Ponies can survive on a lot less fuel than a horse. They have developed from harsh climates where pastures were sparse, so overfeeding them can sometimes do more damage than good.
Your pony will happily feed on a good-quality grass hay. Keep his food well stocked up, and provide him with a salt block and plenty of water to drink. On average, a pony would graze from between 16-18 hours a day, so allowing plenty of time out in the fields or paddocks will do him the world of good, providing he isn't constantly grazing on rich pasture. You can feed your pony some treats — many like the taste of vegetables (especially carrots, parsnips) and fruits such as apples, pears and bananas. Keep the treats down to a minimum though otherwise your pony will get greedy!
Be aware that constantly grazing in rich pastures could be a danger to your pony. If they are given access to a field with lush pasture and are allowed to graze for long periods of time, it won't take long for your pony to develop stomach problems such as colic and laminitis (as little as an hour is enough to kick-start a problem). Ponies can become obese very quickly, so it's best to introduce your pony to this type of pasture for very short periods of time to prevent him over-indulging.
Ideally, allow your pony on some good or normal pasture where he has to work hard to find grass — and preferably slow-growing grass. You may want to allow him to spend some time on good pasture and the rest of his day in a grass-less paddock. Always provide fresh water wherever your pony is throughout the day.
You shouldn't need to give your pony concentrates or grain, and if you do this should only be given to him if he's been working hard. If you notice your pony losing condition, you can give him a forage replacer that's full of vitamins and minerals, and increase the amount of hay that you feed him. Look for a concentrate that's low in calories — your local manufacturer should have ready-made suitable pony mixes that will be full of the right amount of supplements.
Your pony should not have access to any lawn clippings or fermentable foods such as apples, as these can be fatally toxic. When your pony is in his stable, food should be provided in the form of forage — so giving him hay or haylage is best, and a lot of people tend to soak this in water first to make sure it's dust free. Check your pony's teeth regularly so that you know he can chew properly, and keep him de-wormed.
Which foods should my pony avoid?
Plants that horses and ponies should steer clear of (because of their toxicity) include:
- Crab apples
- Golden rod
- Deadly nightshade
Be on the prowl for these common poisonous plants. There are many more to look out for, but these are some of the most easily identified. Remember, many plants which are poisonous to horses and ponies are also poisonous to people. Always handle them with care, wearing gloves and protective masks. Make yourself familiar with the appearance of these plants, and remove any that your pony could come in contact with from the root.