The Lucerne Hay Experiencepersil grass affected!

A beautiful palomino mare goes from gentle and kind to 'mareish' and aggresive almost overnight with a change of hay!

Dear Jenny
We have a beautiful palomino mare called Hidden Treasure. In fact she looks very like the picture of your beautiful horse on the Alleviate container. She belongs to my 13 year old daughter and is 14hh.

Although we had the normal teething problems one has when getting to know a first pony, overall Treasure was very good. She was wonderful to take out to pony club and shows as she was always so calm and didn’t seem to mind all the fuss.

We had had her for nearly a year and thought that we had been through the seasons with her, with no notable difference in her temperament other than the normal spring “fizzy-ness”. Having said that, she was a very mare-ish mare and we had noticed differences in her when she was in season but nothing we, as beginners, couldn’t handle with some help.

Just after Christmas this year we thought Treasure was really going well in her dressage, and my daughter and her were really connecting....


The Problem...

Then, as if overnight, it all changed.
Our family went away for a week in January and my sister moved into our home to look after Treasure.

We had been feeding her meadow hay in January as the grass had really dried up, but I ran out and told my sister to feed her lucerne hay which was all I had left (I only had a couple of bales).

When we returned from our holiday a week later, the pony was starting to behave differently. Firstly she threw her head around and wouldn’t allow the bridle to be put on.

She seemed sore to the touch, did not want to be groomed and was extremely agitated when the girth was done up – in fact to the point of trying to bite my daughter.

She was difficult to lead as she would jog and throw her head around and be overbearing. Over a few days these things got worse and my daughter was becoming scared of this pony.

On several occasions she came running in to me crying and saying Treasure hated her (which is how she felt the pony was behaving towards her).

It was awful and I got to the point where I wouldn’t let her go out to deal with the pony unless an adult was there.

My daughter was in a pony club Teams Champs team and was extremely worried that Treasure’s behaviour wouldn’t allow her to compete. So, we called the vet out.

He couldn’t find anything wrong with Treasure, and I got the feeling he just thought she was being a moody mare when I explained the behaviours we were experiencing. He gave her an injection to “calm the adrenalin” and said she would be fine to ride the next day to give my daughter back her confidence.

He was right, she was calm to ride the next day and allowed us to handle her, but as soon as the injection had worn off she was back to her old ways.

The final straw in this whole sorry saga came when my daughter was trying to catch Treasure, and Treasure started to charge her in the field, trying to run at her and rearing at her.

That was it. My daughter was petrified of this pony and the pony was clearly out of its mind and dangerous. This pony had gone from an angel to a demon.
It was so stressful that there were tears from my daughter and myself on many occasions.

Obviously these events took place over a couple of weeks and during that time we had kept trying different things to work with this pony. Firstly, I moved her out of the field we had put her in when we first returned from holiday, wondering if it was the grass in that field that she had reacted to.

The Solution...

Then I went on the internet and looked at how lucerne hay affects horses.

There wasn’t much information on it, other than one blog I spotted where a woman asked if anyone had any experience with lucerne hay as her horse had turned wild. That raised questions in my mind, so we immediately stopped giving her lucerne hay.

Then I rang Jenny Paterson.

Jenny told me that lucerne hay is high in potassium and calcium and if it was fed on its own, to horses, it throws their mineral balance out completely.

It effectively makes them sick in their heads. It also can affect their muscles which makes them sore to the touch, and consequently unhappy creatures.

The remedy was to take her off all grass and lucerne hay immediately, and feed her only soaked meadow hay
(together with her feed of easy beet, oaten chaff, Alleviate, Premium NZ Horse Minerals and 3 tbspspoonful of salt).

Jenny couldn’t advise us as to how long it would take for her to come right, but she did say it could be weeks. She was right.

A Happy Ending

The happy ending to this story is that Treasure did come right, but it took more than six weeks.

When she was able to be caught and handled again without agitation, my daughter had to get her confidence back in dealing with her. In terms of riding her, it all had to be taken very slowly because with every new thing we did, from lungeing to saddling up to riding, my daughter had to take it very slowly to gauge Treasure’s reaction to each of these before we could progress. It was a long slow process.

I am very happy to say we have our gorgeous, calm, lovely pony back in a good state of mind.

It was a very hard lesson to learn, but what you feed your horse is so critical to its well being and the happiness and safety of your children, that it cannot be ignored.

My learning curve was steep, but I am so grateful that there are plenty of experienced people willing and able to assist when things like this go wrong.

To Jenny and all the people who helped us through this awful experience I extend my heartfelt thanks.
Toni Lindo