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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. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


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

I just bought a 4 yr old gelding thoroughbred who was rescued by these folks from our local race track when he was a year old. They kept him for 3 years but just don't have the room for him anymore so I took him on. He is so sweet I just fell in love with his personality from the get go. Anyways, I have a front field with about 5 acres of alfalfa that grows every year and my neighbor comes and bails it twice a year. He said that it's not the best thing to let the horse sustain itself on as it's bad for thoroughbreds. Is this true? I have never heard such a thing. I had an old old old draft horse here with me and she munched on it all day and night and all summer and winter and was fine with it but her system may of been better as it was bigger?! I am confused, can anyone help me?

Where are you from? Edmonton, AB, Canada

How did you locate this forum?

Re: Feeding a Thoroughbred

Hi Shanin,

Congratulations on acquiring a wonderful horse! And thank you for asking a very important and relevant question.

Alfalfa is a legume and not a grass, so as such, it has a different amino acid profile than grasses and hays made from grasses (e.g., orchard, timothy, brome, bermuda, etc.). So, for this reason, it is best to add a grass to the diet in order to complement the amino acids (building blocks of protein). If alfalfa is fed exclusively, many of the amino acids will get destroyed. This leads to a strain on the kidneys (and can cause stones is susceptible horses) and the liver. Urination will increase and therefore, it is even more important that fresh water be available at all times and consumed at a high rate.

Alfalfa is also very high in calcium, when compared to phosphorus. While most horses can tolerate up to six times more calcium than phosphorus, if other nutrients are out of balance (such as vitamin B6 and magnesium), the tendency for kidney problems is also higher.

Alfalfa is a wonderful hay to add to a grass diet, but offering it exclusively has its risks. Your draft horse would likely have gotten too heavy on this diet, which could have led to insulin resistance and hence, laminitis.

So, my recommendation would be to allow your TB to graze for a few hours each day and then move him into a dry lot and offer him grass hay -- all that he wants. Provide a plain, white salt lick for necessary sodium, and fresh water. If you are feeding a meal, you may want to consider adding a vitamin/mineral supplement, as well, to fill in the gaps.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO