In this informative video, Neil Draper discusses the importance of clean alfalfa for pregnant horse nutrition. He emphasizes the need for dry and bright green alfalfa that is free from dust, dirt, and mold. Horses have delicate respiratory systems and can’t tolerate excessive amounts of these particles. Neil suggests providing a clean environment for horses to eat, preferably on the ground, as it allows them to stretch their neck muscles, mimicking their natural grazing behavior. He also recommends feeding horses at least twice a day, with smaller meals being preferable to one large feeding to prevent colic and weight gain. It’s crucial to provide the right amount of clean water as well, as a pregnant horse may need increased water intake. Regular cleaning of the water bucket and ensuring its cleanliness is essential for the horse’s overall health and the well-being of the unborn foal.

Table of Contents

The Basics of Alfalfa

Why Alfalfa is Key for Horse Nutrition

Alfalfa is a key component of horse nutrition due to its high nutritional content. It is a legume that provides essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. This makes it an ideal feed for horses, especially pregnant mares who have increased nutritional requirements. Alfalfa is known for its high digestibility, making it an excellent source of energy for horses. Additionally, it contains calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial for bone development in growing foals. Overall, alfalfa plays a vital role in meeting the nutritional needs of horses and promoting their overall health.

Characteristics of High-Quality Alfalfa

When it comes to alfalfa, not all bales are created equal. High-quality alfalfa has specific characteristics that horse owners should look for. Firstly, it should be dry and bright green in color. This indicates that the hay has been properly cured and is less likely to have mold or other contaminants. Another important characteristic is cleanliness. Dust, dirt, and mold can negatively impact a horse’s respiratory system, so it is essential to choose alfalfa that is free from these contaminants. Lastly, the texture of the hay is crucial. It should not be overly dusty or have excessive amounts of stems. Good-quality alfalfa should have fine, leafy stems that are easy for horses to chew and digest.

Ideal Alfalfa Mix for Horses

In some regions, alfalfa may be mixed with grass hay to provide a balanced diet for horses. This alfalfa mix is commonly found in areas like Utah. The mix offers the benefits of both alfalfa and grass hay, providing a variety of nutrients to support the horse’s overall health. When choosing an alfalfa mix, it is crucial to ensure that the grass hay is of good quality and complements the nutritional content of the alfalfa. A clean and fresh trough should be used to feed the horses, keeping their environment hygienic and free from dirt and debris. Feeding horses on the ground allows them to stretch their neck muscles and promotes natural grazing behavior.

Importance of Cleanliness in Alfalfa

Impacts of Dust, Dirt & Mold in Alfalfa

Dust, dirt, and mold in alfalfa can have severe consequences for a horse’s health. Horses have delicate respiratory systems and cannot tolerate excessive amounts of dust or mold spores. When horses consume contaminated alfalfa, they may develop respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, or even pneumonia. Dust and dirt particles can also irritate their airways, leading to discomfort and decreased performance. Moreover, mold in alfalfa can produce toxins that can be harmful to horses when ingested. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize cleanliness when selecting alfalfa for horse nutrition.

Respiratory Risks for Horses from Contaminated Alfalfa

Contaminated alfalfa poses a significant risk to a horse’s respiratory health. When horses inhale dusty or moldy particles from alfalfa, it can cause irritation and inflammation in their lungs. Over time, this can lead to respiratory problems such as heaves, a chronic condition similar to asthma in humans. Horses with compromised respiratory health may experience reduced athletic performance, coughing, labored breathing, and nasal discharge. Additionally, these respiratory issues can affect the overall well-being and quality of life for horses. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the alfalfa hay provided to horses is clean and free from contaminants, minimizing the risk of respiratory problems.

How to Ensure Alfalfa Hay is Clean

To ensure that the alfalfa hay provided to horses is clean, there are a few important steps to follow. Firstly, visually inspect the hay for any signs of mold, excessive dust, or dirt. High-quality alfalfa should have a dry and bright green appearance, indicating that it has been properly cured. Next, check the texture of the hay. It should have fine, leafy stems without excessive amounts of stems or dust. Proper storage is also important to maintain the cleanliness of the alfalfa. Store the hay in a dry and well-ventilated area to prevent the growth of mold. Finally, when feeding horses, use clean troughs or feeders to prevent contamination from dirt and debris. By taking these precautions, horse owners can ensure that their horses are receiving clean and safe alfalfa hay.

