The Importance Of Portion Control - For Ponies
As my previous post mentions - I have three lovely ponies to call my own. Any horse lover or enthusiast will often picture a small fluffy equine when hearing the word 'pony' - A 'little' horse on short legs, often possessing a round tummy! The image is a sweet one. Cuddly ponies - how lovely.
This used to be the reality for my ponies. I knew the importance of managing their weight correctly and keeping them trim - but I could never seem to reinforce the actual weight loss. They remained the same. Cuddly, fluffy and round. A good routine, natural life style but clearly too much calorie intake - even if it was just grass - restricted too!
In the summer of last year - 2015 - A very grey cloud hung over the field where my ponies reside. My littlest pony nearly lost her life to a chronic laminitis attack - fueled by EMS = Horse Diabetes. The cause - sky high insulin levels due to - her weight. Her body could not process the sugars in her diet, and thus it causes an almost toxic reaction internally, which affects a horses hooves - or move terrifyingly - the bones inside their hooves. The bone will come away from the wall of the hoof and rotate, and rotate until worst case scenario - the bone sinks and plummets through the sole of the poor horses hoof. Horses cannot walk - and the pain - is excruciating. In this situation - very few horses survive.
My little pony lay in her stable one morning, unable to stand, dosed up on all the essential medication under the watchful eye of my vet (who I could see was quietly hoping and praying with me) that it would all be enough to intervene and stop the damage to her feet being too severe to fix - It is a terribly distressing thing to witness, and that morning, I clearly remember holding my pony's head as she lay, telling her how sorry I was ... sorry for thinking I was being kind by giving her an extra portion of hay - sorry for allowing her access to the lush grass just because it was raining. And sorry for not treating her like a proper pony needs to be treated - not as a pet - but as a hardy creature designed to live on next to nothing.
When we love our animals, we tend to shower them with unhealthy amounts of TLC, which often involves food. We know they respond to this, and will like us for this. But quite honestly - it is far from kind. Equally, it does not mean neglecting them! Allowing them to stand for hours with nothing in their stomachs, or to stand without shelter in a field. Or to not praise them and show them respect and love... none of the above! ... No...what it means is to know the importance of keeping your animal in perfect condition. Not under weight, not over weight - but comfortable and healthy and monitored carefully so they stand a good chance of living a long happy life - under your caring protection.
My little Pony was very lucky - I now have a beautifully slim pony (after following a strict regime) who is walking soundly again - she is sprightly and I continue to manage her food intake accordingly so she may never be in danger from such a crippling illness again. She looks glorious. A real miracle recovery - which began with me putting my professional mindset on rather than my emotional one!
So, I write to say - if your pony gives you longing looks from his mud patch of a field because he's eaten what grass he can find, and wants more! please don't give in. If your pony is an escape artist - please ensure fencing is so good that they can't bust through and gorge all night on long grass! (this happened to mine- too many times! ) And please always keep a close eye on their overall condition - check with your vet what weight they should be, and take the necessary steps to get them in excellent shape. It is the kindest thing you can do for them - and although they may not realise it at the time of begging for more treats - they will realise it when they can be allowed the bliss of grazing with the sun on their backs, a happy and slim horse/pony - pain free, content ... and healthy.