How to care for a shetland pony

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Shetland ponies are tough little animals but they require the same care as larger horses. They live 20 to 35 years and generally have fewer health problems than other horse breeds. They are an ideal starter pony for young riders as they provide an opportunity to learn horse care.

Ensure your Shetland pony has a sufficiently large paddock as it needs space to move around and exercise. The fencing should be secure. Ensure that the bars are low enough to prevent the pony from getting underneath the fence. If the paddock is too big, divide it into smaller sections with electric fencing. Shetlands do not need a stable in winter unless no natural shelter is available in the paddock area.

Check to make sure the paddock is sufficiently grassy so the pony is able to graze. Search for and remove any poisonous plants growing in or around the paddock fencing. Ragwort is one to watch out for. Provide a constant, clean supply of water and a rock salt block, which supplies the pony extra nutrients it may not get from grazing.

Provide extra hay for the pony during the winter months. Foals and older Shetland ponies may need additional hard feed, but if there is sufficient grass, these ponies are content.

Buy a headcollar and lead rope. The best headcollars are fully adjustable and suitable for use with a growing pony. Make sure the nose piece is loose enough to allow jaw movement but not so loose that the pony can remove it by rubbing it with a hoof.

Worm your Shetland pony every six months and find a farrier to take care of its hooves. This is approximately every six to eight weeks, but the farrier will advise you about your pony's needs. In winter, the Shetland has a long, shaggy coat that you should dry in excessively bad weather. Regular grooming with a steel-toothed dog brush prevents the coat getting matted. Lead the pony out for regular walks and train it in the same way you would a larger horse for riding or driving.