Horses have rather small stomachs, considering their size, and an extra large colon. The design is meant to move food quickly through the body while still extracting as many nutrients as possible. Horses developed as prey animals in the wild, able to run fast to outrun predators. By frequent foraging and elimination of waste, horses avoid carrying too much undigested food weight, which could slow them down. Domesticated horses are still foragers and thrive on diets with a larger percentage of hay than grains. Alfalfa hay is one of the best performing varieties. Below are three reasons to feed horses this nutrient rich plant.
Available in Various Forms
Though many horse owners feed alfalfa hay in the form of bales, cubes and pellets are also available. Both store well and are excellent sources of fiber. The pellets are shaped like long pencil erasers and feeding one pound of pellets is roughly the same as feeding a pound of hay. The cubes are larger and may be all alfalfa or mixed in with other grasses and tend to be more expensive than the pellets. Another option is chopped hay, which is usually sold in 50-pound bags. Some manufacturers add molasses and glycerine to cut down on the dust factor and for taste.
Alfalfa is a Legume Hay
Legume hays have more protein, calcium, and vitamin A than grass hays, thus providing more energy. It does mean you have to watch the amount being fed to non-working or retired horses to avoid weight gain. Either that or make sure your horse gets plenty of exercise even in his golden years. Combining alfalfa with other grass hays does bring the calorie count down. This may come in handy during winters in the snow belt when regularly saddling up for a trail ride might be less appealing, for you and your horse. The high protein and calcium content is also beneficial to pregnant or lactating mares, as well as for young colts and fillies that grow rapidly.
Horses Tend to Like Alfalfa
You'd expect your horse to just start munching away no matter what type of hay is being fed. But, just like some people, there are those picky horses that just nibble. Fill that hay rack with alfalfa hay and chances are that horse changes from a nibbler to a muncher. Even if that horse still eats lightly, he or she will still benefit from the increased nutrients and energy value in the alfalfa hay.