fiber that is classified as insoluble fiber. If there is inadequate forage provided, and the horse is fed a large quantity of fermentable fiber, then excess gas production could occur. Another scenario is if large portions of grain type feeds (in which major ingredients including corn, oats, and/or barley) are fed, then an excess gas production could occur. Any combination of factors listed in the first paragraph can cause excess gas production. The bottom line is that nutritional management of the horse plays the most important role in his gut health. Nutritional Management does not come from what we read on the internet, it’s a result of time, experience and education.

In addition, there some horses whose gut may be more sensitive to fermentable fiber type feeds. Through my 40+ years of experiences with horses as an owner, breeder, farm manager, university professor, and nutritional consultant, I have not had one horse that could not be easily managed with a diet that includes fermentable fiber such as beet pulp and soy hulls.

Summary: Beet pulp and soy hulls:

  • Are important feedstuffs in the nutritional management of horses.
  • Are safe sources of energy in balanced concentrates to fuel the horse in whatever he does.
  • Are solid ingredients with other feedstuffs that are formulated for a balanced concentrate mix that will complement the forage portion of the horse’s diet.
  • Have bulk laxative like properties that will assist the gut to contract with consistency and regularity as well as maintain a healthy microorganism population in the gut.

The bottom line: the information provided by your veterinarian is incorrect.

I do not recommend feeding individual feeds such as oats, corn, etc. as an add-on or supplement to a horse’s diet. A balanced formula is designed to provide nutrients and energy sources to address the established nutrient requirements of a horse relative to their lifestyle. Feeding a balanced formula that complements the forage portion of the daily diet has always been my recommendation.

There are a couple exceptions to this recommendation. I am an advocate of adding (or top-dressing) fat (i.e. oil) to the diet as a fuel source. In addition, there are occasions in which I will recommend adding beet pulp to a horse’s diet for the additional benefits of promoting “gut integrity”. So, if you want to add energy to your horse’s diet, feed a balance formula but the formula you need does not have to be loaded with corm, barley or rice bran. Our Integrity Growth would be my recommendation for this age and beginning training level.

I am unclear of the origin of soaking beet pulp for a day or 24 hours but that practice is not only excessive but also unfounded—you are not making beet pulp wine! The practice of adding water to beet pulp is to soften the feed because the beet pulp by-product is stiff and course. Chewing reduces the feed’s particle size as well as stimulates salvia production which moistens the feed. The chewing and moistening process thus prepares the feed for swallowing. The amount of beet pulp consumed by the horse at each feeding really determines the chewing effort that is needed to prepare the food for swallowing. Some horses tire of the chewing process more quickly than others which are often driven by the compulsion to eat more. Other horses may be disciplined eaters and just take their time with the chewing process. The general rule I provide for beet pulp shreds is at least 1½ times the volume of water compared to the beet pulp volume; allow the mixture to soak until it softens, which will usually be ready after a couple of chores prior to feeding time.


Beet pulp is the residue or by-product that remains after sugar beet processing. Dried beet pulp contains approximately 9 to 10% crude protein, approximately 18% crude fiber, 0.75% calcium and 0.09% phosphorus. Beet pulp has bulk laxative like properties; these properties include an affinity for water and a combination of the fiber composition and fiber digestion which promote the gut to contract with more vigor.

Feeding Amounts & Recommendations

The maximum that can be fed depends on the body weight of the horse, the activity of the horse, and of course what else is being fed. If a horse owner wants to add beet pulp to the diet, my general recommendation has been not more than 0.25% of body weight per day. In other words, for a 900 lb. horse, that’s up to 2.25 lbs. of beet pulp per day; for a 1000 lb. horse, up to 2.5 lbs. of beet pulp; and for an 1100 lb. horse, up to 2.75 lbs. of beet pulp. If you are adding beet pulp to the diet, you must feed by weight, not volume, and if you choose to soak the beet pulp the recommendations are before you add water.

An important consideration is that every time you add an individual feedstuff to a ration, there is a good chance you will distort the balance of some nutrients. A ration of hay and beet pulp is not considered balance. I have fed beet pulp at much higher levels than my recommendation but I know my nutritional management skills. I often comment that “ones nutritional management skill is the guide to feeding, not some general sound byte”; …which is why I often provide conservative recommendations on feeding because nutritional management skills come with time, experience with many horses, and education.

A side note: today’s small coffee can is not 16 oz. of coffee and a coffee can of shredded beet pulp does not weigh 1 lb. The last time I checked, shredded beet pulp in a 16 oz. container weighed approximately 0.6 lbs. Remember recommendations for feeding beet pulp is based on the weight before you add water. If you are feeding Integrity products, beet pulp and soy hulls are major ingredients; in several products they are the first and second ingredients So feeding additional “soluble fiber sources” such as beet pulp would not be needed. For a maintenance or less active horse you may want to consider feeding a balance concentrate such as the Integrity Lite without molasses; the Integrity Lite (as with all Integrity Products) is balanced with all the nutrients the horse requires and is formulated to compliment the forage portion of the horse’s diet.

Sugar / Starch Content

The panic in the horse industry with sugar and starch content in feeds has created a lot of confusion. My concerns have been the comparison of just numbers by horse owners and not knowing if the numbers represent sugar content, starch content, non structural carbohydrates (NSC), non fiber carbohydrates (NFC), water soluble carbohydrates (WSC), ethanol soluble carbohydrates (ESC) or a combination. I receive questions about sugar and starch content quite often but when I query ration goals or which analysis they are referencing as a concern, most do not know or are understandably confused by the terminology.

Below is a table of sugar and starch values for beet pulp and a few other feedstuffs; this information can be found on the Equi-analytical Laboratories website, a feed laboratory assessment company.

Analysis *% Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC) * % Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC) * % Starch * % Non Structural Carbohydrates (NSC) * % Non Fiber Carbohydrates (NFC)
Beet Pulp  10.3 7.9 1.2 11.8 44.9
Oats 3.2 2.0 44.3 48.7 52.3
Soybean Hulls  3.5 2.5 1.5 5.1 19.2
Wheat Bran  8.3 5.3 22.2 29.8 35.4
Wheat Mids  8.0 4.7 26.5 32.9 37.2

* Source of values are from Equi Analytical Laboratories website;

Beet pulp is in the low range for starch content and is considered a safe feed; there is sugar residue remaining after the processing of beets but one needs to consider the total carbohydrates in the feedstuff. Soy hulls are a really good low WSC & ESC by-product that I have used for years in many formulations.

ESC includes the monosaccharides, disaccharides, and the short chain fructans; WSC contains sugars and fructans of all molecular sizes. NSC is often confused with NFC and NSC does not provide a solid profile on sugar and starch content; …so, NSC has been eliminated by many as an evaluation assessment.

The horse industry appears to have a cycle with some hot topic and sugar / starch feeding levels are that topic today. The positive outlook of this concern is that horse owners are revisiting what they feed their horses and perhaps learning more about what provides a balance ration. The feed industry has benefited by revisiting and updating formulations if needed. I do have concerns with the internet diagnosis, owner diagnosis or friend diagnosis that a horse is insulin resistant, or has Cushing’s disease, or is a candidate for one of the myopathies. Horse owners are encouraged to visit with their veterinarians for a clinical diagnosis. If there are logical clinical concerns then nutritional management may need to be addressed, which is why Star Milling has a consulting equine nutritionist to provide guidance to their customers.