STRICT DIETS SAFE FOR SOME PONIES
A new study from Belgium suggests that a weight loss plan for obese ponies that severely limits their calorie intake won’t necessarily put their health or well-being at risk.
Researchers at Ghent University altered the diets of 18 Shetland ponies who were considered obese, each ranking between 7 and 9 on the body0 condition score (BCS) scale. For the first four weeks of the study period, the ponies were fed a diet that was precisely calculated to maintain their condition. For the next 16 and a half weeks, six of the ponies were fed that same amount, while another six received only 80 percent of the amount required to maintain their condition and the remaining ponies consumed only 60 percent of that amount. For a final three-week period, all ponies were once again fed a level required to maintain a stable body weight.
Throughout the entire study period, the researchers collected data on each pony’s body weight, changes in BCS and other physical characteristics. The depth of fat over their loins and ribs was measured using ultrasound0. The ponies were also regularly given physical exams and behavioral assessments.
At the end of the study period, the researchers determined that, as expected, the ponies on the most restricted diet had the greatest decrease in BCS, as well as in circumference of their heart-girth area and belly. Despite their weight loss and their more severe energy restriction, however, these ponies showed no indication of developing gastric ulcers or stereotypic behaviors, such as cribbing or weaving.