As discussed I will relay my experience of getting a hungry pony to eat.
When my children were little as well as having 4 dogs (1 greyhound, 1 Hungarian Vizsla & 2 Whippets in the house we also had a large Kune Kune pig called Pandora. She was delightful in every way, as her life revolved round food she was easy to train and would sit on command, come when she was called and adored lying in front of the wood burner as a strong smell of bacon wafted round the house. She was very clean & well behaved in the house apart from when she learnt to open the fridge then it was bedlam!
The children adored Pandora as did everybody who met her and their favourite game was feeding her lots of unsuitable food, bits of sausage from their breakfast, fizzy drinks, whole melons and they would roar with laughter as she made a dreadful noise eating with her mouth open exposing awful little stumpy teeth while grunting with delight.
I obtained a pony for the children which was in a terrible state on arrival, he was a bag of bones and had got to the point where he had ‘switched off’ as some ponies/horses do when under extreme stress either physically or mentally or both. His eyes were dead, his coat was awful and I was concerned that I had taken on more than I could chew so to speak.
First of all I took a worm count and dosed him accordingly using a syringe which as you can imagine was not a good start to his eating programme.
I tried tiny bits of Apple, carrots, nuts, Alfa Alfa, Haylage and every sort of different horse feed known to man, he would have a half hearted nibble then spit out whatever I tried to feed him. I tried hand feeding, bucket feeding, putting a container on the floor, hanging it on the fence, putting him in a lush field of grass with other horses, without horses, in a stable and nothing seemed to work he was just not eating.
I then decided I was going to have to spend time giving this pony lots of tlc getting him to trust me and try and show him life was going to improve. I would gently rub him on his wither where horses naturally ‘groom’ each other ( I do not believe horses like being patted, a human invention, I have never seen one horse ‘pat’ another! ) when he seemed relaxed I would offer him a sliver of carrot, not interested…….
I then decided to lead him around the garden with me to try and see if he was interested in anything and try to switch on his zest for life which he had lost. The dogs would come with us as Pandora did too and when they first met he went rigid with fear and that made me think if he was reacting to her may be this was the key to getting him to eat and overcome his fear of her at the same time, worth a try…….
I put Pandora in her outdoor quarters with a huge bowl of food I then took the pony beside her pen with a pocket of finely sliced carrots and apples, he stared at her in disbelief as she got stuck in to her huge bowl of goodies making such a noise, his eyes were on stalks and as he stood rigid I gently slipped a piece of carrot into the side of his mouth, he ate it OMG I thought as I got another piece and gently slid in into the other side of his mouth, he consumed these bits in a robotic sort of way with his eyes firmly fixed on Pandora never moving a muscle accept gently eating what I had given him but seemed not to realise what he was doing if that makes sense. After about 4 slices I thought that was enough and I did not want to over do it so led him away to give him time to hopefully mull over his experience.
The following day I repeated the process, he was completely in awe of Pandora and stood rooted to the spot while I slipped tiny pieces into his mouth again he ate them and so I went through this routine at least three times a day for about a week. He then began to be more relaxed and nibble carrots out of my flat hand while he watched Pandora eat. After a few weeks he seemed keen to go round to join his new friend for snacks.
I was very careful never to over face him with food always stopping the feeding while I felt he could have had more.
In quite a short space of time they became inseparable friends, grazing in a field together and he would make an awful noise if he lost sight of her. Before she went to bed they had supper together and then he would stand guard by her ark.
The following year the pony was back to peak condition eating and by all accounts turned out to be a super pony. I decided I would risk it and send Pandora to stud and just hoped the pony would be ok without her for a short space of time. Off she went to his dismay but after a bit he settled not so Pandora, they put her with the boar but after a week called to say they did not think the mating had been a success as she seemed very homesick could I go and collect her. (Pigs are one of the few animals they believe can die from the lack of love)
You have never seen a pony & pig so delighted to be reunited lots of nibbles and grunting!
Being very low slung it’s rather hard to tell if they are pregnant or not but months later I noticed her tummy was barely skimming the ground, I thought we could be in luck.
When she went into labour the pony tried to get in the ark with her, eventually I had to shut him up as he was stamping and snorting visibly distressed he could not be with Pandora who was busy by this time having 6 adorable piglets! When it was all over I let him out and he stood by her ark willing her to come out but we kept her shut in for a bit as the piglets were so tiny and I was worried he would stand on them. I decided to let them out when they were a few weeks old and you should have seen that pony he was the best au pair ever, rounding them up, watching them, taking them paddling in the pond and even lying down letting them use him as a climbing frame! I wish I had all this on video but sadly never got round to it.
I honestly believe they adored each other and it was a privilege to be able to see them spent the rest of their lives here wanting for nothing.