"How to Feed Ponies to Avoid Obesity
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"How to Feed Ponies to Avoid Obesity

Horses
Food & Nutrition

Knowing what to feed ponies helps owners reduce the risk of them becoming obese which is all too often the case where these little characters are concerned. Ponies that carry too much weight run the risk of developing all sorts of conditions which includes laminitis and certain other serious conditions too.

Ponies have a tendency to pour on the pounds all too easily and if left to their own devices will happily munch away until they are ready to burst. Not very condusive to good health and it makes them more prone to other diseases and health issues.

There's no doubt at all that ponies are cuter than cute with many owners thinking they are even cuter when they are little on the plump side which is reminiscent of the fun cartoon depictions of ponies by Thelwell. However, a sleek, athletic and fit pony is a happier character all round and one that will not be so at risk of developing all those nasty conditions that can make their lives so uncomfortable.

People Expect Ponies to be Plump

Over time, people have come to expect ponies to be plumpish and they often make the big mistake of thinking these smaller equines are easy maintenance"". However, this could not be further from the truth because overweight and obese ponies are more at risk of dying that much sooner than their leaner and fitter counterparts.

Research has proved that obesity in ponies sees them more at risk of developing certain health issues which are listed below:

  • Equine metabolic syndrome – EMS
  • Laminitis
  • Insulin resistance

How to Prevent Obesity in Ponies

The only way of preventing ponies from becoming obese is to feed them correctly and to always make sure they are put on restricted grazing when necessary. Ponies need to be exercised regularly just as horses do.

A pony's ancestry is rather different to that of a horse with many breeds of these small equines being descendants of ancient breeds that existed in some pretty harsh areas of the world. Places where the weather was cold and unforgiving which meant they had to quickly adapt to their environments in order to survive. The grasslands they lived on were pretty sparse and not that full of nutrients either, however the ponies not only survived, but they thrived!

Sadly, over time many of our modern pony breeds boast an genetic inclination to put on weight all too easily which means vets are seeing and having to treat more cases of obesity than ever before!

The Damage Caused by Sugars and Starches

Sugars and starches can cause a lot of damage which can result in insulin resistance. Ultimately, if not held in check this can lead to obesity. As such any starchy or sugary foods should not be fed to ponies. However, some research has shown that ponies that are not carrying too much weight may also become insulin resistant if fed sugary and starchy foods too!

If this is the case, the most noticeable thing about them is they tend to develop ""cresty"" necks. Vets in the US recommend that owners have their ponies checked for insulin resistance as part of an annual routine. The good news being that it is not that expensive to have done and is well worth it.

Ponies are Not Easy Maintenance!

The misconception that ponies are easy to keep doesn't mean they are easy to care for because keeping the weight off them can be a serious challenge unlike with horses where it is often harder to keep the weight on.

A weight band is an essential part of your equipment if you own a pony because measuring their girth on a regular basis will ensure you know if they are gaining too much and if this does prove to be the case, you may have to begin restricting their grazing.

Investing in a pony chart for the breed or type of pony you own is also a worthwhile investment because just by looking at the chart on a regular basis will give you a good idea of what your pony's weight and shape should be. If you have any doubts you should discuss your concerns with the vet who would be able to offer the right sort of advice on how you should be caring for your pony's nutritional needs.

Things to Avoid Feeding Ponies

As previously mentioned sugary feeds should be avoided where ponies are concerned. However hay that contains a high sugar level is not good for them either. Feeding rich hay should be avoided but low-sugar hay is fine and luckily these days, you can buy this from good feed merchants.

If you think the hay you are feeding contains too higher levels of sugar, one solution is to soak it before offering it to ponies. Soaking dissolves a lot of the WSCs which are bad for them and by removing these, the hay is more suitable for a pony's metabolism.

You should also avoid giving ponies hard feed because they can survive very well without. With this said, hay on its own might not be enough to feed them because it might not satisfy a pony's nutritional requirements. One good solution to this problem is to offer them a balancer which should provide the necessary minerals and supplements they need to stay healthy.

Conclusion

Although a chubby pony is incredibly cute, it's never a good idea for them to carry too much weight. If anything, a pony should appear on the lean-side which reduces the chances of them developing any serious health issues like laminitis. Because ponies tend to be a bit greedy by nature, it's important to keep an eye on their weight and when necessary restrict their feed and even their turnout. A lot of pony breeds are descendants of ancient ponies that lived in harsh climates and environments where they not only survived the challenges they faced but did very well indeed which is something pony owners need to bear in mind when considering their diet.

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