Feeding PoniesBy Dr. Clarissa Brown-Douglas · August 4, 2011
Is feeding a working pony any more difficult than feeding a larger horse? It doesn’t have to be. The basic principles of feeding horses can be applied to ponies, but there are a few simple points to consider.
Ponies generally have a slower metabolism and thus a lower energy requirement than horses, so they tend to gain and maintain body weight easily, even when in work. This can make them susceptible to obesity-related issues such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and laminitis.
A pony’s feeding program should be based around forage. Always feed a minimum of 1 to 1.5% of the pony’s body weight in good-quality forage (hay, chaff, and/or pasture). Many ponies will maintain their body weight on pasture or hay alone, but forages may lack important minerals, vitamins, and sometimes protein.
Many commercial feeds formulated for performance horses will supply too many calories for ponies, which can result in weight gain. But simply reducing the feeding rate of a commercial feed to lower the energy intake can result in deficiencies of important nutrients. Feeding a low-intake, low-calorie vitamin and mineral balancer in addition to forage is a great way to supply ponies with their daily requirement of nutrients without weight gain. If the pony only has access to low-quality forage, look for a balancer that also supplies protein.
Recent research has shown that exercise has a positive effect on the insulin status of overweight ponies with cresty necks. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended for ponies, especially show ponies that are required to be in a more round body condition, as it will be beneficial for maintaining insulin sensitivity.
Working ponies may require some additional calories to maintain their body weight. Feed a forage-based diet with a balanced concentrate feed to meet energy requirements.