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Too Many Companion Ponies Lead a Dreary Existence

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Best friends or not? Photo: Canva Pro

All too often, smaller ponies lead a dreary existence as companion ponies. The life of a companion pony can be monotonous and lonely since the focus is primarily placed on the larger horse, that it is intended to accompany. We believe more attention needs to be paid to the quality of life for these smaller ponies. Here, we offer some inspiration to make the life of a companion pony more enjoyable.

Shetland ponies often assume the role of companion to larger riding horses. The idea is sound enough; horses are social animals and need to interact with their kind. However, Shetland ponies are hardy creatures, they do not tolerate much grass or feed like warmbloods. They require a fair amount of exercise to avoid becoming overweight and ultimately at risk of laminitis. Additionally, they need considerable fur care in the winter and regular hoof trimming just like other horses. Shetland ponies are also known for being master escape artists, so a robust fence is essential when acquiring one as a companion pony.

With all these precautions in mind – how can a good life be created for the companion pony, so it is not overlooked in a busy daily routine? We have been inspired by the concept of a roaming paddock, also known as Paddock Paradise or Track System.

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Horses in the paddock. Photo: Malgré Tout


Regardless of what you use your horse for, you can always improve its life through physical activity and a varied routine, where it moves around in the paddock as much as possible.

Paddock Paradise is a concept developed by former farrier Jaime Jackson. The idea behind the concept is to provide horses with physical environments that mirror natural horse behavior in wild horses as closely as possible. Horses are in constant motion in nature. On average, horses walk 10 – 20 km daily searching for food in the wild. Paddock Paradise (or PP, as we call it from now on) aims to encourage horses to move as much as possible, similar to roaming paddocks and active stables. However, the difference between traditional roaming paddocks and the PP concept is that obstacles are placed that horses must navigate, such as beams or fallen tree trunks.

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A horse's food sources should be accessible in a way that reflects its behavior in nature. This means that food sources should not be easy to reach. Instead, one can hang them in trees or hide them inside logs so that the horse has to search for its food as it would in nature. Many who use the PP concept hang hay nets on trees or elsewhere. Another good tip is to drill holes in an old plastic jug and fill it with lucerne. You can also place branches or logs in the paddock. These are used for gnawing, scratching, or moving around. All this helps the horse physically and mentally activate itself to obtain food. And an active horse is a happy horse.

Moreover, PP also helps ensure the natural wear of the horse's hooves. By placing food sources and water in various places, you help ensure that your companion pony covers greater distances than it would if it stood in a traditional square paddock.

It is important to remind ourselves that a companion pony requires just as much attention and training as other horses, they should be educated and cared for. Especially, if they are to become good children's ponies. They are suitable for driving a carriage and for various types of groundwork.

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It's a small horse on the outside, but a big horse on the inside.

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