When we point out aspects of lucerne/alfalfa that can adversely affect horses it becomes obvious there are two camps!
There are people who have horses that are good with it and other people who have experienced the opposite - some of whom have struggled for YEARS only to find out that the simple, inexpensive act of removing lucerne was all it took to make life so much better for their horse.
Years of experience in the field has given us the broader perspective – not ALL horses are good with it. It has a lot to do with where you are located -in drier/semi-arid regions of the world, adverse effects are LESS common as opposed to the wetter, cooler temperate regions where adverse effects are VERY common.
Underlying these trends is the fact that all horses are individuals with different nutritional histories and metabolic capacities to cope.
The potential advantages such as ‘low sugar’ and high calcium for the ‘buffering effect on gastric acidity’ are often gazumped by other over-looked drawbacks:
1. Phyto-estrogens – hormonally active compounds (as in other legumes like clovers), which interfere with cycling in mares, making some of them very hormonal, 'cranky', ‘moody’ and not always pleasant to be around.
If you want your mares to cycle normally and conceive, avoid high oestrogenic forage like lucerne and clover! Geldings can become aggressive and even start hounding and mounting other horses.
2. Photodynamic (‘fluorescing’) pigments are found in many dark green plants like St John’s Wort and parsley but are also found in legumes including clovers and lucerne/alfalfa. They are the real cause of ‘photosensitisation’ – otherwise known as mud-fever and sun-burn.
Eliminating clovers and lucerne, especially that emerald green ‘prime’ lucerne, from the diet is far preferable to having to deal with the consequences.
Whether to feed it or not needs to be thoroughly considered – it is far from a balanced feed.
When we were given Sabrina (below), she was a hormonal mess and not surprisingly never conceived despite multiple attempts. Having therefore 'no use' she was going to be pts. After a year with us at CHH, living a ‘Track Life’ with proper nutrition (no clover/no lucerne) her cycling normalised and she went on to conceive ‘first pop’!