Feeding Intervals and Consumption Quantity for Pregnant Horses

Benefits of Feeding Horses at Least Twice a Day

Feeding horses at least twice a day provides numerous benefits, particularly for pregnant mares. Regular feeding intervals ensure a consistent supply of nutrients throughout the day, promoting optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. When horses are fed infrequently, they may experience long periods without food, which can negatively affect their digestive health. Splitting the daily feedings into multiple meals allows horses to better utilize the nutrients from their feed, leading to improved overall health and well-being. Additionally, more frequent feedings can help prevent digestive issues such as colic and obesity, which can be detrimental to pregnant horses.

Recommended Hay Quantity for Pregnant Horses

Determining the appropriate hay quantity for pregnant horses is essential to meet their increased nutritional needs. As a general guideline, horses should consume approximately 2% of their body weight in forage each day. For pregnant mares, an additional 10-20% may be necessary, depending on their body condition and stage of pregnancy. It is crucial to monitor the mare’s body condition carefully and adjust the hay quantity accordingly to ensure she maintains a healthy weight. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and potential complications, while underfeeding can result in nutrient deficiencies and poor fetal development. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can provide valuable guidance in determining the ideal hay quantity for pregnant horses.

Risks of Overfeeding or Underfeeding Horses

Both overfeeding and underfeeding horses can pose significant risks to their health, especially during pregnancy. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of complications such as laminitis and metabolic disorders. Excessive weight gain can also strain the mare’s joints and contribute to poor overall fitness. On the other hand, underfeeding can result in nutrient deficiencies, which can impact fetal development and the mare’s well-being. Insufficient nutrition during pregnancy can lead to weak or underdeveloped foals and compromised immune function. Achieving the right balance in feeding pregnant horses is crucial to ensure their health and the healthy growth of their foals.

Nutritional Content of Alfalfa for Pregnant Horses

Protein and Nutrient Requirements of Pregnant Horses

During pregnancy, horses have increased protein and nutrient requirements to support the growth and development of the fetus. Protein is essential for the development of tissues, organs, and muscle in the foal. Alfalfa is known for its high protein content, making it an excellent source of this crucial nutrient. In addition to protein, pregnant mares also require adequate amounts of energy, vitamins, and minerals to meet the demands of pregnancy. Alfalfa provides these nutrients in a highly digestible form, ensuring that the mare and her foal receive the necessary building blocks for healthy growth.

How Alfalfa Meets the Nutritional Needs of Pregnant Horses

Alfalfa is renowned for its exceptional nutritional profile, which makes it an ideal feed for pregnant horses. The high protein content of alfalfa provides the essential amino acids necessary for fetal growth and development. Additionally, alfalfa contains calcium and phosphorus, crucial minerals for bone formation in growing foals. The high digestibility of alfalfa ensures that the mare can efficiently extract and absorb the nutrients from the hay, maximizing their utilization. Furthermore, alfalfa is rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin A and vitamin E, which are essential for the mare’s immune function and overall well-being. Overall, alfalfa plays a vital role in meeting the nutritional needs of pregnant horses and supporting optimal fetal development.

Effects of Nutrient Deficiency in Pregnant Horses

Nutrient deficiencies in pregnant horses can have significant consequences for both the mare and the developing foal. Inadequate protein intake can lead to stunted growth, muscle weakness, and poor overall development in the foal. Insufficient calcium and phosphorus can result in weak or deformed bones in the foal, increasing the risk of fractures and other skeletal abnormalities. Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals can compromise the mare’s immune function, making her more susceptible to infections and disease. To prevent nutrient deficiencies, it is crucial to provide pregnant horses with a balanced diet that includes high-quality alfalfa and complements their increased nutritional needs.

Role of Alfalfa in Digestive Health

The Horse’s Digestive System in Pregnancy

A pregnant horse’s digestive system undergoes changes to accommodate the increased nutritional demands of pregnancy. The mare’s intestines and digestive organs experience gradual enlargement as the fetus grows. This expansion creates more space for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from the feed. However, the increased demands on the digestive system can also result in challenges, such as reduced motility and a higher risk of gastrointestinal issues like colic. Proper nutrition, including the inclusion of high-quality alfalfa, is essential in supporting the mare’s digestive health during pregnancy.

