We know not all equids are alike, but how do a pony’s nutritional needs differ from, say, a donkey’s? As it turns out, caretakers must consider the special nutritional needs of the different equid species.

David Pugh, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, ACVN, a clinician and researcher at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, presented a lecture on feeding other equids at the 2012 Kentucky Equine Research Conference, held May 17-18 in Lexington, Ky.

Because the majority of equine-focused research is carried out on light-breed horses, Pugh said veterinarians and scientists base feeding recommendations for Miniature Horses, ponies, drafts, mules, and donkeys on a combination of "literature, experience, and some guesses."

Draft Horses

Pugh first discussed feeding draft horses. He relayed that more than 30 draft breeds exist worldwide; the most common breeds in the United States are Belgian Drafts, Clydesdales, Shires, and Percherons, he said. Healthy draft horses can range in weight from about 1,400 pounds to upwards of 2,600 pounds, he said.

As with light breeds, Pugh recommends aiming for a body condition score of 5 to 6 (out of 9), although he notes this is a challenging task. Because draft horses can become overweight very quickly ("They’re not going to miss a meal," he said. "They’re like a fat boy eating cake."), use a careful dietary analysis to ensure the horse receives enough nutrients while not overeating.

Researchers believe draft horses have a similar metabolic rate as ponies, Pugh relayed. Thus, they likely require less energy than light breed