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Feeding Your Pony

How to Feed Your Pony

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ponies at fence

Snowman and Dexter are Section A Welsh ponies who live quite well on good quality grass hay, a salt block and plenty of fresh water.

K. Blocksdorf 1999 Grazing muzzle

A grazing muzzle can slow down the consumption of grass.

K. Blocksdorf 1999 Pony at Show

Ponies are hardy, and in addition to proper feeding benefit from exercise.

Image: K. Blocksdorf

Ask a pony owner and they'll tell you, ponies are tougher, smarter, stronger and healthier than any horse. They run on a lot less fuel too. Rations that would starve a horse will keep a pony round and energetic. Most pony breeds developed where the pasture was sparse, the terrain rugged, and the climate harsh. When we pamper them, feed special preparations and lush grass we sometimes do more harm than good.

Ponies need only the fraction of the feed that horses do. Hay for ponies should be good quality grass hay. Your pony probably won't need the nutrition provided by alfalfa and clovers.

Lush pasture is a danger zone for ponies. Ponies can founder in less than 60 minutes of grazing if introduced suddenly to lush grass. If you plan to keep your pony on grass introduce it very slowly. Start with 10 minutes of grazing and gradually add a few minutes each day twice a day. If your pony eats too much rich pasture it could lead to such things as colic or founder. You may never be able to leave some ponies on good pasture. Ponies can become obese very quickly and that can lead to health problems.

Good pasture for a pony would be one that he has to work at finding the grass in. Sparse grass that grows slowly would be ideal. Or he could spend a small portion of his time on pasture and the rest in a grassless paddock. Some people use their round pen or a paddock where no grass grows. Another option is to use a Compare Prices grazing muzzle. Make sure your pony has access to clean fresh water.

Ponies rarely need concentrates or grain. The exception would be a pony that is working hard: one that is doing several lessons a week, is being driven frequently, is doing something like pulling competitions, or a lactating mare. If your pony is losing condition you could increase the quantity of hay and if that isn't enough add a concentrate that isn't too rich. A forage replacer fortified with vitamins and minerals might give your pony the nutritional boost it needs. Pony mouths are small, so overgrown teeth can be a problem. Don't forget to have your vet check your pony's teeth to ensure it can chew easily. Ponies also need regular de-worming to keep them in the best health.

If you like to feed your ponies even if it is not working hard--and for some owners this is a very satisfying activity--look for a concentrate that is low in calories. Some manufacturers make special pony mixes. These mixes are balanced with the correct amount of supplements for a pony. Don't be tempted to top dress it with a lot of extras like molasses or beet pulp. If you are feeding good hay, the pony is getting a bit of pasture and you have a mineral/salt block available your pony will be getting what he needs.

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