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Alfalfa hay for older horses-any reason to avoid it?

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  • Alfalfa hay for older horses-any reason to avoid it?

    My horse has been on first cut timothy/ grass mix for the last few years, but I have been having trouble finding a really nice first cut. I found some beautiful second cut grass/alfalfa hay that he loves.

    He is a 20 year old OTTB. No indication of Cushings. Is there any reason to avoid alfalfa with an older horse? He has been getting about a quart of soaked alafalfa cubes each evening for the past few years, but not alfalfa hay.

    I got a few bales, and I have been transitioning REALLY slowly. 1 week 1/3 new 2/3 old, 2nd week 1/2 and 1/2, and third week 1/3 old, 2/3 new.

  • #2
    Nope. It can be easier for them to chew too, if it is nice and leafy. My 8 yr old TB is on alfalfa and grass hay and he does just fine. Can also help their tummy because of the calcium (ulcers). In the old days all we fed was alfalfa and oat hay to all our show horses. People get scared of alfalfa, thinks it get horses hot, etc...

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    • #3
      My horses eat almost nothing but alfalfa; they are happy, mellow, and keep on great weight.

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      • #4
        My old guy got straight alfalfa chopped forage plus soaked alfalfa pellets in addition to his regular soaked senior feed and whatever he could manage to get from the grass for the last few months. He looked great!

        I was wary of alfalfa, too, but my last BO (before bringing the old man home) only fed alfalfa hay, and all of her horses looked amazing (and weren't nutcases)! I figured it was a big old case of "if it ain't broke..." when I moved him home and was really pleased with how well he did on the alfalfa, so I guess you could call me a convert!

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        • #5
          3 horses in my barn are over 20 yrs old and they all get alfalfa - 2 for weight and 1 for ulcers. I used soaked alfalfa cubes for them but DD's younger show horse gets alfalfa hay, also for his stomach and weight.

          I also feed a orchard grass and timothy hay - everyone seems happy and looks great.

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          • #6
            My vet recommends alfalfa for seniors. It's easier to chew and digest. My toothless old mare was on alfalfa/timothy cubes but I've changed that to alfalfa cubes. She seems to like them better. I add plain beet pulp pellets and soak well for over 4 hours 3 times a day. She looks amazing.
            "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."

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            • #7
              That's what I've fed my hardkeeping TB, now 22, for years: a high quality orchard/alfalfa mix hay, with 3rd or 4th cut alfalfa added during winter (about 5-8lbs a day) to his usual (20lbs) of hay.

              My old boarder (28, TB, few teeth) ate 4th cut and held his weight beautifully on it. Vet was thrilled with my feed program, so I am sticking with it.
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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              • #8
                Just switched my old gelding (25yrs) and the hubby's old gelding (22yrs) to straight alfalfa this fall. Other than aging teeth both are still easy keepers. Fine alfalfa really makes it easier on the dentally challenged. Cutting back their other feed tonight as they are now at winter puff BS and ready to take on the whatever winter throws at us.

                So watching that your horse is not packing on too many pounds with the change and adjusting mineral levels (look at your Ca:Ph ratio) in your feed possibly then alfalfa really is a wonderful choice when the old ones need a bit of extra help.
                Last edited by D Taylor; Oct. 10, 2012, 01:39 PM.

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                • #9
                  This is a relief--my dad's supplier (orchard grass mix) is completely sold out (no surprise at $5/square) and the only nearby person he can find with squares is selling alfalfa. And given Lucky can stuff his face constantly and not gain weight (problems I wish *I* had) weight gain from it won't be a problem. Heck feeding less pounds/day won't be a problem, he eats like...the proverbial horse.
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                  • #10
                    I give my 27yo Morgan a blend of timothy and alfalfa hay and timothy and alfalfa pellets.

                    He has shown signs of having issues with starch but he does absolutely wonderfully on this mix. I would have no issues feeding him straight alfalfa- I just feed a blend because it is readily available.
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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      THANK YOU all so much! Murphy loves this stuff so much that he eats it before his grain. He had a really mild gas colic when I tried a non-alfalfa second cut several years ago, so I had stuck with the first cut. I guess adding in the alfalfa takes care of the tummy issue.
                      Last edited by IFG; Oct. 10, 2012, 03:26 PM.

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