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Don’t Over Feed Your Pony:
Ponies Need Smaller Portions than Horses for Proper Nutrition

Horses and ponies are generally lumped together in many people’s perceptions, and it is true that they indeed belong to the same species. However, the pony evolved under conditions that were less favorable. In response ponies adapted the environment by developing different traits, such as the ability to withstand extreme hardship. This makes ponies a little easier to maintain than horses.
Of course, the average farmer or rancher who keeps ponies will not expose them to the harsh living environments that have shaped their evolution. As a result, many ponies are becoming obese due to overfeeding. Overweight ponies have a higher risk of developing colic and founder. Quite commonly ponies are fed with horse feed – which is not at all sufficient in the amounts of vitamins and minerals it contains. Thus adding to the nutritional conundrum some ponies are experiencing.

To properly ascertain the feeding needs of ponies, it is important to have data on their actual body weight. Start with measuring your horses “heart girth,” which can be measured with a household tape measure. Generally speaking, a girth of about 30 inches corresponds to a weight of about 70 pounds. If you find that your pony has a larger girth, simply take each additional inch and multiply it by about 13 pounds. This will give you the additional weight of your pony. Once you have the proper weight, you will be able to use the feeding guides for adult ponies. You may choose to feed a maintenance diet or one specifically designed for weight loss.

Several name brands of pony feed are available that are both breeder and veterinarian recommended. The average active pony will do well on a combination of commercially available feeds and supplements. If your pony is exceedingly active, you may choose to increase the forage by one pound daily for each 100 pound of pony body weight, while adding supplements at a rate of four ounces per 100 pound of body weight. To further supplement the feed in order to heighten the working pony’s ability to perform, you may wish to add some fat to the pony’s diet.

Good sources of added fat are specialized chaff as well as rice bran. The latter will add about 20 percent of fat to the pony’s diet, while the former will contribute roughly 10 percent. Rice bran should be added sparingly to the pony’s diet, at about one and one half ounces for every 100 pounds of actual body weight for the moderately active pony, and may be increased to three ounces for the hard worker. Conditioning chaff, on the other hand, may be added at two pounds for ponies up to 500 pounds, and three to five pounds for medium to large ponies which are very active. A salt lick or other mineral supplement should be available to your ponies at all times. The overall goal is to attain a measurable body condition that may be scored at five to five point five.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Pregnant Horses and Broodmare Nutrition Basics.
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