Horses of any size have a fabulous appeal for animal lovers, and none more so than the Miniature breeds, fondly referred to as “Minis.” Because of their cuteness, it is easy for an owner to treat them with a bit too much tender care, especially when it comes to feeding. Minis are smart and endearing, and they have a way of looking soulfully through the fence, just egging you on to give them a little something extra to munch. Therein lies the problem: Minis are small in size and, in general, their primary job is to be loved on. The result is a fat Miniature Horse or Donkey because they like to eat, we like to feed them, and they don’t get much exercise to utilize their groceries.
A Mini Pasture Pet?
Philip Johnson, BVSc, MS, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of equine medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia veterinary school, has been a longtime proponent of dietary management of obesity and hormonal problems in horses. He shares some thoughts on how the lifestyle of Miniature Horses and Donkeys contributes to obesity: “Miniature Horses and ponies are genetically distinct groups that are characterized by being relatively insulin insensitive–in other words they have been bred and evolved to be ‘thrifty.’ They are very prone to develop obesity when fed rations that contain energy-dense, high-calorie components combined with forage sources that are based on improved grassland species intended for food animal species. Moreover, Miniature Horses are ‘small’ and too easily overfed; their owners often do not adjust rations appropriately for their size, especially in light of low levels of physical activity.”
Bob Wright, DVM, works at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, focusing on nutrition of all livestock species, and especially on the value of forage. Wrig