January 7, 2011

Dexter on Drugs

or as other's know it...Alfalfa.  When I first purchased Dexter he was on grass hay, the new place I was going to board at primarily fed alfalfa.  We fed alfalfa a lot in FL and since I didn't want him to have to be kept by himself, we decided to wean him off the grass and onto the alfalfa. 

He seemed a little snorty and more high energy than I remembered when I had tried him out but I tossed it up to being in a new place with new things to worry about.  Then came the spooking and bolting, see How did you get there?.  I was not a fan, this wasn't the horse I signed up for and started to really worry about what to do with him.  He was snorting, bolting and generally nervous about everything.

 I started doing some research and found several comments and articles regarding alfalfa hay.  Some said it affected the horses energy, some said there was no definite proof.  Anyways, I decided to get him off the alfalfa, it took some convincing of the barn owner (mostly because it was so hard to find), but we got him back on grass...what a difference.

Some may think it was in my head, maybe so, but all I know is he became much more manageable and the calm, laid-back horse I had bought.  Sure he'll jump a little every now and then at a truck backfiring (who wouldn't).  But it would be a quick jump and look vs. a full on race to the barn.

We have been on grass for a while and he's been doing dandy.  I went on vacation over the New Years and the barn owner gave him some alfalfa while I was gone to keep him warm.  I told her that was fine, because I wasn't riding him, I saw she was still giving it to him as of Monday and asked her to stop being as I planned on riding once the snow melted. 

Fast forward (or rewind depending on where you are) to yesterday.  I went to ride him, knowing it was chilly, and that he had been off for a week, so I expected some extra spirit.  What I got was some extra stupid.  I knew we weren't going to get much accomplished when he started prancing and snorting just entering the barn.  As I tacked him up he calmed down and was OK when we first started riding.  The ground was still wet and slightly slick so we didn't do much.  But he was having trouble focusing and I could tell he was way more worried about just about everything except me.  We'd get one trot circle in then I'd feel him tense up.  His neck would get rigid and he'd take shorter steps.  For the most part we worked through it, but every once and a while I had to stop him and remind him I was still there.  There were a few times he jerked his head up to look at something, what, I don't know.  We rode for maybe 20 minutes working on transitions then called it a day.  I wasn't ready for another fall, and the slick ground worried me.  We stopped just in time, because as soon as I got off the boogieman came out.  He spun around, looked off into the distance and gave a big huge snort, you know the kind you see stallions do when they see a super cute filly.  He lifted his head to remind everyone just how big he was, and kept getting ahead of me and generally walking all over me.  We spent some time working on ground manners then went in. 

The thing is the alfalfa doesn't seem to give him extra energy, its not like he's moving faster or wants to run, it just makes him crazy/stupid, on edge really.  Everything is scary, he's worried about every little noise or movement of the wind.  Like last night he tripped over his own foot and decided that warranted a little buck/lunge/spin routine.  Did the ground offend him??  He becomes scatter-brained and unfocused.  It makes riding totally un-fun.  Maybe if I was younger and had a pair, I'd consider it a fun challenge. I've never known anything to alter a horses personality like that before, it really is bizarre to me and makes me think I'm the one with issues.

And maybe it is other elements that are causing this but it just seems way to coincidental.  Does anyone else have issues with alfalfa?  Some people swear by it.  I know the barn manager thinks I'm crazy because all her horses act fine on it. 

But luckily it isn't a permanent personality flaw, and all I have to do is keep him away from drugs, I mean alfalfa..


  1. I think horses can have individual reactions, just like people, and just because the BO's horses are fine on it doesn't mean your horse is. My horse Rogo is very laid back, sometimes too much so, but last spring when we were trying to get weight on him we added alfalfa to his diet. I don't know if it was coincidence or not, but his energy level dramatically went up. In Rogo's case he just got very forward, but not particularly spooky. It also coincided with riding outside again after being in the indoor all winter, so I'm not sure which it was. The forward went away as the heat came, but he was off the alfalfa by then.
    I think I'll try it again and see what happens.

  2. Energy is good! Let me know how your second trial goes.