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Discussion on Alfalfa Hay

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Vicki
Member
Username: horse4u

Post Number: 60
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2007 - 9:01 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

We board our horses in Maryland. They have been eating Timothy hay. The barn owner was running short on hay and purchased some Alfalfa mix that they just love. We also supplement what the barn gives, so we bought some Alfalfa as well. My horse has been really energetic the last couple of rides. I told my husband that if I didn't know better I would swear she was eating sweet feed. I thought that perhaps her acting "hot" was because she hadn't been ridden much the last 6 weeks. I heard that Alfalfa can make them hot. Is that true? If so, the last thing I want is a hot horse. I started reading about the different kinds of hay and pros and cons. Some say Alfalfa is OK, some say it's not. My horse is an easy keeper and I don't want her to gain any weight either. We are thinking that we will give them Timothy and Alfalfa. What would an appropriate mix be?
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 18060
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 - 6:17 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

The energy content of alfalfa is usually 20 to 30% higher than grass hay Vicki. Some horses respond to the increase energy with behavioral changes and if the horse was maintaining condition on grass hay before substituting equal weights of alfalfa it will cause them to gain weight. For more on appropriate feed for horses start with the article on Overview of Nutrition.
DrO
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Dennis Taylor
Member
Username: dtranch

Post Number: 427
Registered: 3-2003
Posted on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 - 8:10 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Vicki ..
I like a good mix in hay with no more than 15 to 25 percent alfalfa, with the balance equal between timothy and orchard grass. If your horses are not working regularly, too much alfalfa will make them hot. On my barrel or gaming horses, I may go a little heavier on alfalfa, but for regular maintenance, I use very little.
DT
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Muffi Delaney
Member
Username: muffi

Post Number: 102
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 - 1:24 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hey Vicki - My experience was totally the same as yours - If I gave my geldings any Alfalfa hay they just boinked all over the trail. they do Very Well on Bermuda - and on orchard (which they love) and Timothy which they tolerate they do fine as well. I like to say it is similar to giving a toddler Kool-Aid for a drink and watching them bounce off the walls when I fed any molassas laced food or alfalfa.
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Judi Gordon
Member
Username: jgordo03

Post Number: 160
Registered: 6-2005
Posted on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 - 5:51 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have a TB that get's just insane when she eats alfalfa. I feed her a very good vitamin mineral supplement and 4 oz of rice bran twice a day and brome hay. It's the only way I can keep weight on her and not have her buzzing around like a two year old after they've eaten half a chocolate cake.
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Vicki
Member
Username: horse4u

Post Number: 61
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 - 6:15 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks for the feedback! Normally, she is pretty calm with lots of energy when I ask. I didn't have to ask. Last ride, she was saying "I can outrun anybody, jump the highest, make a huge leap across this little water crossing (that normally I would walk through), rear up when crossing the road and a school bus decides to pull out of a parking lot (I usually take in stride)". I'm planning to cut her back to about 1 flake of alfalfa mixed in with Timothy. If she still has energy to burn, I'll take her off that too. Where we board the pasture is very poor this year and he has not seeded yet. The hay provided is so-so and she gets 1 lb. of pellets a day soon to be cut back to 8 oz. Easy keeper..., but I want her to have some nutrients. She gets minerals and horseshoer's secret.
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Ilona A
Member
Username: ilona

Post Number: 564
Registered: 4-2005
Posted on Sunday, Mar 25, 2007 - 10:56 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Vicki,
I know I am late to this discussion, I was out of town and have just had time to catch up some reading on HA.
I have fed my horses Alfalfa through this winter to keep weight on through the cold, and had a good weight result: ie they all maintained their weight even outside with only run-in shelters.
However each and every one of the 13 horses had behavior changes. Less respectful, more challenging, definitely more 'hot'. Their dispositions were, to the horse, more 'ornery'. Now that summer has arrived (spring gave us a miss somehow) I have on order my timothy/bromm/orchard mix and look forward to re-aquainting myself with my horses when their lovely selves re-appear upon the absence of alfalfa.
I do supplement with a mineral/salt block combo, 'safe-choice' and a hoof supplement too. I prefer Strategy as they have a specific supplement for alfalfa and for separate one for hay, but my local feed store won't stock these supplements. Very frustrating.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 18081
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Mar 26, 2007 - 7:55 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Ilona, more than the feed changed. Horses become much more spirited as the weather turns colder so there is more than a single reason for the change in your horse's behavior.
DrO
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Ilona A
Member
Username: ilona

Post Number: 567
Registered: 4-2005
Posted on Monday, Mar 26, 2007 - 9:01 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanx Dr O,
You are correct.
I do know, also, that when I shifted feed from Alfalfa to my hay mix originally in Sedona I had the same experience. It surprised me then, that the behavior change was so significant. There was no significant weather change there as there is here in Ruidoso.
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