Our expert: Katie Williams is a nutritionist at Dengie. It’s her job to work out what ingredients go in different feeds.
Your pony’s digestive system is super-important. It gets the energy he needs out of the food he eats and acts as a central heating system, keeping him warm. Feeding him enough fibre is key to keeping his digestive system healthy, so it’s your job to make sure he’s getting enough.
Fibre or forage?
Fibre is found in lots of different feeds that ponies eat. Forage describes feeds that are high in fibre, including grass, hay, haylage and straw. The amount of other nutrients in each forage type, such as protein, minerals and sugar, determines which is most suitable for each pony – some need particularly low-sugar, high-fibre diets.
Did you know? Digesting fibre generates heat to keep your pony warm, so feeding him plenty of fibre is the best way to keep him totally snug!
How much does my pony need?
Ponies have evolved to spend 16–18 hours a day eating forage, so it’s important to try to provide the same for your pony. You can do this either by turning him out in a field or by giving him plenty of hay or haylage to eat in his stable.
The challenge comes when all that eating makes him too chubby! If your pony’s overweight, you’ll have to limit his forage, but he still needs to eat 1.5% of his bodyweight every day. You can work out how much this by multiplying his bodyweight by 1.5 and dividing your answer by 100. For example, if your pony weighs 400kg…
Did you know? Too little forage and long periods without it can cause health problems in ponies, such as gastric ulcers or colic
You can work out the minimum amount of forage your pony should be getting using these calculations…
Underweight (bodyweight x 2.5)/100
Good weight (bodyweight x 2)/100
Overweight (bodyweight x 1.5)/100
Many ponies can get enough energy from just forage, topped up with a supplement or balancer to provide essential vits and mins. However, if he’s in harder work, older or a poor-doer, then you can feed him different sources of fibre that provide more energy, such as chopped alfalfa. You can feed these as an alternative to a mix, cube or nut – they still provide as much energy, but with around 10 times less starch and a lot more fibre!
Here’s how much energy is in different types of forage…
Did you know? Mixing some straw with your pony’s hay brings the energy levels down so you can feed more to keep him full without too many extra calories.
How he digests
- Chewing food starts to break it down – forage takes a lot more chewing than feeds that are low in fibre. Chewing produces saliva, which moistens the food so it’s easier for your pony to swallow.
- Saliva helps to neutralise acids further along the digestive system, which helps to stop your pony’s gut becoming too acidic and prevents gastric ulcers.
- Fungi and bacteria that live in your pony’s gut break down the fibre to release energy that he can use. This can take up to three days, which is why it’s called slow-release energy.
Did you know?
- It takes your pony three times longer to chew hay than the same weight of oats.
- Your pony produces 25–30L of saliva every day.
- The fungi and bacteria that digest fibre also produce B vitamins such as biotin, which helps to keep hooves in good condition.
Remember, fibre keeps your pony…
- full up