Q: This winter I have noticed that my 25-year-old native pony has an extremely dry coat and skin. I have just bought him a New Zealand rug as I am worried he is not producing enough grease to keep himself warm. I am currently feeding him horse and pony cubes but is there anything else I can do that will help?
Nutritionist Christine Smy replies: As horses and ponies get older, they require a higher plane of nutrition and generally become less tolerant to deficiencies in the diet than younger horses.
The skin can reflect a lack of nutrients – in this case, becoming dry and not producing enough grease – so now may be the time to change to a veteran concentrate.
These feeds are often fed to horses in their late teens, but many horses do not appear old until their mid-20s and it sounds like your pony is just starting to feel his age.
It is a good idea to rug him up, as during the winter horses can use up to 25% of their energy just keeping warm. Take care that he does not sweat under the rug as this will make him itchy and will not help his skin condition.
Weigh his current amount of feed and, over three to four days, change to a veteran feed. If necessary, gradually increase the amount to around 2-2.5 kg (4.5-5.5lb) a day.