I have heard many times that horse owners cannot have molasses in their feeds. When I ask them why, they oftentimes don’t know. It is either, “My vet said so,” or “Molasses causes my horse to be crazy.” Molasses in and of itself is not a bad ingredient to have in horse feed. Actually, it offers many benefits.

 

It might surprise many that molasses has an equal amount of NSCs as barley does….and most horse owners wouldn’t throw up a red flag at barley in their horse feed. Proven through research, when added to oats in horse feed, molasses has little effect on the glycemic response on a horse. What you would find is if you fed molasses by itself, then you would have quite the glycemic response from your horse. Molasses is simply one of the ingredients in a fortified horse feed. It accounts for typically less than 10% in most commercially produced feeds.

 

So why do we use molasses in the first place? What are the benefits? For starters…horses have a sweet tooth in case you haven’t noticed. Molasses aids in the palatability of horse feeds. You can make the greatest feed in the world, but if the horse won’t eat it…what good is it? We all know the frustration of a horse that consistently turns its nose up to its feed. Molasses helps the majority of horses take to the feed much better and stay on the feed as well. Molasses provides some “fast energy” to horses. We are not advocating that this is the main source of energy for a horse. Excel Equine®® suggests a higher fat feed for horses in heavy competition due to its slow burn energy benefits. However, “fast energy” from molasses still has its place for hard working athletes. Some horses need a bit of molasses to compete at the high level at which they are, and will easily burn this quick energy source. The molasses also helps to hold the feed together nicely, thus making sorting more difficult for the horse and making it more palatable.

 

It should be noted that the molasses Excel Equine®® uses is a “blended molasses.”  A “blended molasses” means that there have been some beneficial ingredients added to the molasses that give it nutritional benefits. One ingredient Excel Equine®® adds is oil. Oil adds to the balanced energy sources used in our feeds. We also include a mold inhibitor in the molasses to prevent the feed from going bad too quickly. Our molasses blend is not pure molasses, but rather a blend of different nutritional ingredients that make the product better for the horse.

 

When should you be concerned about molasses? There are a few situations where you have to monitor this ingredient significantly. One such instance is with a horse prone to laminitis. This type of horse not only needs to be monitored as far as what grain (if any) it is consuming, but also monitored on the amount of time it is out on grass. Grass oftentimes has more sugar in it than molasses!  These horses still need forage, but a grass hay and then a grazing muzzle/limited turnout time are what would be ideal solutions for this horse.  It is also likely that this type of horse doesn’t need to be eating any grain at all or should be on a ration balancer. There are many feeds out there than have a low NSC content, and those can be utilized as well. However, they oftentimes will still have some dried molasses in them. Don’t let this listing on the ingredients scare you off…just read about the feed to make sure it is one designed for horses with metabolic conditions and has a low NSC level. Another common mistake horse owners make when feeding, which leads them to be fearful of molasses, is that they are just feeding too much of a particular feed to a horse. If your horse is in moderate work or is a pleasure horse, it is likely that this animal doesn’t need a textured feed. It might just need hay or hay with a ration balancer. Getting more calories than what you are expending would make anyone bounce off the walls!

 

So reading about the whole feed…what kind of horse it is designed for, NSC content, as well as ingredients should give you a better perspective when selecting grains. Don’t discount a grain because it has molasses or dried molasses listed on the ingredients. Make sure you understand how much molasses is in the feed and then be certain you are feeding the appropriate product and amount for the lifestyle of the horse.

 

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