Friday, April 17, 2009

I don't think malnutrition is the correct way to create ponies...

Who knows how tall this two year old would be if it got some food? Click on the pic to see a larger version and all the detail of the spine standing up.

The ad: "We are selling our baby paint pony. She was born April 11th, 2007. She is about 13 Hands right now and should mature to be about 13.2 or so. She is very sweet and comes up to you in the pasture. We have been working with her and she allows you to pick up her feet with no problem. She does great with kids or adults. We are asking $400 for her."

This pony is not just poorly cared for, she's the very definition of a conformational train wreck. Her huge-headed appearance is due to malnutrition, but no amount of food will improve that straight up-and-down shoulder. Some dewormer and better nutrition will tuck up that pot belly, but extra weight isn't going to result in a pretty hip - just a less sharply defined one. The hooves - which do not look like they have ever been trimmed - make it even harder to evaluate the legs, but the pasterns look long to me. Yes, just another totally mediocre, undersized, unfed two year old that should never have been produced in the first place. The pony hunter market is not looking for ponies like this and she will never have the look to be a western show pony, either. I hope she gets upgraded but, at $400, most buyers know they can get a lot more for their money.

Feeding a baby is a huge challenge. If you are a novice at it, you will hear so many opinions that you will be ready to scream. There are the alfalfa proponents, the oh-my-god-you-can't-feed-alfalfa crowd, those who believe one magical supplement is responsible for their good results, and so on. I won't begin to tell you a "right" way. What I will tell you is that some things are not negotiable:

1. Deworming! Foals are more susceptible to parasites than adult horses. There are different schools of thought about when to administer that first deworming, but the most common answer is between four to six weeks of age and every six to eight weeks thereafter. I learned fairly recently that orphan foals are particularly susceptible to parasites, so you may need to step up the schedule and deworm them monthly to keep them parasite free.

Deworming is pretty simple - if you don't spend the money to deworm, your hay is going to feed the worms, not the foal. Get on a schedule and stick to it. Worms can do so much internal damage - they can create a ticking time bomb that shows up in a fatal colic down the road. Anyone who skimps on deworming is the very definition of pennywise and pound foolish.

2. Growing babies need to eat like growing boys. I believe they should have something in front of them at all times - if you don't have grass pasture, then it should be grass hay. If you can't stomach the idea of feeding free choice hay, then add lunch. I have heard some of the dumbest things ever about "overfeeding" foals. Not on grass hay, you won't. Grain is what you have to be careful with.

I think sometimes people think a foal will be cheaper to feed than an adult and so they don't have to allot quite as much of a feed budget. This isn't really true. While the foal may not consume the quantity of feed as your 16 hand stock type gelding, quality is very important and you may be surprised to see much a yearling or two year old can pack away. (I also think people get confused between feeding a pony and feeding a foal. While they may be the same size, the same feeding program will not suffice!)

So now I'll throw it open - how do YOU feed your foals? What you think it costs you as opposed to your adult horses? If you've been breeding for years, have you changed your feeding philosophy along the way?

I have that requested East Coast Friday Featured Rescue for you today! Token is a 16.1 hand bay Thoroughbred gelding. He is seven years old and his only bad habit is that he is an attention hog who loves to be loved on! Token walks, trots, and canters nicely under saddle both directions and is excellent on the longe line. How beautiful is he?

You can find him at Angel Acres in Glenville, Pennsylvania.

Any draft or Morgan fans in the PNW, e-mail me - I have a broke Percheron and two broke Morgans that need new homes. Two are freebies, one has an adoption fee.