On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Does adding alfalfa to a horse’s diet make them act more spirited than usual?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Does adding alfalfa to a horse’s diet make them act more spirited than usual? What in alfalfa ramps them up? Does it affect all horses? Is there a specific amount that makes them act this way? Read further to find out!
Myth: Adding alfalfa to a horse’s diet makes them act highly spirited
Myth or Fact: Both
Alfalfa is a green, leafy forage option for horses. It is a great source of of protein, calories, calcium and Vitamin A. It is 15-18% protein and 1.3% protein which is significantly higher than Timothy and Brome Grass. It’s an excellent option for broodmares in foal, growing weanlings, and horse athletes who have trouble maintaining optimal weight.
Alfalfa has more energy than most other types of hay which is where the myth comes from. It contains an energy level of 2.30 Mcal/kg whereas the energy level for Timothy is 1.95 Mcal/kg and the energy level from Brome Grass is 2.05 Mcal/kg.
In an article by The Chronicle of the Horse they state that while any type of calories fed in excess can increase a horse’s energy level, when fed in the appropriate proportions, alfalfa will not create more energy in a horse.
An article by Kentucky Performance Products states that when adding alfalfa to a horse’s diet who needs additional energy for their work load or gain weight there will not be an increased energy level. However, when added to a horse’s diet who has enough energy to perform well or those that are easier keepers, alfalfa will create more energy than is desired by the rider.
Horse Racing Sense wrote an article stating that alfalfa is a good option for working horses or horses needed a higher caloric intake. For these horses you will not see an increase in energy levels. However, if alfalfa is fed improperly, horses will become hot. Feeding alfalfa to a horse that is mostly in his stall or an easy keeper could make him more antsy.
The Horse also published an article on feeding alfalfa. It states the the horses who will benefit most from it without seeing a spike in energy are lactating broodmares, growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. Alfalfa is also great to feed to horses prone to gastric ulcers as the extra calcium aids as a buffer against stomach acid. It is also used frequently for building topline because it provides amino acids that help muscle regeneration.
This article goes on to state that there is no scientific basis behind a horse getting hot from alfalfa, but because it has more energy compared to grass hay, in the absence of exercise a horse will have more energy. So if your horses is not in one of the categories listed above and is an easy keeper, alfalfa is not recommended.
After diving into the research, alfalfa can make a horse more spirited if it is fed unproperly. If the horse is an easy keeper and doesn’t have a demanding job, he may act hotter if given alfalfa with his feed regimen. However, horses who need a higher calorie intake will not get more energetic if fed alfalfa!
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