Last Updated on May 22, 2022
As a horse owner or carer, it is important to know what your horse is eating when he is out grazing. But is clover bad for horses if you’ve got a lot of it?
You will find a range of different grasses and plants in your fields, and not all of them are good. Let’s find out everything you need to know about clover and horses!
Is Clover Good For Horses?
Clover can be found in many horse paddocks, as this plant is widespread in wild areas. It self-seeds easily and is also commonly included in horse pasture seed mixes.
A moderate amount of the right types of clover is beneficial to the grazing land and also the horses that eat it. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil from the air, allowing other plants to access this essential nutrient. Clover is a high-quality forage material for horses, with high levels of protein.
Whilst many people assume that horses just eat grass and hay, they benefit greatly from grazing a mix of grasses and other plants. Clover can be a useful part of this mix, and it is recommended that horse pasture should consist of up to 20% clover.
There are many different types of clover available, but there are only two that are normally fed to horses: the common red and white clovers. These are the types that are widely naturalized around the world, found growing in wildflower meadows and on grass verges.
So, if your paddock contains around one-fifth of red and white clover, this is a sign that you have good grazing land. But this doesn’t mean we are in the clear when it comes to clover, as these plants can still cause problems in horses!
So, what happens if you have other types of clover or a lot of clover? Can red and white clover ever become a problem? Let’s find out!
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Is Clover Bad For Horses?
When it comes to grazing horses on land with clover, there are two problems that can occur. One of these is relatively mild, but the other can be very serious. This means it is important to know about the clover on your land, so you can take the appropriate steps to keep your horse safe.
Why is clover bad for horses? Here are the two main reasons:
Clover And Slobbers In Horses
Horses grazing on red and white clover will occasionally develop a condition called slobbers. This is caused by a mold that grows on clover in cool wet conditions and often occurs in the fall. The mold can also occur in hay that contains dried clover.
When a horse has slobbers, it produces a huge amount of excessive saliva. This causes the horse to drool constantly, leading to the name ‘slobbers’.
Slobbers are not normally a life-threatening problem for the horse, but it is essential to ensure that the horse has an adequate supply of water to ensure they do not become dehydrated.
To reduce the risk of slobbers, do not allow your horse to access pasture land that is rich in clover during the fall months.
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Alsike Clover Toxicity In Horses – Is Clover Bad For Horses
Whilst red and white clover are relatively safe for horses to eat, alsike clover can cause debilitating and life-threatening health problems. The toxin in alsike clover has not been identified, although it is thought that the problems may arise as a result of different types of mold.
When horses eat alsike clover, this can have serious detrimental effects that may not be reversible. There are two main conditions caused by alsike clover – photosensitization, and big liver syndrome.
Photosensitization causes the skin of the horse to become extremely sensitive to UV light, causing sunburn to happen with only small amounts of sunlight. These lesions can be very sore, especially if they become infected.
Big liver syndrome is more likely to occur with long-term exposure to alsike clover. The cells of the liver are gradually destroyed, causing it to lose vital functions. Liver failure is often fatal in horses, and the effects of long-term alsike clover toxicity can be irreversible.
Alsike clover can be recognized by its distinctive flowers, which are dark pink at the base and lighter at the top. If you find this type of clover on your land, you should seek advice from an agricultural specialist to find out how to eliminate it.
Summary – Is Clover Bad For Horses
So, as we have learned, if clover is bad for horses depends on the type of clover you have and how much of it is available. Clover benefits grazing land by fixing nitrogen in the soil and can be an important part of your horse’s diet. However, some types of clover can cause health problems in horses, so it is important to check what you have growing on your land.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about is clover bad for horses! Do you worry about the amount of clover you have growing in your horses’ fields? Or maybe you’ve come across a case of a horse that suffered from clover toxicity? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Can A Horse Have Too Much Clover?
An excess of any type of food is bad for horses, and eating too much clover can be bad for your horse. This is a particular problem if your horse is not accustomed to eating cover, or if he eats too much of the wrong type of clover.
Why Do Horses Drool After Eating Clover?
Horses that eat clover that is contaminated with mold will develop a condition called slobbers. This is where they produce an excessive amount of saliva, causing them to drool. This mold can be found both in clover growing in grazing land, and clover that has been cut for hay.
What Clover Is Bad For Horses?
Most types of clover are fine for horses to eat, but there is one type that is known to cause health problems in horses. This is alsike clover, which has flowers that are dark pink at the bottom and light pink at the top. Alsike clover can cause liver problems and photosensitization in horses.
What Clover Is Safe For Horses?
The safest clovers for horses to eat are red and white clover, both of which are commonly found in grazing land. However, all types of clover can be contaminated with the mold that causes horses to drool when they eat clover.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE