Is Molasses Good or Bad for Horses? (Answered by an Equine Vet)

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 08/07/22 •  8 min read

Our horses are our livelihood.

Admit it. No wonder our horses’ health is of utmost importance to us. We all know one golden rule for the well-being of horses- the proper diet.

What we are giving to your pony menu really affects their overall health and behavior.

So, you’re also monitoring their health to make sure they are receiving the best possible and wondering- is molasses good or bad for horses? Can’t blame you. There is a lot more chemistry, data, and Research regarding the horse’s health and the use of molasses. Let’s see what a horse vet thinks about it.

So…….What is molasses exactly? Is molasses OK for horses?

Let’s see what Anil Agnihotri (a renowned lab analyst) says about this:

Molasses, a sweet thick syrup, is a by-product of the sugar-making process. It comes from crushed sugar beets or sugar cane.

And horses love this sweet syrup a lot. But the question – Is it any good or bad?

Yes, molasses can turn into a good nutrition source for horses when added to the feed with balance. It is a fast energy source to help the horse do a lot of work with retained power. However, if this sugar substance is consumed in large amounts, the horse may risk developing various health problems, including weight gain, laminitis, and dental issues.

Although molasses can’t be a magic supplement in horse feed formulation, it leaves some benefits to horse owners in maintaining their pet’s health. 

Here is the good part……The addition of molasses in horse feed can be beneficial in the following ways:

Nutritional value of molasses

The following data will show you the total of minerals and trace elements of molasses/per kg ~National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Nutritional value of molasses

Note: A thought is spread that the sugar content of molasses disturbs the digestive process of horses. Also, it can affect the blood sugar level of the horse.

But the total amount of sugar mixed in horse feed with molasses is too little to affect the stomach or blood sugar level.

Related: Learn how much cost your horse for just 30 days! We will help you and your horse develop a strong bond that lasts.

Does molasses help horses gain weight?

A 1000-pound horse needs a minimum of 20 pounds (2%) of feed for a balanced weight. If you add more feed to their diet, they will gain weight.

But do molasses help horses to gain weight? The straightforward answer is Yes, molasses can help horses gain weight if you use excessive amounts.

According to the study, molasses has manganese (13%), calcium (3%), iron (5%), potassium (6%), selenium (6%), vitamin B-6 (8%) and copper (11%). Also, you will find 58 calories in 1tablespoon of molasses along with vitamins and minerals.

So, it’s clear that if you allow an excessive amount of molasses in their daily diet, then it can make them overweight.

On the other hand, if the horse feed is made up of molasses plus vegetable oil and you feed the horse more than 2% to 2.5% of its weight, this will ultimately help your horse gain weight.

Is molasses bad for horses with ulcers

Then…….How much is molasses to be fed to the horses?

All you have to keep in mind is…..

The amount makes molasses supportive of horse feed rather than harmful because of its sugar.

According to Research, molasses should exceed 5 to 10% of the total feed.

As figured by the UK’s favorite horse feed supplying company, a 500 kg horse is fed with a total dry matter of 7.5 kg that contains 650 grams of sugar. So to give pure molasses covering the same amount of sugar, you need 1 kg of it.

Another research revealed some interesting findings in their study……

They claim the amount of molasses varies per region. In the Northeastern US, it is used 7-10% in the feed, and in the Western US, it is used 4-7% in the feed.

However, molasses must be retained at a certain level when used in a feed. Exceeding the quantity would result in sticky feed, which will be difficult to swallow.

Similarly, the molasses hardens in feed in winter making the feed lumpy. Thus, the amount of molasses is lessened in winter.

In the same way, in summer, excessive quantities of molasses may result in proliferation. It shows that to have molasses in feed, you need to consider the circumstances.

Note: Here, the circumstances mean the area, horses’ condition, weather, and type of feed.

Is molasses bad for horses with ulcers?

Unfortunately, yes, molasses is harmful to horses with ulcers due to its sugar content. 

Let me explain…….

The ulcerous stomach doesn’t respond well to acid secretion in the stomach (just like a human). Look at the symptoms of suspected ulcers in horses…….

You must know the symptoms to treat the disease timely and see what precautionary measures must be taken at every step of the equine business.

Related: Reasons for not feeding Okra to your horse

What do molasses do to ulcers?

The sugar content in molasse can affect acid production in the stomach. This acid can irritate the stomach membrane or create a stomach ulcer.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners says that reducing the sweet feed in the horses’ diet will cure ulcers. Hence feeding molasses to horses when they have ulcers is not a recommendation.

Another thing every horse owner should know…….

Horses with ulcers may be more likely to develop problems with digestion and absorption of nutrients if they consume large amounts of molasses. 

Can molasses cause colic in horses?

Molasses can increase the risk of colic due to gut flora changes. Therefore, it is generally recommended that horses with ulcers avoid consuming large amounts of molasses.

What kind of molasses can horses eat?

Molasses are not the main feed and don’t add much value nutritionally.

Yet, it has its own importance even though added in small amounts.

Let’s see what Feedipedia thinks about this regard…….

They say that the common element of sugar in molasses is sucrose. Its finest form is in beet molasses and cane molasses.

And what’s the difference?

In beet molasses, the sucrose level is high, and fructose and glucose sugar are less. In cane molasses, sucrose level is lower, and glucose and fructose levels are higher. As we can see, both contain a decent amount of sugar.

In a nutshell……Molasses with more sugar may not be suitable for a horse with an ulcer or a horse fed with an already sugar-based feed. Sometimes, if you add molasses to the feed as a pellet, you can find sugar-free molasses available in the market.

What kind of molasses can horses eat?

Does molasses make horses hot?

According to recent research, horse feed has several different ingredients that make them frustrated or hyper, or hot. They are oats, corn, barley, alfalfa, and molasses.

As you can see, molasses is one of the ingredients in horse feed that make horses hot.

But how does molasses make horses hot? Well, they work in many ways. 

As for molasses, glucose is absorbed in the blood after digestion in the small intestine. The blood sugar level is disturbed, which can cause negative behavior in horses. This is also a stimulus for changes in stress hormones.

When a horse is hot, it is hyper, restless, and basically difficult to tame or train. The number of calories, if exceeded, can result in negative behavior.

But a disclaimer….. It is not always the time to have a disturbed sugar level due to molasses for all horses. That’s because not every horse has the same response to digestion and reception of sugar.

Related: Can Horses Eat Pickles?

My opinion

My final verdict about using molasses for horses is that You can’t cut them all as horses love sweets, and this sweet syrup is an easy way to boost their energy level. 

You can add it to your horse’s diet but at a moderate level, preferably 3.5 to 5% of total feed.

What can you use instead of molasses in horse treats? Well, a natural ingredient like honey could be its best substitute.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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