Feeding the Leisure Horse or Pony

Contrary to popular belief the energy requirements of a leisure horse or pony are not significantly higher than those at rest. Horses and ponies falling into this category are best served by providing a diet which combines high quality forage in the form of pasture, hay or haylage in conjunction with a moderate energy feed which still contains high quality ingredients in the form of a combination of toasted or flaked cereals, oils and fibres in conjunction with a high quality trace minerals and vitamin specification. This type of balanced diet will ensure that a pony or horse in light work will get the nutrients it requires to maintain a healthy muscular and digestive system without becoming overweight or having excess energy which could lead to excitability.

Products specifically designed and manufactured for horses and ponies in light to moderate workload include Gain Cool ‘N’ Easy Mix, Easy Go Cubes, Horse & Pony Museli and Equestrian Cubes. These products contain Bioplex® trace minerals which are more bioavailable to the horse versus inorganic minerals and Yea-sacc live yeast culture which improves fibre digestion and helps to maintain a healthy pH in the caecum. If your horse of pony has a particular feed requirement e.g. for a low starch feed or an oat – free product it is advisable to contact your feed supplier to find out what product best suits your horse.

Good feeding practices mean a healthy digestive system

• Feed by status – by age and function
• Feed according to weight – it is recommended that horses received between 1.5-2% of body weight in dry matter per day
• Feed according to body condition
• As much good quality roughage as possible should be offered to the horse
• A balanced diet is essential
• Feed concentrates by weight not by volume
• Try to split daily feeds into 2-3 meals
• Avoid abrupt dietary changes
• Ensure clean, fresh water is available at all times
• All horses should have access to salt
• Only feed high quality, clean feeds
• Do not feed too soon before or after exercise
• Keep an eye on teeth – essential for a healthy digestive system
• Operate a regular worming programme

Joanne Hurley is a nutrition specialist with Gain Horse Feeds. She holds a Masters in Animal Nutrition and Production from UCD. She is based at Gain Horse Feeds Office in Bridge Street, Portlaoise, Co Laois and can be contacted on 087-7958573 or by email at jhurley@glanbia.ie

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