How Alfalfa Aids Digestion for Pregnant Horses

Alfalfa plays a vital role in supporting digestive health for pregnant horses. Its high fiber content contributes to the maintenance of a healthy gut environment. The fiber in alfalfa promotes gut motility and helps prevent issues like colic and constipation. The moderate starch content in alfalfa also aids in digestion by providing a source of readily available energy. The combination of these factors ensures that pregnant horses can efficiently break down and absorb nutrients from their feed, supporting their overall digestive health and well-being.

Potential Digestive Problems from Poor Quality Alfalfa

Feeding poor quality alfalfa to pregnant horses can lead to a range of digestive issues. Hay that is dusty, moldy, or contaminated with dirt can cause respiratory problems and irritate the horse’s airways. Ingesting poor quality alfalfa can result in decreased feed intake, as horses may refuse to eat hay that is unappealing or causes discomfort. Additionally, low-quality alfalfa may not have the ideal nutritional profile to meet the mare’s increased requirements during pregnancy. Nutrient imbalances or deficiencies can negatively impact the mare’s digestive health, leading to digestive disruptions and potential complications. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize the feeding of clean and high-quality alfalfa to ensure optimal digestive health for pregnant horses.

Water Requirements for Pregnant Horses

Water Intake Recommendations for Pregnant Horses

Proper hydration is crucial for pregnant horses, as they have increased water requirements to support the growth and development of the fetus. Pregnant mares should have access to clean and fresh water at all times. As a general guideline, horses can drink up to 5 to 10 gallons of water per day on cool days, and up to 20 to 30 gallons on hot days. The exact amount of water intake may vary depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, and the mare’s activity level. It is essential to monitor water consumption closely and ensure that the mare has an adequate supply of clean water at all times.

Effects of Dehydration in Pregnant Horses

Dehydration can have severe consequences for pregnant horses and their developing foals. Inadequate water intake can lead to reduced blood volume and circulation, which can impact the transport of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Dehydration can also result in decreased amniotic fluid levels, potentially affecting the health and development of the fetus. Additionally, dehydration can cause digestive issues such as impaction colic, as the lack of water hinders the proper breakdown and movement of food through the digestive system. It is crucial to prevent dehydration in pregnant horses by providing access to clean and fresh water at all times.

Importance of Clean Water

Clean water is of utmost importance for pregnant horses. Horses rely on water to meet their hydration needs and support various physiological processes in their bodies. Providing clean water ensures that horses are not exposed to harmful contaminants that can affect their health. Water buckets or troughs should be regularly cleaned and monitored for any signs of algae or debris. Horses may refuse to drink water that is dirty or has an unpleasant taste or odor. Therefore, maintaining clean water sources is essential to encourage adequate water intake and support the well-being of pregnant horses.

Alfalfa and the Well-being of Pregnant Horses

Behavioral Benefits of Regular Alfalfa Feeding

Feeding pregnant horses regular amounts of alfalfa can have several behavioral benefits. Alfalfa has a palatable taste and aroma that horses find appealing, which can increase their overall enjoyment of mealtime. Additionally, the chewing process required to consume alfalfa can stimulate the production of saliva, which helps buffer the stomach acid and prevent issues like gastric ulcers. Providing pregnant mares with access to alfalfa also promotes natural grazing behavior, as they can eat throughout the day, mimicking their natural foraging habits. This can reduce boredom and anxiety, leading to a happier and more content mare.

Effects of Alfalfa Intake on the Horse’s Physical Condition

The physical condition of pregnant horses can greatly benefit from regular alfalfa intake. Alfalfa is a nutrient-dense feed that provides essential vitamins, minerals, and protein. This can contribute to healthy weight gain in pregnant mares, ensuring that they maintain appropriate body condition throughout pregnancy. Adequate nutrition from alfalfa can support muscle development and maintain good overall fitness, contributing to a mare’s ability to carry the pregnancy comfortably. Proper physical condition is essential for the well-being and long-term health of the pregnant mare and her developing foal.

Long Term Health Benefits of Alfalfa

Feeding alfalfa to pregnant mares can provide long-term health benefits for both the mare and the foal. Alfalfa’s high nutrient content ensures that the mare receives the necessary building blocks for optimal health and well-being. This can have lasting effects on her reproductive function, immune system, and overall vitality. Additionally, the nutrients provided by alfalfa contribute to healthy fetal development, promoting the long-term health and soundness of the foal. The benefits of alfalfa extend beyond pregnancy, as it can continue to support the mare’s health during lactation and subsequent breeding cycles. By incorporating alfalfa into the diet of pregnant horses, owners can help ensure the long-term health and well-being of their equine companions.

