Pony Gaining Weight – What Do I Feed My Pony?

Hello. I have a large pony that is Insulin Resistant. He foundered 3 years ago – August and come to find out he’s Insulin Resistant but not Cushings. Because I caught it so quickly we were able to “cure” him and to this day he is SOUND! He hardly rotated. I noticed he was getting QUITE fat and saw a beautiful cresty neck (to which I thought I was training him SO well, and that’s why he had such a beautiful neck!) He is on a VERY strict diet – beet pulp, cinnamon, rice bran, vitamin E and salt. He’s now on A HANDFUL of Triple Crown Low Starch with SmartControl IR and MSM pellets. He also gets Timothy/Alfalfa hay. He hasn’t been ridden in a while and has been “hanging out” lately. I’ve noticed that lately he’s blowing up like a tick again and my “foundering” fears are coming back! He’s absolutely fine right now. He’s been on this hay for a long time and I haven’t changed a thing other than him not getting much exercise lately. Is there any kind of diet HAY or something I can DO for him? He tends to get colicky on Timothy Hay Cubes (wet or dry) and has a small ulcer. Any suggestions? He’s worth every problem he has. I just adore this pony. He’s 16 years old. Any suggestions would be so helpful. Thanks so much! M.S

Dear M.S.,

Thanks for your question. Your pony is lucky to have such an observant and dedicated owner! It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right. Let me just make a few suggestions here and there to see if I can help.
As you know, insulin resistance is managed in three ways: diet, exercise and appropriate supplementation. Based on what you feed your pony, I’m concerned his diet might not be completely balanced nor meeting his minimum nutritional needs. While it’s important to reduce the sugars and starches he gets (and overall calorie content), it’s also important to continue providing at least 100% of his daily vitamin and mineral requirements. This can be done with a commercial ration balancer, now offered by several different feed manufacturers, or a multi-vitamin mineral supplement.

Next, I’m impressed you can provide him with the same mix of hay year-round! However, even if hay is cut from the same field, it can vary dramatically in sugar content depending on which cutting it is, how mature it is at the time of cutting, and how it is handled after cutting. I suggest you routinely analyze your hay for sugar content and when it occasionally creeps up close to 10 or 12%, just soak it in water for an hour before feeding to remove some sugar. I’m sure you already know that pasture grass is a big no-no for your guy.

You mention your pony hasn’t been ridden in a while. This is probably the number one reason he is starting to pick up weight again, as exercise plays a huge role in how sensitive insulin is. Experts aren’t sure how it works, but they know that daily exercise improves glucose metabolism in both people and horses. You didn’t say why your pony is just “hanging out” right now, but I recommend you or someone you trust provide him with at least 30 minutes of controlled activity per day. Turnout is beneficial, but not as good as hand walking, lunging, riding, ponying, driving or even round pen work.

It sounds like you’re on the right supplement: SmartControl IR Pellets. You probably have him on the maintenance dose right now. I suggest you go back to the loading dose during those times of the year when he seems to gain weight for no reason or it’s the end of the show season and you’re giving him a little time off. I recommend you add an antioxidant like Vitamin E to your nutritional program as research shows obesity and insulin resistance are linked to high levels of oxidative stress. Congratulations on your successes so far and I hope these tips help!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Diseases and Conditions, Nutrition, Weight Management

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2 comments on “Pony Gaining Weight – What Do I Feed My Pony?
  1. AshleyMasters says:

    How do you know how much supplements to give ponies, I have a pony and I have been afraid to give her supplement because the dosing is for horses. I don’t want to overdose my pony, can anyone help me?

  2. Cody says:

    Almost all I can state is, I don’t know what to comment! Except ooisbuvly, for the amazing tips which have been shared with this blog. I’ll think of a thousand fun ways to read the articles or blog posts on this site. I do believe I will at last make a move using your tips on areas I could never have been able to take care of alone. You were so careful to let me be one of those to profit from your valuable information. Please realize how great I enjoy the whole thing.

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