“Our research means that straw isn’t harmful for ponies—at the very least those in our research inhabitants—and it may be used to induce weight reduction in ponies residing within the subject year-round whereas preserving their starvation glad,” stated Miranda Dosi, DVM (Hons) MRCVS, an equine medical resident on the College of Edinburgh Royal Dick College of Veterinary Research.
Dosi and her fellow researchers noticed 40 mixed-breed ponies over a four-month interval (December to March) as they consumed both a traditional ration made up totally of hay or the identical ration composed of fifty% native U.Ok. hay and 50% unchopped barley straw. All of the ponies within the straw/hay group misplaced weight (dropping about 5% of their physique weight, on common). Eighty % of the ponies within the hay-only group gained weight—including a median of about 5% of their physique weight.
“Straw is a forage that’s excessive in fibers whereas low in proteins and sugars, resulting in gradual weight reduction,” Dosi stated. “It’s not as palatable as hay, however they’ll eat it in the event that they’re hungry.”
In lots of instances, nonetheless, the ponies within the hay/straw group weren’t hungry. “We frequently discovered leftover straw, which suggests the ponies felt full,” she stated. As for the 100% hay group, the ponies normally cleaned up the total ration, she added.
“Within the straw/hay group, we additionally famous elevated feeding instances,” Dosi stated. “Elevated feeding instances could assist stop the behavioral adjustments, similar to aggression, which might accompany restrictive diets and are doubtless indicators of dietary stress and poor welfare.”
No Colic, No Rating Points
Though anecdotal proof reveals that horses and ponies can develop colic from consuming straw, Dosi stated she noticed no indicators of intestinal discomfort in her research herds all through the 4 months. “However these have been all younger ponies with good dental well being, and so they had a mixture of hay with straw,” she defined. “It’s not just like the stabled horse that finishes his hay in a single day and, not having the rest to eat, begins attacking his straw bedding. These horses may develop colic, however in our trial entry to straw and straw high quality have been extra managed.”
Maintaining the hay/straw ponies in teams didn’t appear to have an effect on their entry to the restricted hay, stated Dosi. Larger-ranking ponies didn’t rush to take all of the hay from the lower-ranking ones. As such, all of the ponies appeared to have the ability to have 50/50 rations of hay and straw. “We put the hay below the straw, in order that they needed to dig for it, and that may have taken longer,” she stated, including that the ponies have been already in established, secure teams with set hierarchies.
Winter Weight Loss for a More healthy Spring
Winter is an effective season to attempt to get equids to drop some weight as a result of, because of poor grass high quality, homeowners can higher management what the animals eat, Dosi defined. Additionally they use extra of their physique’s power staying heat, which helps use extra energy saved in fats. And a more healthy physique situation on the finish of the winter provides metabolically challenged ponies a greater likelihood at avoiding laminitis as soon as the wealthy spring grass turns into obtainable, she stated.
Not one of the 40 research ponies obtained any further work or train than what they’d from their 24/7 pasture turnout, and all have been left unblanketed, Dosi stated. House owners wishing to assist their horses or ponies drop some weight, whether or not on a straw-mix weight loss program or by different weight reduction means, ought to monitor physique situation commonly to make sure the animal is dealing with the regime. “Don’t simply test the girth, however control the neck crest, the bottom of the tail, the rump, and the shoulders as nicely, as these are good indicators of physique situation in ponies,” she stated.