By Lorrie Bracaloni
As a holistic practitioner for more than 12 years, I have assisted more than 100 horse owners with equine diets and nutrition. I have studied and gained quite a bit of experience with equine veterinarian, Dr. Lee Miller, for fifteen years. It is my intention to share my personal experiences, both educational and in the field, regarding what I have learned about feeding beet pulp. Nutrition and digestive processes affect performance and overall condition. Different feeds break down differently based on the horse. Some of these effects include lameness, arthritis, colic, and other health-related illnesses.
Many times feed companies and veterinarians will recommend beet pulp for COPD horses for added fiber, or as an alternate hay and grass source. Although beet pulp may present no problems in the short-term, there are no significant studies on the long-term effects. Please note that a lot of horse owners feed beet pulp with no apparent problems, while other horse owners will have exhausted all treatment protocols and still not know why their horse has loose stools, stifles issues, hip problems.
Not looking at what they are feeding: so let's see what the expert vet in his field says and clear up the beet pulp issue once and for all:
Lon Leiws 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 extendend period of time, calcium deficency will result. Insoulble oxalate crystals will deposit in the kidneys resulting in kidney damage - Could be the reason for the water molecules trying to flush the kidneys? 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.
Dr. Joyce Harman of the Harmany Equine Clinic www.harmanyequine.com states that not all sugar can be eliminated from soaking the beets, therefore some remains in the pulp. Sugar contributes to insulin-resistance, and a condition known as Cushing's syndrome.
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.
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.
Another owner, M.D. Kerns, wrote in to tell me about his horse which had been on beet pulp for nine months. "Although I was very skeptical at the onset, I am now prepared to admit that Bodhi is looking much different and much fit than he did when he was on the other feed. His coat looks good as ever and his waist (loss of all the water trapped in the hind-gut by the beet pulp fiber) is nearly back to its former Thoroughbred elegance and slimness, he is without a doubt the most handsome horse at the farm."
What does this all mean? Ask yourself these questions:
- Does my horse feel weak in the hind end?
- Are his hooves brittle?
- Does it seem like his stifles are weak?
- Does my horse appear to be lacking energy?
- What about the coat? Is it dull?
- Does my horse have loose stools?
- Are his stools loose or hard?
If you horse has any of these symptoms then:
Try the following for three months. Take your horse off beet pulp, and use good quality hay pellets, or grass hay, remembering to soak in water., for COPD horses- Make sure that your horse has access to free-choice minerals. In addition, read your feed labels. Most of them list "roughage by-products" which can actually contain beet pulp. Take a before and after picture, and really look at the hind-end. Notice how your horse moves after three months. I don't intend to offend anyone with this article if your horse is fine on beet pulp great, but if you are having any of theses symptoms you may take a look at what you are feeding.
Wouldn't you agree that prevention is far cheaper than the cost of treating health problems? We are our horse's caregivers. We owe it to them to be as knowledgeable and informed about what we put into them. Lorrie Bracaloni is a certified holistic practitioner helping horse owners. Lorrie has received certifications in the following areas of equine health and preventative care: equine lameness and nutrition, acupressure massage and herbology, homeopathics, essential oils, and nutritional reflexology, energy body balancing, equine chiropractic techniques, and muscle injuries and trigger point stress relief therapy. She is currently the holistic consultant for Horsenet Rescue in Mt. Airy, Maryland, helping neglected and abused horses recover to optimal health.
For more information, contact her at (301) 416-2862 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her web site is http://www.happynaturalhorse.com
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