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Category: Vet
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I have a 14.2 pony which is part thouroughbred aged 17 years.

Customer Question

I have a 14.2 pony which is part thouroughbred aged 17 years. I have kept horses for years but I can't seem to get her feed right and she loses weight over the winter. I live in the North of Scotland but she is stabled in and kept warm with fresh hay.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.

Now if we have a pony that only loses weight over winter (even in mild winters like what we had last year), then we have to consider possible transient differentials that could cause a decline in her weight. The reason why we need to consider intermittent processes is because if we had systemic disease (ie organ dysfunction, metabolic disease, tumors, etc) causing her weight loss, we would expect to see loss all year round.

Therefore, we need to consider differentials that could potentially just effect her over winter. The most common ones are feed nutrition,
feed intake, body energy expendatures (ie maintaining her body temperature), any change in fecal or urinary outputs (less likely but something to consider ), and worm burden (who is hiding in her gut overwinter after a summer on the pasture).

With this all in mind and knowledge that you have successfully overwintered other horses with your dietary regimen in the past; this would make your feeding plan and feed less likely to be our culprit. Still, it is worth reviewing what you are feeding to make sure there have been no changes made by manufacturer's and that you are at least feeding based on any provided guidelines.

Further to this, over the winter, you need to monitor how and what she eats. This is because if Abbey selectively grazes (due to not liking something, teeth issues, etc), you could see weight loss develop with this that then disappears when she is out in the pasture. If you have any doubts about her teeth, you may want to consider having her vet check these for you.

Another angle that would be ideal to tackle here is potential overwintering worm burdens. Ideally, you should have a fecal sample checked just prior to moving her inside. This way you can appreciate if there is a worm load that needs addressing and you will know what is specifically present to allow you to target treatment appropriately. And if you are addressing this before she is move inside, you will decrease any stable contamination as well.

Finally, as overwintering does place significant demands on horses, we do sometimes need to modify our overwintering protocol to support individuals. This can include making sure they have access to high quality forage, highly digestible hay, and further vitamin supplementation. Just to give you a good outline on managing horses in cold weather, I would advise a read of THIS. It was developed for overwintering horses in Canada but is a good outline on what to be focusing on when it comes to getting Abbey through the winter.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. My pony has her teeth checked and is wormed retgularly. I was looking for a more detailed feeding plan. With all the different feeds on the market I would have appreciated help with this. You gave a non committal reply to basic stuff as a horse owner over many years I could have saved my fee and answered these myself. Disappointed.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

My apologies that I didn't go into the depth you wished me to. As I am sure you can appreciate it is not possible for me to know your knowledge base nor to appreciate how much information you want unless you actually make that clear. Since you are disappointed with my initial aid, I will opt out now and allow my colleagues to assist you further. You do not need to respond to me, as it will actually impede my colleagues seeing that your query has been reopened.

Take care,
Dr. B.

Expert:  Shantal-Mod replied 3 years ago.
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