Dr Clarissa Brown-Douglas - Kentucky Equine Research
Ponies are amazingly efficient when it comes to feed. A little goes a long way and it’s all too easy to over feed and end up with porky ponies and associated health issues. So, how do we combat the evolution of thriftiness and ensure our ponies are getting all they need, but without the calories?
Here are some tips!
The key to an effective pony diet is to manage calorie intake. Fewer calories should be consumed than expended. But this doesn’t mean locking them up in the Jenny Craig yard!
Let’s start with forage. All horses, whether they’re horses or ponies, require at least 1.5% of their body weight in forage per day. Thus, a 300kg pony needs at least 4kg+ of hay or equivalent roughage.
Free-choice access to forage, especially pasture, is not ideal for overweight ponies as they can (and usually will) overeat. Effectively managing forage intake can be difficult, especially when pasture is abundant and most hay available is prime quality and high calorie. If we were to offer 4kg prime hay to our ponies, then they would balloon! This is where you need to find a tested low sugar hay (NSC of less than 12%) and offer it in a slow feeder haynet. Then your pony can have ad lib pickings without gutsing! If pasture turnout is unavoidable, then controlling access with strip grazing, building a perimeter track system, or using a grazing muzzle is advisable to manage intake.
The next step is making sure they have all the nutrients they need to perform and function. This is where your feed comes in. For ponies that are in moderate to heavy work, say in the middle of the competition season, a well formulated high fibre, lower starch feed such as Barastoc Calm Performer will nicely and safely boost their nutrition to provide them with the fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals they need to perform. For those that are over weight and not in regular work, then a more concentrated source of vitamins and minerals is needed so that we don’t overdo the calories – consider Barastoc KER Stud Balancer or Barastoc Groom for these ponies.
One of the best management tools for our calorie-efficient ponies is to exercise them! Increasing exercise to five or six days per week will boost energy expenditure, especially if limiting calorie intake is difficult. Exercise bouts should last at least 30 minutes with a sustained increase in heart rate. Sound ponies can be exercised in many ways: under saddle, in harness, or in hand, as in lunging, long reining or even hand walking. Exercise has added benefits of boosting metabolism and preventing the development of metabolic conditions such as equine metabolic syndrome.
There are so many options for balancing out a diet for our well to do ponies, so how do we know which feed is the best choice? How about asking the experts! Barastoc provides a free diet consultation service, which can help tailor the perfect diet plan for your pony based on all their individual needs taking into account the hay that you have, the amount of work they are doing, their age, their current condition, and the goals that you have for your pony. We can assure you; you’ll get the best advice from our expert nutritionists! And best of all its free!