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

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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Feeding alfalfa to a mini


I have a mini, she is a 1yr & 9mo old. She is being fed Purina Omolene 200 and a western alfalfa hay. I was told to take her off the alfalfa hay because it might make her founder.

I tried switching her to a 50/50 mix of alfalfa & timothy. She ate the alfalfa that I had mixed in to switch her over gradually and left all the mixed hay, she thru it out of her bin and wouldn't touch it.

Would it really hurt her to be kept on the western alfalfa? She is my little back yard baby, she's not for show or breeding.

She also eats some goat chow because she's kept with my pygmy goat and they share bowls. Will that hurt her? I would really appreciate the help.

Thank you,


Re: Feeding alfalfa to a mini

Hello Gail,

Your mini sounds adorable. Go ahead and feed her the alfalfa. Alfalfa does not cause founder. She is more likely to founder on the Omolene 200. I know – now you’re totally confused!

Here, let me explain….

Founder results when a large amount of carbohydrates (typically from grain) ends up in the hind gut. When this happens, the bacteria that naturally live there, ferment the starch. This results in the formation of acid, which kills the bacteria. When the bacteria die, they release toxins into the bloodstream, leading to laminitis.

So, Omelene 200 is most made of grain. If you are feeding a small amount – say 1 lb a day, divided between meals, then I am not concerned about it. But, I wouldn’t recommend feeding any more.

Now, having said that – alfalfa does contain more starch than grass hay. It is important for horses (even minis) to graze throughout the day, not just at intervals. So, if she is grazing all day on alfalfa, she is likely overdoing it. But, as you discovered, if you mix the alfalfa with the grass, she will pick out the yummy alfalfa. So, depending on your setup, if you can offer her grass hay and/or pasture throughout the day, and give her alfalfa by itself at a separate time, that would probably work.

About the Goat Chow – goats need a large amount of copper – far more than horses do (or even cows, for that matter). Too much copper can make a horse anemic, so I do not think that it is a good idea to let your mini eat the goat chow.

I hope this is helpful!

All the best,

Dr. Getty