Do you own a chubby pony? If the answer is yes this time of year can be a real challenge, warm days and almost April shower type rain means one thing grass growth! Although, a rather round pony can look really cute, cuddly and very comfortable to ride bare back being overweight is not ideal for your pony.
Why is being overweight a problem?
- Excess weight puts extra strain on the heart, limbs, and joints, and will generally make your pony more sluggish. You wouldn’t want to run around on a hot day if you were carrying extra weight.
- Being overweight also increases the risk of your pony getting laminitis.
What is energy?
- Energy is not a nutrient it is derived from feed constituents such as starch, sugar and fibre. It is the fuel you and your pony use to maintain all the body’s systems and provides fuel to muscles to produce movement.
Are calories and energy the same?
- The simple answer is yes! Energy in our food is measured and expressed as kilo calories (kcal) this is why we talk about calories.
- The energy in horse feed is written as megajoules (MJ)
- Look for the estimated Digestible energy (DE) on feed sacks, low energy feeds are generally between 7-10 MJ/kg, medium energy 10-12 MJ/kg and high energy 12-15 MJ/kg
- Just like us if we eat too many cakes, ponies become overweight for one simple reason, their calorie intake is greater than their calorie output or they are simply eating more food than they need.
- If your pony eats more calories than he needs the extra energy he gets will be stored as fat within the body.
- If you pony often eats more calories than he needs he will become fatter and fatter !
What does 1 MJ of food look like?
The following examples show the quantity of various feeds that will provide your pony with 1 MJ of energy:
- 3 apples
- 6 carrots
- 131 Horse and Pony Cubes equivalent to 112 grams
- 120 grams (a good handful) of alfalfa chop
- 385 grams of fresh grass
- 72 grams of barley
- 83 grams of oats
- 32ml ( about 4 teaspoons ) of vegetable oil
The Golden Rules of effective weight loss
Managing a pony prone to weight gain can be very challenging, but rewarding when weight loss is achieved. Weight management is most effective when feeding, management and exercise are all looked at together, but for now let’s focus on feeding…
Ponies who struggle to keep their weight down, will need a calorie controlled diet, this means watching how much food you give them in relation to their condition and how much work they are be doing.
Below are a few points, which may help you when putting together a feeding plan for your pony.
- Your pony should eat approximately 2% (dry weight) of his bodyweight every day, this is about 8kg per day for a 13.2hh pony. This relates to the total weight of everything your pony eats each day including grass, hay or hard feed.
- If he is very overweight this should be reduced to 1.5% (dry weight) of his bodyweight per day. For a 13.2hh pony this would be a reduced amount of 6kg per day.
- Don’t forget vitamins and minerals, just because your pony needs to lose weight not feeding him all the vitamins and minerals he needs will affect his long term health; look for a balancer designed for horses and ponies on restricted rations.
- If stabling your pony for long periods to help with weight loss remember he still needs to eat for the majority of the day. Pick feeds that take longer to eat such as chopped fibres, put hay in small holed hay nets and place different feeds in different places around the stable, to extend eating time and reduce boredom.
- Weigh all the feeds you use, make sure you know how much in weight your scoop and hay net holds, you might be feeding more than you realise!
- Choose your forage wisely! Consider having your hay analysed to make sure it’s suitable. You can also soak it for 3-16 hours in tepid water to reduce the water soluble carbohydrate content by up to 50%.
Sharing is caring so if you have any ingenious ways of keeping your horse or pony’s waistline in check feel free to share them in the comments section.