Fat miniature pony, trying to plan her weight loss
My new 16yo 8hh pony is quite fat, having a crease down her back and a big squishy pad of fat on her neck. I give her nighttime turn out with my full sized mare, she's commonly scurrying around and only occasionally sits still. Not enough to take the fat off, though; I began walking her on the road last week, she can do it with bursts of trot without straining. Surprisingly the booger can jump, and jump energetically at will with little instruction, usually dancing over the trotting poles I leave outside.
So I think her exercise regime of taking 20min walks on the road and the spare jump here and there is good, but what to do about food... Her last owner was giving her a cup a day of 12% protein pellets, a flake of coastal, and some turn out, while the pony didn't do much work. I leave coastal hay in her stall constantly to let her have an outlet for boredom or nervousness as she's still new here, and gradually stopped feeding her pellets. I think she goes through one flake every two days, usually doesn't finish it in one day or bother with it much. Should I be confining her to the dry lot with the coastal hay instead of letting her out on the pastures? Both 1-acre pastures have a good amount of fresh grass due to there having only been my one horse using them, the pony is coming from a place that had been grazed on by more than five other animals.
Dry lot. I wouldn't pasture her at all if she's obese. She doesn't need fresh grass at all. And if you *have* to pasture her, she needs a grazing muzzle. A good one and you will need to supervise for the first few times because, in my limited experience, minis are stinking clever and can whizzle out of a grazing muzzle. But dry lot is best, especially as a backup in case she is a Houdini with the muzzle. Also, you might test for IR. Sometimes that will hamper weight loss even with added exercise. If she has IR, talk to your vet about the best ways to manage her.
I would get a grazing muzzle on the pony if she is on any amount of pasture. Ponies are notorious for being easy keepers, and the majority of pony breeds are bred to work hard with minimal feed and keep weight. Dry lot is a viable option, if you are willing to go that route, but I think a healthy amount of grazing, (restricted by a grazing muzzle,) could do her some justice. I would just work with her 3-4 times a week, or more if you have the time. Get her ground manners impeccable, then work from there. Look into natural horsemanship, you will find some really neat things to do and have fun with. I would mix it up between jogs and lunging sessions, maybe stir in a bit of jumping once she is warmed up. Just be creative, and explore every avenue of desensitization. If you do it avidly, you will mix in work and the both of you will be having too much fun to notice. Driving is also a avenue you may want to visit. But other than a solid exercise routine, keep her on limited grazing, low-quality forage, (by this I mean no alfalfa or leafy hay, not moldy cheap crap,) and no grain. Right now, all of my easy-keeper horses are eating swamp grass and keeping weight beautifully. It is the perfect diet for horses that get minimal exercise. Keep an eye on her weight, and if necessary, mix in some higher-quality hay until you reach a good balance. Good luck with her, and have fun!
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