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Feeding Ponies

by Dr Clair Thunes PhD Nutrition
Consulting Nutritionist for EnviroEquine & PET
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I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone with a hard keeper lament about the fact that they wish they had an easy keeper. But owners of easy keepers have it tough too and if there is one group of equines that fall in to that category it is the ponies!

Ponies somehow manage to maintain condition on next to no rations likely thanks to the genes that have allowed them to thrive in areas such as the barren hills of Wales and rough ground of Connemara. Quality hay, pasture and box stall living is more than the ancestors of today’s ponies could ever have imagined.

The result is often an expanding girth and a pony that is fatter than is healthy. Fat is not the benign tissue we once thought. Research has shown that fat can release hormones that impact energy balance and metabolism. Body fat also releases inflammatory cytokines resulting in low grade systemic inflammation. In people these cytokines are believed to play a role in oxidative stress which can lead to tissue damage and alter metabolism. In horses there is thought to be a link between these cytokines and blood flow to the hooves that may cause inflammation in the sensitive laminae increasing the risk of laminitis.

Clearly keeping ponies and all horses trim is important to their health but this is a real challenge when dealing with an easy keeper. Weight gain is the result of consuming more calories than needed. Therefore weight loss is achieved by consuming fewer calories than needed. Due to their efficiency most ponies and easy keepers do not need as many calories as would be expected for their size and work level. This can mean that they are being fed the lowest acceptable amounts of feed.

However when calories are removed by removing or reducing concentrate feeds fed, or if you’ve done this and still need to remove calories by reducing the amount of forage fed, you are not just reducing calories. These feeds and forages provide your pony or horse other vital nutrients including trace minerals, key vitamins and amino amino acids. Therefore it is very easy to end up in a situation where the pony is being fed the correct number of calories to maintain an appropriate body condition but is nutrient deficient in a large number of essential nutrients. This has significant negative health consequences as well as having an impact on performance ability.

All diets need provision of these key nutrients whether through fortified feeds or the use of quality supplements, but in the case of the easy keeper this is even more important and often challenging to achieve without adding in unwanted calories. When feeding ponies and other easy keepers a well-fortified supplement such as EnviroEquine EveryDayBalance Equine provides an excellent solution. Packing a highly fortified punch providing 4.5 grams lysine, 390 mg Zinc, 120 mg Copper, 500 IU of natural vitamin E, live yeast as well as multiple other key nutrients in just 4 ounces, EveryDayBalance Equine is perfect for your easy keeper.

But that is not all. EveryDayBalance Equine provides 15 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving from flax. Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids from flax to horses has been shown to help support insulin sensitivity. Reduced insulin sensitivity is something that many ponies and obese equines suffer from.

So simplify your feeding program while insuring your pony or easy keeper has all the vital nutrients needed for great health and fabulous performance by feeding EveryDayBalance Equine by EnviroEquine.

Consulting Nutritionist for EnviroEquine Dr. Clair Thunes is passionate about her profession—one that she decided upon at the age of 14. After earning a Bachelor of Science with Honors from Edinburgh University, and a Master of Science in Animal Science and a PhD in Nutrition from the University of California, Davis, Dr. Thunes went on to found Summit Equine Nutrition LLC an independent consulting company in 2007. An experienced nutritionist and accomplished scientist, Dr. Thunes understands the vital role that nutrition plays in managing horses today. Most importantly, she believes in making nutrition accessible to everyone and removes the guesswork so that owners have the peace of mind that their horse’s diets are optimal for maximum health and peak performance.  Her clients include all horses from competitors at the 2016 Rio Olympics to retired pasture friends, mules and miniature donkeys. She writes a weekly online commentary for and her nutrition articles have been published in noted publications including: The Horse, Equine Wellness, Trail Blazer, Horse & Rider and The Horse Report. Besides consulting she teaches equine nutrition and equine exercise physiology in the Animal Science Department at UC Davis and equine health at Cosumnes River College.  Clair continues to be involved with The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. and she is currently the Regional Supervisor for the Sierra Pacific Region.


Pony Photos: © Natalie Alexeeva / 123RF Stock Photo