Why Is Alfalfa Bad for Horses?

“One sow-down lasts ten years” is a well-known proverb for alfalfa. It’s said because alfalfa is a perennial plant. Usually, it lives four to eight years. However, depending on the diversity and climate can live up to 20 years.

Why Is Alfalfa Bad for Horses

It is a slowly growing seedling with sprouts in its crown, enabling alfalfa to regrow many times after grazing or harvesting. Most horse keepers prefer alfalfa as their equines’ food. On the other hand, you may be wonder hearing that some horse keepers also avoid it because it’s a highly nutritious food.

No doubt, nutritious food is a must for all, but all horses are not the same. So, their nutritional demands also vary. Some horses need more calories or less, which totally depends on their metabolism and activity.

All the time of your life, you’re already used to hearing about the benefits of alfalfa, but in this article, you are going to know some of the adverse sides of alfalfa. So, let’s start.

Nutrition Value for Alfalfa

Alfalfa is a highly nutritious plant that is often used as livestock feed or as a cover crop. It is also used as common ingredient in many horses’ supplements.

Alfalfa is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, C, E, K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Also a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

Nutrition Value for Alfalfa
Photo Credit Herbazest

It has a variety of health benefits, including:

Improving Digestion

First of all, alfalfa is a good source of fiber, which is important for a horse’s healthy digestive system. It reduces constipation by adding bulk to the stool. Therefore, it also promotes regularity and prevents digestive disorders like diverticulitis.

Reducing Cholesterol

In both animals and people, alfalfa has been known to reduce cholesterol levels. One study found that alfalfa sprouts reduced cholesterol by 7% in people with high cholesterol. Another study found that alfalfa seeds reduced cholesterol levels in rats.

Regulating Blood Sugar

Alfalfa is a good source of chromium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Chromium helps the body process insulin, which is significant for diabetes patients. One study found that alfalfa sprouts were proven to enhance blood sugar management in diabetics.

Boosting Immunity

Alfalfa is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, which are all important for horses’ immunity. Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that aids to protect the body from infection. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and helps saving the body from any free radicals.

Reducing Inflammation

Alfalfa is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, which are all important for reducing inflammation. Vitamin A is a potent anti-inflammatory that can aid in the prevention of diseases such as arthritis. Therefore, vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory, which helps to lessen symptoms of asthma.

Preventing Cancer

Alfalfa is a good source of antioxidants and we know that it’s important for preventing cancer. Antioxidants defend for the horses’ body from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to cancer.

Supporting Bone Health

For horses’s bone health, calcium is must. Alfalfa is enriched with calsium. Usually, it helps to keep bones strong and prevents osteoporosis. Therefore, alfalfa also contains magnesium, which is also need for bones. It helps to absorption of calcium and promotes bone growth.

Why Is Alfalfa Bad for Horses?

You must hear that “A poacher turned gamekeeper.” The matter of alfalfa is also the same because the high nutrition facts are the only reason that makes it bad. Your horse’s body system won’t suit when you don’t feed it in moderation with a balancing quantity.

You must know about the bad effects of alfalfa during overeating. Here are the most common bad crises of alfalfa, and let’s learn about them.

Make Horses Hot

While alfalfa is a nutritious food for horses, it can also make them hot. This is because alfalfa is a rich source of energy, and horses that eat a lot of alfalfa can become more excitable and hyperactive.

Therefore, they need more water, and urination increases also. If you are looking for forage to calm your horse down, you might want to try a different type of hay.

Causes Colic in Horses

There are several reasons why alfalfa may cause colic in horses. For one, it’s a very high-fiber food, and horses’ digestive systems are not equipped to handle large amounts of fiber. When a horse eats too much alfalfa, the extra fiber can cause the horse to experience digestive problems, which may lead to colic.

In addition, it’s a very high-protein food as well. After eating too much, the extra protein can also cause the horse to experience digestive problems, which may lead to colic.

Causes Diarrhea in Horses

While alfalfa is a nutritious food for horses, it can cause diarrhea if they eat too much of it. The high fiber content in alfalfa can cause horses to have loose stools, and the sugar content can cause them to be more prone to diarrhea.

If your horse is eating too much alfalfa, try to cut back on their eating amount and see if that helps.

Presence of Various Species of Insects

Many different species of insects can be found in alfalfa fields. Some of the most common include aphids, fly bites, mites, beetles, bees, and wasps. Such insects can harm horses in several ways. For example, aphids can cause horses to experience diarrhea and vomiting; mites can cause horses to itch and scratch excessively, leading to hair loss and open sores.

Therefore, the poison cantharidin is found in both dead and alive flying insects, and it can kill a horse if swallowed in significant numbers; bees and wasps can sting horses, causing pain, swelling, and possible allergic reactions; and flies can cause horses to become agitated and uncomfortable, and can also transmit diseases.

Weight Gain

Too much alfalfa can cause your horse to gain weight as it’s a high-protein forage. When your horse is overweight, you must need to reduce the amount of alfalfa in its diet. A few problems can be caused by weight gain in horses.

First, horses can become obese, leading to health problems such as laminitis. Additionally, carrying extra weight can strain a horse’s joints along with muscles and can lead to injuries. Finally, overweight horses may have difficulty moving and may be less able to exercise, leading to further weight gain.

Other Diseases

Alfalfa can also cause other diseases that affect the horse. One of these diseases is hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). Excess potassium in the blood causes HYPP, which causes the muscles to contract faster than normal, leaving the horse vulnerable to occasional episodes of muscle tremors or paralysis.

Another disease that alfalfa can cause is laminitis. Laminitis is a painful inflammation of the hooves that can lead to lameness. Horses that are overweight or have a history of laminitis are particularly susceptible to this condition.

Is Alfalfa Bad for All Horses?

Is Alfalfa Bad for All Horses

Alfalfa is not necessarily bad for all horses but should be fed in moderation as we know that alfalfa is rich in calcium and other minerals, which can cause health problems. Horses that do a lot of physical activity and burn calories can eat alfalfa regularly.

Also, alfalfa can be safely given to physically healthy horses with no allergies, no kidney problems, or diabetes. Most horse nutritionists advise mixing alfalfa with other hays.

Moreover, alfalfa is the best choice for all those underweight horses with low physical growth. If you want to be more sure if alfalfa is the right food for your equine, talk to your veterinarian.


Finally, I’d like to say that alfalfa is considered a superfood for horses, although; it also has some disadvantages. Moreover, we should not blindly focus on one food. In this article, I have tried to highlight some of the good aspects of alfalfa that are universal, as well as the bad aspects we know less about.

I believe you will consider these negative aspects later when choosing alfalfa for all the horses in your herd. Moreover, the information in the article will undoubtedly help you to become an ideal horse breeder and keep your health in good condition.

Hopefully, by choosing the right foods for your equines, you can keep them healthy and buoyant!

Up Next: Get a good quality biotin supplement for your horses.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply