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Condition: "Is my pony too fat or too thin?"
There is a lot of discussion at the moment about the problem of
obesity in native ponies.
Here is an excellent site with unbiased information about the
it happen and what are the implications?", asks Peter Green MRCVS
http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/horsecare/397/62276.html, also more links on
a similar theme:)
"Although many judges, breeders and owners
of show ponies will hold up their hands in
horror and exclaim: "Not in our classes!", the
truth is that many of the ponies that regularly
head the show lines are overweight. I have
discussed this with show pony clients over many
years and all of the responsible ones, both
judges and competitors, will admit that it is a
problem. We know that it is a problem because
many of these ponies live for season after
season on the brink of laminitis.
Of all our clients, the show pony folk are
the best at feeling for digital pulses, noting
slight changes in the stance of the ponies,
looking for signs of trouble in the feet. Why
are they so good at it? Because they have so
much experience of the disease.
When this is discussed in public, the
usual defence is that true show condition
requires a pony to be fit, well muscled and in
"peak condition". The trouble is that, for many,
"peak condition" means simply overweight. Judges
and competitors strive for the perfect outline,
particularly the perfect topline, and
in many ponies the only
way to achieve the full, rounded quarters, loins
and croup is to pile on the fat".
Condition Scoring Your
Highland ponies are naturally good doers
and most put on weight easily. Over weight can lead to Laminitis and other
health problems. The situation is not helped by fat ponies in the show ring
which give the idea that all Highland ponies should be that shape! The fact is,
it is far more cruel to be "too kind" to your pony and over feed it than have it
a bit lean and healthy.
What do you think of the pony on
the left? (Well, I probably agree with you, but we are talking "condition"
here, not conformation).
And, no, it is not a Highland, but
it should still be possible to form an opinion on it's condition!
Too fat or too thin?
to find out what the experts say! You may be in for a surprise.
Dieting Obese Ponies
Highland ponies have been bred to
thrive on poor grazing in a tough climate. That can lead to problems when ponies
are kept on rich grazing and given hard feed and not enough exercise.
restricting grazing with an electric fence may help keep weight down but short
grass is more nutritious than rank mature grass because it has many growing tips.
Those are the most nutritious parts of the plant, but they don't provide much
bulk. A bit like a diet of chocolate! On short grass, your pony's intake is
restricted, so it never fills its belly, and is permanently hungry and eats as
if there is no tomorrow.
One solution is to provide
additional fibre so they can fill their bellies as well as restricting
access to grazing. That fibre can be provided in the form of less nutritious
hay or straw. Hay varies considerably in quality according to the age and
species of the grasses used, the time it is harvested, the length of time it has
been exposed to the weather (rain will dissolve out sugars), and so on. Hay
for native ponies ought to be well made but they will usually thrive on less nutritious, under
fertilised, older natural (i.e. unimproved) grasses. If in doubt, get advice
from your vet.
But the bottom line
(literally!) is to learn to judge the condition of your pony, how fat it is,
and where that fat is distributed. Exercise is essential too. One of my fatties
quickly got back into shape by putting her onto a diet of ad lib barley straw,
restricted grazing, and giving 20 minutes exercise in the round pen every day.
Here is that link again showing
how to condition score your pony: Not a Highland pony, but the message
remains the same!
page is under continual and regular revision!