Potential Health Risks Associated with Poor Alfalfa Quality

Common Health Problems from Contaminated or Poor Quality Alfalfa

Feeding contaminated or poor quality alfalfa to pregnant horses can lead to various health problems. Contaminants such as mold, dust, and dirt can cause respiratory issues, including coughing, wheezing, and pneumonia. Moldy alfalfa may also contain toxins that can have detrimental effects on the mare’s health and potentially affect the developing fetus. Additionally, low-quality alfalfa may not provide the necessary nutrients for the mare’s increased needs during pregnancy, leading to nutrient deficiencies and subsequent health issues. It is crucial to source and feed high-quality alfalfa to pregnant horses to minimize the risk of these health problems and ensure their well-being.

Considerations in Selecting and Storing Alfalfa

Selecting and storing alfalfa properly is essential to maintain its quality and prevent health risks for pregnant horses. When selecting alfalfa, prioritize dry and bright green hay while carefully inspecting for any signs of mold, excessive dust, or dirt. Proper storage is crucial to prevent the growth of mold or the introduction of contaminants. Store alfalfa in a dry and well-ventilated area, away from moisture, pests, and direct sunlight. Ensuring that the hay remains clean and free from moisture is vital in maintaining its nutritional value and minimizing health risks. Taking these considerations into account will help provide pregnant horses with high-quality alfalfa that promotes their well-being.

Monitoring the Horse’s Health and Responding to Problems

Regular monitoring of a pregnant horse’s health is vital in identifying any potential problems associated with alfalfa intake. Observing the horse’s overall condition, appetite, and behavior can provide valuable insights into their well-being. Any changes in behavior, weight loss, or signs of discomfort should be promptly addressed by a veterinarian. Regular veterinary check-ups during pregnancy can help ensure that the mare and the developing foal are healthy and receiving proper nutrition. Timely intervention and adjustments to the diet, if necessary, can prevent complications and promote the best possible outcome for both the mare and foal.

Considerations When Transitioning to Alfalfa for Pregnant Horses

How to Introduce Alfalfa into the Pregnant Horse’s Diet

Introducing alfalfa into a pregnant horse’s diet should be done gradually to reduce the risk of digestive upset. Start by substituting a small portion of the horse’s current forage with alfalfa. Monitor the horse’s response closely for any signs of discomfort or digestive issues. If the horse tolerates the introduction of alfalfa well, gradually increase the amount over a period of several days or weeks, depending on the individual horse’s tolerance. This slow transition allows the horse’s digestive system to adjust to the new feed and ensures a smooth transition to a diet that includes alfalfa.

How to Monitor Horses for Reactions to Alfalfa

Monitoring pregnant horses for any adverse reactions to alfalfa is crucial to ensure their well-being. After introducing alfalfa into the diet, closely observe the horse for signs of digestive upset, such as diarrhea, colic, or loss of appetite. Additionally, monitor the horse’s behavior and overall condition. Any changes in behavior or appearance may indicate a negative reaction to the new feed. Regularly checking the horse’s manure consistency and monitoring their water intake can also provide valuable information about their digestive health. If any issues or concerns arise, consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate course of action.

Steps if the Horse Rejects Alfalfa

If a pregnant horse rejects alfalfa, it is essential to assess the underlying reasons and address them accordingly. Horses may refuse alfalfa for various reasons, including taste preferences, digestive sensitivities, or previous negative experiences. If the horse consistently refuses alfalfa, it may be necessary to explore alternative forage options that meet their nutritional needs. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can provide guidance and help develop an appropriate feeding plan that supports the pregnant mare’s health and the developing foal’s well-being.


In conclusion, alfalfa plays a crucial role in the nutrition and overall well-being of pregnant horses. Its high protein content, optimal nutrient profile, and digestive benefits make it an ideal feed choice for these equine companions. Selecting clean and high-quality alfalfa, providing appropriate feeding intervals and quantities, and monitoring the horse’s health are all essential considerations in supporting their nutritional needs. By prioritizing clean water, well-maintained feeding environments, and attentive care, horse owners can ensure that their pregnant mares receive the necessary nutrients for optimal health and the healthy growth of their foals. Alfalfa is truly key in pregnancy horse nutrition, and proper feeding practices are essential to promoting the well-being of these magnificent animals throughout their reproductive journey.