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Discuss Alfalfa and Laminitis at the Horse Health forum - Horse Forums.

So, a certain person is convinced that alfalfa won't cause laminitis in horses... and I ...
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    Alfalfa and Laminitis

    So, a certain person is convinced that alfalfa won't cause laminitis in horses... and I have always been told that it can in high quantities with horses who are susceptible to laminitis.

    Do you think yes or no for laminitis risks?

    Why?

    Do you have examples of horses who got laminitis when placed on STRAIGHT alfalfa hay?

    What of the content in alfalfa would be causing the laminitis? Higher NSC content? High Protein? Starch? Etc.

    It's a very muddled topic, so let's finally clarify it a bit!
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    Senior Member jwhisperj's Avatar
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    I just talked to my vet about my boy. He said alfalfa can sure cause laminitis (sp). It really depends on the horse, how much leafage is in the hay vs stems and how much you feed. I was always raised that founder on alfalfa is a possibility and my vet just confirmed this for me.

    I don't know what others have been told though...

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    I would look at the hard data and go with that. I've always heard to keep easily and newly foundered horses off rich grass, feed and hay. I know we used to sneak a little treat to an old foundered pony, but just a handful every few days and it did not harm him, but that would not be proof it was a good thing....

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    Alfalfa is higher in energy and protein, therefore should be limit- fed rather than free-choice fed. Because alfalfa has a higher nutrient value, less alfalfa hay will be needed to meet the horse's requirements, compared to the amount of grass hay needed.

    The risk of colic or laminitis increases when switching a grass hay to alfalfa hay without giving the horse time to adjust to the change. It is recommended to do the switch over a 1-2 week period.
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    I'm not sure at this point we can "clarify" this entirely. I will admit it's been a while since I've done any reading on this topic in particular, but unless new research has been released there exists some contradicting evidence as to alfalfa's implication in founder cases -- and even where it is implicated there exists confusion about exactly why that is. It may, in fact, be different reasons for different horses -- and of course different hay.

    Without speaking only specifically about hay that we have had tested there simply exists too much gray area. It is not only a matter of how MUCH sugars, carbs, "energy" or even protein a given feed contains, after all, it's also dependent on the type.
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    I agree with some of the other comments and think that while there can be a place for Alfalfa in a horses diet it really depends on the horse. Since it is high in energy and protein it needs to be limited more and most likely not good at all for easy keepers that could be prone to colic or laminitis.


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    Senior Member alquatic's Avatar
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    Laminitis/founder is caused by the horse eating too much high quality hay, so yes, eating too much alfalfa can cause a horse to founder according to my professor who has either a masters or doctorate in nutrition and immunology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alquatic View Post
    Laminitis/founder is caused by the horse eating too much high quality hay, so yes, eating too much alfalfa can cause a horse to founder according to my professor who has either a masters or doctorate in nutrition and immunology.
    Your well-educated professor has either misled you or you have misunderstood.
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    My take on it was maybe a higher NSC content due the leafy bits (legume) of the alfalfa. But I speculate.

    Alfalfa in small amounts, or mixed hay seems to be ok for "easy keepers", as long as they're working pretty decently and regularly.

    We say "Rich", but what part of the hay, what section of the actual nutrients would be considered "rich"? Proteins, starches, sugars?

    I really wonder because we don't really have a 100% "THIS is why" response.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EVOO View Post
    Your well-educated professor has either misled you or you have misunderstood.
    Agreed

    IIIBars, your best bet is to check out www.safergrass.org because the science of how it CAN cause laminitis *for IR horses* is there
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