In the vet’s waiting room last week with my lovely Labrador, who like me is well into middle age, I killed the time by studying the doggy condition scoring chart on the wall.

I was appalled to discover that both she and I have slipped from an ideal four-five (ribs easily palpable with minimal fat covering, waist easily noted when viewed from above) to a less ideal six or seven (ribs palpable with difficulty, waist absent or barely visible, and don’t even ask about the “fat deposits in the tail area”).

condition score chart

My lab does at least have a good excuse, she has been out of action after fairly major surgery. I am just a constant grazer.

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It strikes me as surprising that nobody has come up with a human score chart. Perhaps there could be one at the end of the biscuit aisle at the supermarket — I might give Jamie Oliver a call; it’s his kind of thing.

It’s a shame nobody monitors my intake the way I monitor that of the ponies, who are all fairly streamlined.

Feeding ponies is a bit like feeding children. Plenty of bulk, not too much sugar plus lots of fresh air and exercise. It’s amazing how influential feed can be, even in the smallest quantities.

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We once took Topsy, our first ever pony, a cute but hairy little Dartmoor cross, to a local show. Like many small ponies she was of slightly uncertain temperament but on this day she was on her best behaviour for her first class; “Pony the judge would like to take home”. So well behaved, in fact, that the judge decided it was Topsy she wanted to take home, and graced her with the red rosette. As short round hairy ponies don’t often find themselves at the top of a line-up, flushed with our unexpected success we headed for the pick n’ mix truck to celebrate. Topsy was very interested in the contents of the bag and in no time at all she was on the outside of maybe half a dozen jelly babies. Bless her, we thought, what harm could it do?

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The effect of the sugar and E number rush was astonishing. She turned from demure first ridden to diva in a matter of moments. In the next class; “young handler”, my daughter’s feet barely touched the ground as Topsy snorted her way up and down the arena, showing a remarkable turn of speed for her naturally unathletic shape. The pair of them then stood, or rather pranced about, in disgrace at the bottom of the line. Luckily my daughter saw the funny side. I did contemplate popping back to see the judge of PTJWLTTH to see if she was still interested.

jelly babies on chaff

Since even the diminutive Topsy must have weighed in at a couple of hundred kilos, and she consumed less than 50 grams of sweets, I am no longer surprised when I see children climbing the walls after a handful of Haribos. Still, sugar’s not all bad. A survey in the paper last week did say that eating chocolate has been proven to enhance brain function. Happy days.

JG