Ask any pony owner and they will tell you that ponies are tougher, smarter, stronger, and healthier than any other horse. They are usually tougher, have fewer hoof problems, and are less prone to certain colics. They also consume much less fuel. Rations that a horse would starve on keep a pony round and full of energy. Learn how to feed your pony to keep it healthy.
Most pony breeds developed in places where pasture was very scarce, the terrain rugged, and the climate harsh. They had to work hard to find their food, so in a short time, they evolved to use what little food they could find very efficiently. When we spoil them, feeding them special supplements and lush grass, we often do them more harm than good. Overfeeding is more often a problem for ponies than underfeeding.
Ponies only need a fraction of the feed that horses need. Hay for ponies should be high-quality grass. Your pony probably does not need the nutrients of alfalfa and clover. These feeds, more energetic and nutritious than many grass hays, are often too rich for ponies.
Lush pastures are a danger zone for ponies. Ponies can get sick quickly if they suddenly come into contact with lush grass. If you plan to keep your pony in the pasture, introduce him to grass slowly and give him time to fill up on hay before sending him out to the pasture. If your pony eats too much lush grass or the diet is changed abruptly or quickly, it can cause colic or decubitus ulcers. Some ponies cannot be let out to good pasture. Ponies can become obese very quickly, which can lead to health problems such as metabolic syndrome.
Slow-growing grass would be ideal. Or he could spend a small part of his time in pasture and the rest in a grass-free paddock. It may be necessary to keep a pony out of the pasture for part of the day. Sometimes it takes a little creativity to limit the amount of feed your pony receives. Some people use their round pen or a pasture where grass does not grow. Another option is to use a muzzle. With a muzzle, the pony can graze but only has access to a few stalks at a time. The holes in the muzzle also allow the pony to drink. So make sure your pony has access to clean, fresh water.
Ponies rarely need concentrated feed or grain. The exception is a pony that works hard, teaches several classes a week, is ridden frequently, competes, or is a lactating mare with a foal at her side. If your pony is losing condition, you can increase the amount of hay, and if it is not enough, you can add a concentrate that is not too rich. A feed substitute enriched with vitamins and minerals could give your pony the energy boost it needs without putting on weight.
If you want to feed your pony even when he’s not working hard – and for some owners, this is a very satisfying activity – look for a concentrated feed that is low in calories. Some manufacturers offer special mixes for ponies. These mixes are balanced with the right amount of supplemental feed for a pony. Don’t be tempted to enrich the concentrate with lots of extras, such as molasses or beet pulp. If good quality hay is fed, the pony has some grazing and a mineral/salt block is available, the pony will get what it needs. If you give treats, it is best to consider them in the context of the overall diet so as not to overdo them.
Ponies’ mouths are small, so excess teeth can be a problem. Hooks and sharp edges can make chewing uncomfortable, as their mouths are comparatively more compact and the teeth, tongue, and gums are closer together than in other horses. Don’t forget to have your pony’s teeth checked by your veterinarian to make sure he can chew easily. You don’t want your pony to lose weight because of a sore mouth. A sore mouth can also cause behavioral problems when taking a bite. Ponies should also be dewormed regularly to keep them healthy.