IS YOUR PONY EATING YOU OUT OF HOUSE AND HOME?
Ponies love to eat! In fact it's the number one thing on their list of what they love to do much like it is with a horse but with a pony it can be very dangerous.
Ponies are what's labeled as an "easy keeper". That term means they can exist on very little food. The reason they're easy keepers goes back hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago with them evolving from larger horses that became stranded due to shipwreck, etc. on the islands off of Europe such as Wales, Ireland, England, etc. To enable them to survive on the islands with very little food they grew smaller and smaller over the many generations creating the pony we know today.
Pound for pound a pony uses less fuel because its body became more efficient at using its nutrition therefore you must be careful not only in what you feed your pony but how much. Today it's much easier to have a broad spectrum of hays to choose from with many options more suitable to a pony's needs. Rarely should a pony be fed alfalfa. It's simply too rich in nutrients and can cause a pony to easily founder (a painful, crippling and sometimes fatal condition).
Grass hays are much better for your pony in general with timothy or orchard grass being the best but these hays also come with a bigger price tag. Something commonly fed is Bermuda. Its price is much lower than the others but be very careful because Bermuda has been known to bind up the intestines causing colic and in my opinion should only be fed when other alternatives cannot be available.
Oat or grain hay may be acceptable but again you must be aware its protein content is much higher than the grass. Although not as high as in alfalfa you still must keep a close eye on your pony's weight to insure he's not being overfed.
Never feed your pony grain! Absolutely under NO circumstances would you feed a pony grain. They simply cannot tolerate it within their system. It's far too rich causing the pony to possibly founder or colic and it just isn't worth the risk!
Keep an eye open to spot founder quickly. Although horses can also develop the condition of "founder" it is more prevalent in ponies because it's far easier for them to become obese. Founder is a dreaded condition that sets up inflammation within the leg of the pony causing the coffin bone to rotate and like a cork screw it begins pressing down into the pony's foot and in drastic cases actually piercing the sole of the foot which often proves to be painfully fatal. Be aware of your pony's habits. If he appears to be in good health but is spending too much time laying down that could mean his feet are hurting and should be addressed as founder being a possibility.
Be careful keeping ponies at grass. While grass is a preferred feed, if your pony is kept out in a pasture be very careful in the spring when the new grass comes in far too abundantly and is particularly rich. You may have to keep your pony in his stall limiting his pasture time to keep him from eating too much.
Remember, ponies can eat as much as a horse but need far less food so you must be diligent in safeguarding what it is your pony eats. The good news is that ponies live to be much older than most horses with fewer health issues so if you're careful and protect your pony's well being you'll have him in your life for a very long time!