Ad Lib Feeding


New Member
Oct 23, 2002
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Have just finished reading a back copy of a horsey mag which had a very interesting article on ad-lib feeding that mimics a horses natural feeding habits, by basing the diet entirely on forages and allowing constant access to food. It suggests feeding a mash of soaked sugar beet pulp, grass nuts and lucerne nuts at night (with hay) so they can chomp on it as and when and then turning out can be done first thing without waiting for breakfast to be eaten. Apparently horses are less grumpy as sugar levels are kept more constant and incidents of tying up, laminitis etc are greatly reduced, constant weight levels are maintained and it seems to suit all types in all disciplines. Oil can be given if needed.

I'm just thinking ahead to my first winter with my new welsh cob and to me this sounds great....just wondering if anyone feeds like this and if so what sort of amounts and with what results.


New Member
Aug 19, 2002
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I have never fed sugar beet before, nor do I know anything about it, but since you mention *sugar* in context with *free constant access* it sounds to me like a recipe for disaster. Especially if you add in that the horse will be stabled through the winter.

It would take ALOT of regular hard exercise to keep a horse fit and "sane" with that diet and turnout schedule. Maybe it can be done and maybe it is a super idea based entirely on the health of the horse but perhaps not by a management perspective.

Of course, it all depends on the horse. Every horse is different.

Maybe someone else will jump in here that has more experience with that type of feed.


New Member
Mar 27, 2001
sugar beet is equine porridge, tootsie - it's what's left after the sugar has been taken out and refined for human consumption - high in fibre and slow release energy, and not generally heating. it can, in extreme circumstances, be used as a hay replacer - copper ate nothing else for six weeks when he had an abscess in his throat and was on a liquid diet to stop him choking. it comes in pellets and you soak it for twelve hours to form a mush.

we aim to feed a similar regime - most of our horses are fieldkept anyway, and all the stabled at night ones have enough hay or haylage that they have some left in the morning, unless there's a medical reason not to, like laminitis.
we dop feed concentrates, but as little a possible, and where we can feeds are made up of happy hoof (for fatties!) or sugarbeet, nuts and chaff for the ones who aren't on a diet.


NZ TB owner
Mar 1, 2002
New Zealand
I'm missing something here - this sounds like feeding dinner to me. The horse will eat the beet\nuts mix and then all the 'ad-lib' feeding is just the hay for the rest of the night.

Just make sure there's plenty of good quality hay available for him\her to munch on all night... If you want to add some interest hide apples or carrots (or even the pony nuts) in the middle of the nets, add an apple or two into the water bucket (they 'bob' apples for ages) and make sure there's a mineral lick in the stall.

If he\she's getting through it all too quickly, use two nets so that the holes are smaller and they have to take more time. If losing weight - add more hay (put in another net full) or add some lucerne hay into the mix.


New Member
Aug 15, 2001
I feed in a similar way, the only difference being I don't leave her feed bucket in overnight. Bebe gets sugar beet (unmolassed), Hi-Fi (which is a chaff) and if needed, high fibre pasture nuts in a feed bucket. If she's in overnight she gets enough steamed hay or haylage to ensure that she has some left in the morning. I do feed breakfast but it's the same as her evening feed, just in a smaller quantity.

If it's really cold I've left a rubber bucket full of Hi-Fi in her stable also which she can munch on as she feels like it. I'd guess that this is the first thing to go though and that hay gets left until she's run out.

My mare is a good doer too, so she gets small quantities of everything except hay, and last year she only went on haylage in the depths of winter but I still fed that ad-lib.


Jan 13, 1999
Taunton, Somerset, England
hmm, apple bobbing can work, it depends how clever (or is that hungry) your horse is. Tango soon worked out (within about 2 minutes) that if she held her breath she could pin the apple onto the bottom of the bucket and eat it, then come up gasping for air!

After that we didn't leave her an apple to bob for as I didn't want her to drown.

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