I’ve been researching slow-feeders for my ponies, and one article approached the subject from the perspective of minimizing hay waste. For me, of course, the attraction of slow feeders is about slowing down feed consumption since my easy keeping ponies can vacuum up a day’s worth of hay in no time and then look for other ways, often mischievous, to fill their day. I realized in the course of my research, though, how often easy-keeping is simplified to just thriftiness when in fact there are two other prongs that I feel are part of easy-keeping. (I’ll be writing up my slow-feeder research findings in the next issue of The Partnered Pony™ Inquirer.)
My three-pronged take on easy-keeping is very practical and comes from my interest in sustainability. Each of the prongs supports self-sufficiency, economy, and durability. The prong that has to do with slow-feeders is thriftiness. Thriftiness is about making efficient use of feed and not requiring much feed per pound of body weight. It also means that forage and/or hay is often sufficient; supplemental grain or energy feed isn’t necessarily required.
Easy keeping, though, also includes other aspects of low-overhead keep. For instance, good feet are imperative so that farrier bills are minimal and going barefoot is an option. This second prong of easy-keeping is important because it allows owners a chance to take care of their equines’ hooves themselves rather than relying on someone experienced with forges and horseshoes.
Hardiness is the third prong of easy-keeping, and again it is often used as a synonym but in fact is specifically about the ability to endure difficult environmental conditions, both continuously and in particular circumstances. For instance, hardiness helps my ponies not only deal with our long, cold, snowy winters but also those occasional extreme cold spells when temperatures are well below zero. I am still amazed when I see the ponies standing in the open with snow on their backs when I know they could have been in a shed out of the storm.
Thriftiness, good feet, and hardiness, then, are the three prongs of easy-keeping. And while these prongs are often admired, easy-keepers, of course, sometimes require special management, especially to address their thriftiness (hence my interest in slow feeders). (Issue 7 of The Partnered Pony™ Inquirer addressed a related topic: Equine Metabolic Syndrome.)
Personally, I wouldn’t trade my easy-keepers for anything. Their ability to not only survive but thrive in the extremes of high altitude in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado lets me keep them in my life. And for that I am grateful daily.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014