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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Alfalfa hay for Thoroughbreds

I have a 15 year old Thoroughbred mare, She raced for a while but now is basicly only doing pleasure riding. Since she is a hot blooded horse, i was wondering if the Alfalfa is making her hotter. She gets about 16 lbs of Alfalfa about 5lbs of grass hay, and 3 lbs of alfalfa/grass pellets with ground flaxseed, and a little bit of wheat bran. One of my friends dose not feed her thoroughbreds alfalfa because she believes that it dose make them hott, so she feeds oat hay, and a mixture of beet pulp, and other vitamins. I was courious if that was a bad idea or not, and was wondering if i should do the same. Thanx Erin

Where are you from? NobodysAngel287, SugarandSpice287,AnglSugaCookie12,2

Re: Alfalfa hay for Thoroughbreds

Hi Erin,

If your horse is not overweight and is healthy, I highly recommend feeding alfalfa. The idea of alfalfa making a horse “hotter” is not grounded in any scientific basis of fact. Sometimes, the term “hotter” is used to mean “producing more body heat” and any hay will do this, since the fermentation process produces heat. But, your question deals with “hotter” meaning “a more high- strung personality” -- and a high protein hay, such as alfalfa will have no effect on this.

Misbehavior, from a nutritional perspective, is usually associated with excessive intake of refined carbohydrates, such as starch and sugars. Your horse is not being fed grain, so in your case, this is not a problem.

Another cause of a spooky disposition can be due to a magnesium deficiency. Low magnesium levels can produce nervous, hypersensitive, “hot” behavior. Alfalfa is high in magnesium, but it is also high in calcium. Unfortunately, high amounts of calcium actually inhibit magnesium absorption, so magnesium deficiencies are often seen in high-alfalfa diets. A ratio of calcium to magnesium should be 1.5:1 to 2.0:1 to prevent problems. Wheat bran is a good source of magnesium, so she may be getting adequate amounts. You may want to have her diet evaluated for overall mineral content, to be sure she is receiving the proper proportions.

And, keep in mind that your mare is an athlete. Thoroughbreds, by their very nature, are more high-strung in their temperament. Plus, any horse that is used to being exercised, will exhibit “hotter” personality traits. Perhaps your mare is really asking you to give her more exercise, since that is what her body and personality require.

So, I probably gave you more info than you asked for, but the bottom line is: Feeding alfalfa does not make a horse “hotter.” Other factors, such as those I described here, can contribute to behavioral issues.

Hope this is helpful!

All the best,

Dr. Getty