Ponies and horses have different nutritional requirements and need to be fed in different ways.

The feeding program you use for your horse may not work for your pony, even if you adjust feeding rates to match body weight.

Ponies are more prone to metabolic issues including obesity, equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), and Cushing’s disease (PPID).

They gain weight easily on rich pasture or energy-dense hay. Ponies should also not be fed grains or concentrates as these feeds are high in sugar and starch.

If your pony becomes overweight, they will be at higher risk of developing laminitis and joint problems which can reduce longevity and comfort.

Follow this article to help develop an appropriate feeding plan for your pony. You can also submit your pony’s information online and our nutritionists will help you create a diet specifically for your pony.

What Makes Ponies Different?

It’s important to create a diet plan specific to your pony’s needs. Ponies are not just small horses.

While a defining feature of ponies is their smaller stature, these animals also evolved to survive in much harsher conditions with lower nutrient availability.

Ponies are much more metabolically efficient compared to horses. Breeds such as Shetland, Mountain, and Welsh ponies are adapted to survive on harsh mountainous terrain and moorlands with sparse food sources.

Research shows that pony breeds are also less sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin. [14] This makes them more adapted to storing fat when they consume a high-glycemic diet, potentially resulting in excess body condition.

Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is produced by the pancreas when blood glucose (sugar) levels are high. This hormone acts on various tissues to help move glucose out of the blood and regulate blood sugar concentrations.

Horses and ponies that are insulin resistant do not respond well to insulin, resulting in more of this hormone being secreted and released into the blood.

High levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinemia) are a risk factor for laminitis and hyperlipidemia.

It is well-known that obesity and insulin resistance are closely linked. Higher levels of insulin lead to horses storing more calories as body fat (adipose tissue).

However, breed also plays a role in insulin resistance and laminitis risk. Even when comparing ponies and horses of the same body condition, ponies are less insulin sensitive than horses. [6]

Weight Issues

This partly explains why ponies are more prone to becoming overweight and developing lamintis.

Ponies should therefore be fed and managed to minimize the negative consequences of their easy keeper metabolism.

Weight loss should also be carefully managed in ponies. Insulin resistance puts them at higher risk of becoming hyperlipidemic when they are fed a low-calorie diet. [15]

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