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Feeding the Growing Pony


Dr. Martin Adams, PAS – Equine Nutritionist for Southern States

Spanky BabyA pony is a small horse with a different conformation and temperament. There are many different breeds of ponies. Compared to horses, ponies have thicker manes, tails and hair coat, as well as proportionally shorter legs, wider barrels, heavier bone, thicker necks, and shorter heads with broader foreheads.

Ponies are usually considered intelligent and friendly, although sometimes they also are described as stubborn. The differences of opinion often result from an individual pony's degree of proper training. Ponies trained by inexperienced individuals, or only ridden by beginners, can turn out to be spoiled because their riders lack the experience base to correct bad habits. Properly trained ponies are appropriate mounts for children who are learning to ride. Larger ponies can be ridden by adults, as ponies are unusually strong for their size.

The pony originated from wild horses that developed small stature due to living on the margins of livable horse habitat. These smaller animals were domesticated and bred for various purposes from all over the Northern hemisphere, and many share characteristics of draft-type horse breeds, from which they obviously descended.

Ponies were historically used for driving and freight transport, as children's mounts, for recreational riding, and later as competitors and performers in their own right. During the Industrial Revolution, particularly in Great Britain, a significant number were used as "pit ponies", hauling loads of coal up from the mines.

Some horse breeds are not considered ponies, even when they have some animals that measure less than 14.2 hands. This is usually due to body build, traditional uses and overall physiology. Breeds that are considered horses regardless of height include the Arabian Horse, the American Quarter Horse and the Morgan Horse, all of which have individual members both over and under 14.2 hands. And the Welsh pony breed registry will recognize ponies over and under the official height definitions for horses and ponies, depending on country of origin and division

Other horse breeds, such as the Icelandic Horse and Norwegian Fjord Horse, may sometimes be pony-sized or have some pony characteristics, such as a heavy hair coat, thick mane, and heavy bone, but are generally classified as "horses" by their respective registries.

Some horses may be pony height due to environment more than genetics. For example, the Chincoteague pony, a feral horse that lives on Assateague Island off the coast of Virginia, often matures to the height of an average small horse when raised from a foal under domesticated conditions.

The official definition of a pony is a horse that measures less than 14.2 hands (58 inches) at the withers. Horses are taller than 14.2 hands at the withers. For showing purposes, ponies are grouped into small, medium and large sizes. Small ponies are no taller than 12.2 hands at the withers. Medium ponies are over 12.2 hands at the withers but no taller than 13.2 hands. Large ponies are over 13.2 hands at the withers but no taller than 14.2 hands.

Otterridge Up In LightsA pony's mature size and weight is determined by genetics and will be reached at some point when the horse reaches a certain age, given that nutrient requirements are met. However, the amount of time it takes to get to mature weight and size varies, depending on the nutritional status of the growing horse. Ponies reach a mature age more quickly and so have a shorter and less rapid growth curve than larger horse breeds.

High-quality protein, and especially the amino acids lysine and threonine are very important to the proper development of the growing pony. While the level of crude protein is high in diets containing alfalfa or high-quality grass along with a concentrate made of cereal grains, the lysine content of such a diet will probably be inadequate to support proper growth for a young growing horse. Look for premium commercial feeds, such as Legends® Growth with high quality protein sources and guaranteed levels of lysine and threonine to ensure proper development.

Raising young ponies that are sound and competitive in today's horse industry requires a carefully planned feeding and management program. Most horse breeds have a genetic predisposition for development orthopedic disease (DOD), and such problems may appear especially when horses are fed too much grain. In many cases, however, DOD disorders are the result of nutrient imbalances, which can result in abnormal bone metabolism. When such nutrient imbalances are combined with prolonged confinement (no turnout) or forced exercise in deep footing, skeletal problems can also occur.

