Feeding The Leisure Horse & 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.

The feed should contain high quality ingredients in the form of a combination of toasted or flaked cereals, oils and fibres along 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.

Selecting products for your horse or pony

Products specifically designed and manufactured for horses and ponies in light to moderate workload include GAIN Cool ‘N’ Easy MixGAIN Easy Go Cubes and GAIN Equestrian Cubes.  These products contain Bioplex® trace minerals, which are more bioavailable to the horse versus inorganic minerals. If your horse or pony has a particular feed requirement, it is advisable to contact your feed supplier to find out what product best suits your horse.

Top tips for maintaining a healthy digestive system

  • Feed by status, age and function
  • Feed according to weight – it is recommended that horses receive between
  • 1.5-2% of body weight in dry matter per day
  • Feed according to body condition
  • Good quality roughage 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
  • Routine dental check up with an equine dentist
  • Operate a regular worming programme

Joanne Hurley is a nutrition specialist with GAIN Equine Nutrition. She holds a Masters in Animal Nutrition and Production from UCD. Joanne can be contacted by email at jhurley@tirlan.ie

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