Sue McDonnell at New Bolton, University of Pennsylvania’s vet school has been studying a semi-feral band of ponies on 40 enclosed acres in Chester County, PA. One of the most striking things that have been noticed in the decades of studying the ponies is their excellent foot health:
The ponies” hoof health remains excellent in most cases with self-trimming. Laminitis, the hoof disease that eventually led to Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro’s death at New Bolton, has not occurred in any case in the 16 years of the project.
“They get no foot care, yet have none of the nagging foot problems of domestically managed horses,” McDonnell says. “Many factors may be at play—near continuous movement while foraging 24/7, continuous ingestion of forage, natural hormonal conditions, seasonal variation in nutrition, and possibly less social stress.”
It is common knowledge in the domesticated horse world that ponies are high risk candidates for laminitis. So it is of extreme interest that these ponies left alone without human interference are subject to no such problems.