To insure a successful program for raising ponies that are sound at maturity, the following practices are recommended. Invest in premium quality, highly fortified horse feeds and follow a sound management program that includes weighing and monitoring the amount of feed (grain and hay) provided based on proper growth rate and body condition, Also allow regular turnout to provide sufficient exercise for proper bone development. On the following pages are charts for feeding small, medium and large pony breeds and a chart for feeding foal milk replacer to orphaned ponies.

Feeding Rates for Small Breed Ponies1,5

Age
(months)

Foal's
Weight (lbs)

Growth Rate (lbs/day)

Legends
Growth1,2 (lbs./day)

Forage3
(lbs./day)

0-3

35 - 120

-

0.5 per month of age

Free choice

4

147

0.75

1.75 - 2.5

2.5 - 3.5

6

189

0.64

2 - 2.5

3 – 4.5

12

282

0.40

2 - 2.5

4.5 - 6

18

341

0.24

2 - 2.5

4.5 - 6

24

378

0.15

2 - 2.5

4.5 - 6

1Mature body weight of 440 pounds.

2Legends Growth is available in textured and pelleted formulas.
3 Forage includes baled hay, hay cubes, chopped hay and pasture.
4 Adjust feeding rates of grain and hay to maintain proper growth rate and body condition.

Feeding Rates for Medium Breed Ponies1,4

Age
(months)

Foal's
Weight (lbs)

Growth Rate (lbs/day)

Legends
Growth1,2 (lbs./day)

Forage3
(lbs./day)

0-3

55 - 200

-

0.75 per month of age

Free choice

4

222

1.1

2.5 - 3.5

4 - 5.5

6

286

1.0

3 - 3.5

5.5 - 6

12

425

0.6

3.5 - 4

6.5 - 8

18

513

0.4

3.5 - 4.5

8 - 10

24

568

0.2

3 - 4

9 - 11

1Mature body weight of 660 pounds.
2Legends Growth is available in textured and pelleted formulas.
3 Forage includes baled hay, hay cubes, chopped hay and pasture.
4 Adjust feeding rates of grain and hay to maintain proper growth rate and body condition.

Feeding Rates for Large Breed Ponies4

Age
(months)

Foal's
Weight (lbs)

Growth Rate (lbs/day)

Legends
Growth1,2 (lbs./day)

Forage3
(lbs./day)

0-3

70 - 250

-

1 per month of age

Free choice

4

297

1.5

3 - 4

5 – 6.5

6

381

1.3

3.5 - 4.5

6 - 7.5

12

565

0.8

5 - 6

8 - 10

18

682

0.5

5 - 6

9 - 12

24

755

0.3

5 - 5.5

9 - 12

1Mature body weight of 880 pounds.
2Legends Growth is available in textured and pelleted formulas.
3 Forage includes baled hay, hay cubes, chopped hay and pasture.
4 Adjust feeding rates of grain and hay to maintain proper growth rate and body condition.


Foal Milk Replacer Feeding Directions for Ponies1,2,3,4

Age of Foal

Feedings Per Day

Daily Feeding Rate

1 Day

-

Colostrum

2 - 7 Days

4

1-2 quarts

2nd Week

4

2-3 quarts

3rd Week

3

3-4 quarts

4th Week

3

3-4 quarts

5th Week

3

2-3 quarts

6th Week

2

1-2 quarts

7th Week

2

1-2 quarts

8th Week

2

1-2 quarts

1 Feeding directions are for Land O Lakes Mare's Match Foal Milk Replacer.
2 Provide high quality hay at the 2nd week of age and continue.
3 Provide Legends Growth Horse Feed at the 5th week of age and continue.
4 Ponies can be successfully weaned at 3 months of age by gradually decreasing the amount of milk replacer and gradually increasing the amount of grain over a four-week period.

Foal Management Practices

Reduce exposure to bacteria by providing a dry, draft-free stall.

Clean and disinfect the foaling stall and provide it with clean bedding prior to the foal's birth.

The foaling stall should be cleaned on a regular basis after the foal is born to help reduce bacterial and viral diseases and ammonia levels.

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