'Alfalfa makes a hot horse'- Myth?

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'Alfalfa makes a hot horse'- Myth?

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    02-26-2011, 11:36 PM
'Alfalfa makes a hot horse'- Myth?

I always thought alfalfa was for racers, performance horses, dull horses and geriatrics!
I know it depends on the horse for the diet, but today my vet (who I LOVE and really respect) suggested I turn my 6 year old quarter horse's breakfast (2 lbs grain) into a flake of alfalfa, and just feed him 2 lbs at night.
He actually said the grain, which is safechoice, will make him hotter than the alfalfa. Something to do with sugar or starch or glucose or something...
Does anybody else feed like this?
Is alfalfa making your horse hotter a myth?
My mind is blown. All my friends are going to think I'm crazy when I put him on this. He's not a nervous or 'hit
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    02-26-2011, 11:39 PM
...thats what I get for being on my phone... Sorry!
*"He's not hot per se, but he's not a beginners horse either.
Please explain/share your experiences/weigh in on this
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    02-26-2011, 11:48 PM
I would say myth.
Alfalfa is known for its high protein content; maybe people have mistakenly believed protein converts to energy, but it doesn't. Protein just repairs damaged tissues and the excess (normally) goes out with the urine. What your vet said about the grain was probably that grain contains a significant amount more starch and carbohydrates than alfalfa. Starch/carbs convert to sugar in the body, which, of course, leads to energy. That's why athletes carbo-load before marathons or whatnot.
I'd say about half of the horses at the barn I work at get alfalfa (about 12) and they're neither super-high-performance nor geriatric, etc. But then again, alfalfa is pretty much *the* most common hay out here in Utah.
    02-26-2011, 11:51 PM
Wow! That makes so much sense. Thank you for explaining that to me.
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    02-27-2011, 12:37 AM
Super Moderator
Great post Nohorse!

I feed a mix of mostly alfalfa with free choice grass hay to my legitly hot Arab mare (she's basically a good girl, she just needs LOTS of focused exercise to keep her relatively under control) and I actually find that she's less hot on the alfalfa than she is on straight grass hay!
When I first started Lacey on alfalfa (last November, before she had been on a strictly grass hay diet) I was super scared that she was either going to become horrifically obese or that she was going to go crazy but she didn't do either of those things. I've actually noticed that she's keeping muscle on a lot better and she seems calmer (well, still energetic but in a more focused, containable way). I'm not sure how much of all that is due to the alfalfa but I feel like the alfalfa played a part. So far, *crosses fingers*, I don't have anything negative to say about alfalfa. :)

She is 26, but according to her, she's 26 going on 2.5 so I wouldn't exactly call her geriatric... Haha!

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    02-27-2011, 01:53 AM
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Our horses get hot with the tiniest amount of grain. Alfalfa is ok, tho I think they get too much. They are fat and my appy often has diarhea. But that's waht they feed. They told us that alfalfa was CHEAPER than orchard grass or timothy. Wow.
Our horses get NO grain and they are happy and healthy iwth plenty of energy.
    02-27-2011, 02:07 AM
Myth. Alfalfa (lucerne for me in Aus ;)) is great stuff and quite a cheap way to feed. It provides an excellent source of calcium and is very good for weight and coat maintenance.
I've had anything from kid's ponies to 3 year old ottb's to very old arthritic horses to warmblood dressage horses on it, and it's always been a great, hassle free feed. It is the sugars and high protein in certain feed that is the major reason for hotness - hence the concentrated/'hard' feeds are far more likely to heat a horse up than lucerne/alfalfa, and cost a lot more as well.
    02-27-2011, 02:21 AM
My two horses get Bermuda hay. Give them alfalfa and they get rowdy. They don't get any grain...don't want to think how they would respond to that!
    02-27-2011, 08:36 PM
Daughter's paso fino mare is ridiculously hyper if she eats much in the way of alfalfa. Most of our horses are fed alfalfa pellets to supplement their prairie hay. Switched her from alfalfa pellets to timothy hay pellets, and she's noticeably calmer.
    02-27-2011, 10:07 PM
Green Broke
I am in Arizona and there are basically two types of hay- alfalfa and bermuda.

I have owned Arabians and fed straight alfalfa AND a bit of grain as a treat. I didn't know any better as I was a new horse owner and they did great. But I also rode them a lot- I rode every day and alternated horses so they never sat very long.

Now I feed about 50/50 bermuda/alfalfa because I have a foal and I don't want him to grow too fast and have growth issues. So he still gets his alfalfa, but I try to balance it out with bermuda. Actually, I think that is ideal- to feed 50/50 alfalfa and grass hay.

But for years and years and years I fed straight alfalfa to my Arabs, Paint and Mustang and was none-the-wiser.

The reason grass hay can make a horse hotter than alfalfa is because alfalfa is low in sugar, and SOME grass hays are high in sugar. Alfalfa is rich because it contains lots of protein and calcium. But it is not a high sugar hay. I don't believe bermuda is high in sugar either, but some grass hays are.

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