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[RC] Beet Pulp - Bruce Weary DC

Beet pulp has become a popular feed in recent years, and is a safe feed, due to it's fiber content. It can also be used as a vehicle to get more moisture into the horse. There are some other things to consider in feeding the horse, though. First, the horse carries 150 -200 pounds of hay inside him at any given time. So there's plenty of fiber on board, and hay has the long stem fiber (beet pulp does not) that is important for keeping the gut distended and rolling along. So, a few pounds of beet pulp at a time isn't going to change the gut contents drastically. Secondly, beet pulp has an extremely low glycemic index, which means it has very little effect on blood glucose levels. Now, the horse runs on glucose, and uses his onboard glycogen stores fairly quickly, especially during the duration of work in an endurance ride. The way a horse largely refuels himself is by eating a meal containing some carbohydrates (beet pulp has almost none) and converting it to sugar (glucose). The pancreas senses this increase and produces insulin to help the glucose get into the cells where it is needed as fuel for muscular work. If the horse is fed some form of carbs throughout the ride (not just large meals at vet checks) he will have a constant resource of glucose to draw from, with insulin being produced to drive it into the cells. He will work more efficiently, more happily and longer than if he gets low on glucose, which is known as "crashing" or "hitting the wall." This means his glucose levels have been allowed to fall too far through work (using up his glucose) and not replenishing it adequately through feeding.This doesn't mean he is getting sick (although he can if significantly overridden), just becoming intolerant to further work. Beet pulp doesn't help the horse keep his glucose levels up. It may help make volatile fatty acids more available, but horses that run out of gas have run out of glucose, not fat or fatty acids, as a tired horse still has plenty of those on board.
So, I would recommend that if you feed beet pulp, use it as an ingredient in your mash to carry water, but feed it with grain during a ride to keep the horse's energy levels up. We all know that we should eat (even when we aren't hungry) at a ride to keep our energy stores up. Look at the label of the things you eat on the trail that do just that. They will contain significant carbs--Gatorade, cookies, chips, bread, Power Bars, granola bars,etc. You can test this theory on your next ride--When you get hungry, and your energy reserves are dropping, try drinking just a cup of corn oil or eating a bowl of beet pulp (high fiber) and see if you feel refreshed. You won't, because the body won't convert the oil (fat) or fiber to glucose. And when an overstressed horse requires treatment at a ride, they often give it fluids with glucose--to revive the nervous system and get the other body systems (that have shut down to preserve any remaining glucose for the the most important system--the nervous system) up and running again. Oil or beet pulp wouldn't help here.
I know Susan G. likes Complete Advantage, and I do too, as it has some grain and molasses to get that glucose up. It's about 40% beet pulp that is premoistened, so it might be a good choice for you. But don't be afraid to feed grain throughout the ride. You will have more horse that way. Dr Q, who's settling down to enjoy a nice, fresh, hot cup of oil.


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