The perfect first pony can be difficult to find but a good one is worth its weight in gold. Most are highly efficient food processors and a magnet for laminitis, therefore they need careful management to ensure their nutritional needs are fulfilled.

In an attempt to avoid excessive weight gain, some owners will strictly limit the ponies’ access to food, but this can backfire as a hungry pony may misbehave when being handled and ridden in order to satisfy his hungry stomach.

The secret lies in providing sufficient feed to keep his tummy feeling full, while keeping the calories down to prevent weight gain or bad behaviour.

This is easily achieved in the winter when grass has little feed value and hay can make up most of the diet. The rest of the year is more of a challenge. It normally pays to limit the hours at grassfrom March onwards, or turn him out in a paddock that has already been grazed down.

Feeding tips

  • Feed a high-fibre low-starch diet: Most first ponies do fine on hay plus a low energy cube
  • Don’t starve fatties or you will cause behavioural and metabolic problems: Two slices of hay plus a scoop of low-energy cubes should be about right for the average 13hh pony
  • Fill the stomach: Fibre-based feeds are a good way of making a pony believe he isbeing fed a lot more than he actually is
  • Provide vitamins and minerals: Feed a general purpose supplement to ensure the pony’s nutritional needs are fulfilled
  • Older ponies: Cubes can be fed soaked as a mash to elderly ponies with poor teeth

This article was taken from Ruth Bishop’s regular Feed Forum in Horse & Hound magazine. Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (15 May) where Ruth talks about why bannedsubstances are in the news again.

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