Winter care for native ponies

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  • Check your fencing meticulously for sharp edges nails or wire – small puncture wounds can go undetected in a native’s thick winter coat. Make sure your tetanus jabs are up to date.
  • Make sure there is adequate water, especially during the colder months. Ponies can find it very difficult to break through ice – the larger the water trough, the easier it is to break the ice. Make sure you break the ice daily when you check your pony.
  • In seriously boggy conditions, natives may benefit from their long tails being placed in a “mud-knot”. This is a long plait that is folded up on its self, preventing the tail from becoming clogged with mud. This must be unplaited and fingered through every night or it will result in the tail hair breaking off.
  • Manes should be teased and kept tangle-free. Lack of light and time is no excuse for neglect.
  • Native’s feet should be checked every six weeks and the ponies wormed every six weeks throughout the winter. Many “big bellied ” ponies are not fat, but full of worms, and neglecting feet will give rise to foot problems.
  • Check your pony’s heels and feet regularly. No matter how hardy native ponies may be, they can still suffer from thrush and mud fever if left in constantly wet conditions.
  • Do not clip the legs of animals that are turned out on wet, boggy fields for any length of time because you will severely reduce their protection from “wet” induced conditions.
  • Greasing heels. If you do decide to apply protection, you must ensure that the heels are 100% dry before you apply the grease, otherwise you are trapping the wet in and will worsen the condition.
  • Do not over-groom your pony during thewinter, unless it is stabled, rugged up and being shown. Natural moisture in the coat helps keep the cold and wet from reaching the pony’s skin.
  • Do not allow your pony to remain wet in adverse weather. Make sure a field shelter is available and provide a New Zealand rug in necessary. This is particularly important with very young or older ponies because they tend to lose condition in the cold and wet.
  • Choose rugs to suit your pony. The fit of a New Zealand Rug is veryimportant to prevent shoulders becoming rubbed and sore. If your pony is living out all the time then you need two rugs so you always have a dry rug to put on. Many tack stores now sell second hand rugs so it doesn’t have to break the bank. Ensure the rug is fitted to allow freedom for the pony’s shoulders without being too large. You can also buy a “bra” type undergarment that will prevent shoulder rubs. The best make of rug is the one that fits your pony best, however, traditional canvas rugs do tend to absorb water making them extremely heavy.
  • Feed your pony according to the normal rules of feeding. Ponies that are not working will require less feed than those that are in full work. Animals that are prone to laminitis need closesupervision all year round, not just during the spring.
  • Native ponies should be left in as “natural” a state as possible, however, natives kept in work during the winter may need a light clip. A pony which does Pony Club rallies or hunts occasionally is going to get very sweaty, running the risk of catching a chill, running up and loosing condition. A “bib” clip – which removes the hair along the underside of the neck from between the front legs to the jaw – should be a practical solution. This will allow the pony to work without getting too cold in the field as long as it is rugged up.
  • Many people now give their natives a full clip at the beginning of the winter. If you are careful with your stable care and you know your pony’s coat growth, you may get away with this. The main problems are cat hairs and stubble as it grows out, while a late blanket or trace clip will ruin the summer coat for most of the showing season.
  • If you have to stable your native for any length of time make sure you keep it entertained and always leave the top door open. Bored natives often go off their feed so introduce some carrots or a little sugar beet to add interest.
  • Short walks on a horse-walker or a trip to anoutdoor school break up the monotony of the winter months for a part or stable kept native.
  • Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk