A 32 year old 13.2hh mixed breed pony gelding struggled to maintain condition over the previous winter despite being fed a great deal more than he ever used to be (he was previously a good doer). The owner wants to know what to feed to avoid him losing so much weight. Last winter he was fed three quarters of a stubbs scoopful of veteran mix twice a day, and as much soft meadow hay as he wanted. He chewed the hay but spat most of it out (typical quidding). He has gained some condition over the summer on well-managed short pasture grass.
Advice The old pony was having trouble chewing, so he was deficient in both calories (dietary energy) and fibre over winter. He used up fat stores last winter and his gut would have been working suboptimally, without enough fibre. Horse’s teeth grow throughout their lives, in order to cope with their natural coarse fibrous diet. But as they get older some teeth will literally grow out, first becoming loose. Loose teeth can make chewing very uncomfortable, and the grinding surfaces of old teeth can become worn and smooth.
The pony needs to have his winter forage replaced with a ground substitute that can be soaked, making it easy to chew. Suitable feeds include high fibre nuts (cubes) with a fibre content of over 15%, grass and alfalfa nuts, and unmolassed sugar beet pulp. A conditioning feed can be given as well, but only as a maximum of one quarter of the total feed. The pony needs fibre as well as calories (dietary energy) hence why the solution is not just to feed more concentrate feed.
If the pony had turnout on good pasture during winter, he should be given at least 3.5 kg (and up to 5 kg) daily, split into as many feeds as possible, and definitely three minimum. His total intake of feed daily would be around 7 kg, and if he has no grass access, and can no longer eat any hay, he will will need to be given up to 7 kg of forage replacement feeds daily.