From a sporting point of view, a pony is considered by the FEI to be "a small horse which, measured on a flat surface, does not exceed 148 cm in height without shoes or 149 cm properly shod". This sporting definition is broad, including horses of small stature, as well as ponies of certain breeds (eg Shetland).

Ignoring the phenotypic differences characteristic of ponies, what differentiates them from horses from a dietary point of view?

Although a pony's digestive system is identical to that of any other horse, there are some particularities to consider. During the evolutionary process, ponies adapted in order to make their survival viable in adverse conditions, namely with scarce food resources and lower quality food. For this reason, ponies maintain, in general, an adequate body condition without large food resources, being commonly known as easy keepers. In this way, one of the main difficulties in feeding ponies is to provide them with the nutrients they need without this leading to an excessive caloric intake, with consequent weight gain.

It should also be noted that ponies have, when compared to other horses, a higher risk of developing problems such as obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Laminitis. Obesity is, in turn, the cause of joint overload and loss of performance. Thus, establishing an adequate feeding management in ponies is of particular importance, as well as efficiently monitoring it through the assessment of body condition.

General rules for feeding ponies

Like a horse, a pony should consume 1 to 2% of its live weight in fodder and/or food daily, for example a pony weighing around 200 kg should consume around 4 kg of dry matter in hay and feed focused. Given the pronounced appetite they have and the caloric restriction that is necessary, in order to avoid obesity, weighing the food and controlling the portions administered is of particular importance.

The ingested forage (hay/grass) may not be sufficient to guarantee an adequate mineral and vitamin supply, particularly in sport ponies, so it may be necessary to include a complementary compound feed (?feed?) in the feeding management of that pony.

These foods provide necessary minerals and vitamins, however, they also provide calories. If this intake is sustainable, considering the pony's physical activity, an ordinary concentrated feed can be used in adequate quantity. In ponies that show a tendency to gain excessive weight, other complementary options are recommended.

Other possible options

We can use a balanced food, which will meet the needs for lysine (limiting essential amino acid), vitamins and minerals, with low caloric intake, reducing the risk of obesity. In general, these foods are extremely concentrated, which is why small portions are given, with a small amount of non-structural carbohydrates, which makes their use safe even in ponies diagnosed with metabolic syndrome or laminitis.


Another possibility is to add a vitamin and mineral complement ("supplement") to complement the forage diet.


A good suggestion is to use a fine mesh net to give the hay. In this way we manage to prolong the time of ingestion and chewing, allowing the pony to exhibit a feeding behavior closer to natural, thus promoting a greater sense of satiety and gastric well-being.

to retain:

  • Ponies are prone to obesity, so portion and calorie control is particularly important.
  • In ponies with a tendency to be overweight and subjected to intense physical exertion, we must supplement the hay with a balancer or a ?supplement? mineral and vitamin.