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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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alfalfa hay hows and whys

Hi Dr Getty,
I have a question about alfalfa hay. I feed alfalfa to the horses whos owners will let me at the barn that I manage (1 flake alfalfa to 3 or 4 orchard and/or timothy). There are still some who feel it makes their horses hot, a horse who foundered last year and one who gets fat just looking at food who just get timothy, or a timothy orchard mix. I had a horse who was colicy yesterday eve (5:30 ish). The owner fed him two flakes of alfalfa (around 6:00pm) and asked me to feed him another couple when I did bedcheck (around 9:30). I opted to give him a couple of flakes of timothy insted to try to not change his diet too much. Is it safe to increase alfalfa that quickly especally in a who's tummy is already upset (we are getting our new grass in, he was consistantly pooping [it was loose] and he had gut sounds on both sides, so I am guessing it was prob a gas colic)? Someone had said that it was ok to feed a colicy or post colicy horse only alfalfa because that is what they feed them post colic at the clinic. Why is this and do they slowly build them up to all alfalfa?

Where are you from? Pa

How did you locate this forum? search

Re: alfalfa hay hows and whys

Hi again, Rayelle, aka "Xenogirl"!

Gee, I'm sorry to hear about your horse that colicked. I hope he's ok.

Feeding any kind of hay so quickly after colic is not advisable. But, to answer your question about alfalfa, it does not cause laminitis, hot behavior, or colic. This is all a myth. There are two main reasons for colic involving hay intake... First is not enough water that is immediately close by. And, second, is where a horse "inhales" the hay because he has gone for hours without eating and is very eager to consume the hay. Alfalfa hay, being especially tasty to most horses, will be consumed very fast in this scenario. So, to help calm a horse's feeding rate down, he should have grass hay (not alfalfa) in front of him at all times. Alfalfa can then be added to the diet in reasonable amounts. A 25% alfalfa hay mix is reasonable.

Post colic situations should be handled with extreme care and I don't like feeding alfalfa in this case because it is more likely to be consumed very quickly. Grass hay is better and only after the horse has completely recovered, and in small handfuls.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO