GMO Alfalfa and Our Horses – The Contamination of Our Hay Supply, What Has Happened and What To Do.



In 2011, amidst the bucking of many farmers and consumers alike, genetically modified alfalfa seeds were released into America’s agricultural system. This poses a major problem for a number of reasons. After a little investigation it is plain to see that only the bio tech company Monsanto gains from this patented seed and its dispersal.


“Round- up Ready Alfalfa” is what this seed grows- a genetically altered alfalfa that is highly tolerant to large amounts of toxic herbicides and pesticides high in glyphosate. Round-up, the number one selling weed and insect killer produced by bio tech company Monsanto fits the bill.


But up until this seeds release and propagation, 93% of all alfalfa was not sprayed, meaning there was no need for this patented seed. This move was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the organic supply of alfalfa including the farmers who grow it, as cross contamination is inevitable and creates a dependency on purchasing from this expensive seed supply and its dependence on glyphosate rich Round-up. This is from Dr. Mercola’s website- “Toxicology and plant pathology expert Dr. Don Huber also pointed out that once you insert new genes into a perennial insect-pollinated plant like alfalfa, there’s no way to prevent cross-fertilization and contamination, and it cannot be eliminated once it’s distributed throughout an area.”


So… what is glyphosate? In simple terms it is a chemical that has proven highly toxic in humans, as it destroys the gut bacteria- the first line of defense in the immune system, actually comprising roughly 70% of the total immune system. The immune system is very important for obvious reasons, mainly fighting off disease. But glyphosate acts on the immune system bacteria the same way it destroys pests. This glyphosate is bred into the seed itself, meaning even if the crops were not sprayed, it will still be in the plant, systemically. And since its release in 2011, we can be sure it is in most fields today in varying degrees.


What does this mean for our horses? Well alfalfa was never intended to become a staple food for horses. It was for cattle, as it is very rich and good for fattening up/ finishing a cow before slaughter. It is very high in protein and often heavily fertilized, and can create some problems for horses. There is also some research showing it irritates the ileocecal valve, which too much irritation can lead to colic.


It is a very concentrated food and is best fed in moderation to horses, but now with a growing supply of contaminated hay, it might be best to avoid entirely. Horses do great on a variety of grass hays that are not high in sugar from Timothy, to Bermuda, Orchard, and Teff. It is recommended if you do purchase alfalfa, that you get it tested to be sure you are not feeding your horses glyphosate, and most importantly, share this information with your horse and cattle ranching friends. Knowledge is power and we must look out for each other and our community of animals.

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The Dangers of Confinement and The Importance of “Trickle Feeding”

“Horses are naturally ‘trickle feeders’ designed to forage for their food, and providing access to pasture can provide for this physiological need,” said Claire Scantlebury, BSc BVSc PhD MRCVS, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool. “There are a variety of other benefits in addition to promoting digestive health, such as allowing expression of natural behavior, opportunities for social interactions with other horses, and exercise.” – in an article published by, “Recurrent Colic Risk Factors Identified” by Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

This researcher goes on to list the dangers of lush grass pasture in contributing to laminitis.  Unfortunately she is only aware of these two options- confinement or grass pasture.  But with the continued application and research in the natural horse world, specifically the application of a system of boarding called Paddock Paradise, horses can live according to their species needs while not succumbing to the dangers of lush grass pasture.

Yes that’s right! There is a way to provide “trickle feeding” while not leaving them in a founder trap such as a lush pasture of fresh green grass.  In the Paddock Paradise system, a track is created within the pasture that is essentially removed of its grass, and the remaining pasture is separated from the horses by a fence of choice.  As the horse has evolved to cover great distances every day and move in single file for the majority of the time, this set up facilitates some of the core biological movement and behavior patterns exhibited in the wild equines of the Great Basin which is the population alive today that is the closest representation of how the horse evolved- in a high desert type biome.

Slow feeder hay bags provided at various locations on the track encourage the horses to travel from station to station while interacting with each other.

Horses all over the world in growing numbers are experiencing the profound benefits of this system of boarding.  Horses in the UK that are at risk of laminitis from lush rye grass can now live free of this threat, while getting even more daily movement, thus lowering the risk of not only laminitis, but also colic.

Laminitis is the second most prolific killer of domestic equines today.  But it is almost entirely preventable by eliminating the known triggers such as carbohydrate overload.  Paddock Paradise represents a return to nature, and is proving to be a sure shot in not only laminitis prevention, but also whole horse soundness.  Horse owners can even save significant amounts of money by letting their horses “self trim” their hooves through natural movement.

The book Paddock Paradise by Jaime Jackson is available in multiple languages and could very well represent the most significant breakthrough in laminitis prevention to date.

Laminitis: What All Horse Owners Should Be Aware Of

Are you familiar with laminitis?  Laminitis is the most prolific killer of domestic equines today, second only to colic.  With laminitis cases growing in epidemic numbers it is very important that horse owners become aware of the dangers of one of the root causes of this ailment- sugar/ carbohydrates.

Learning what laminitis is, how to identify the symptoms, and most importantly, how to prevent it, will all be included in this article.  Here is link to Dr. Christopher Pollit’s website. He is considered the main authority on laminitis research and understanding.

What is laminitis?

Laminitis can be defined as a separation of the hoof from the horse as a result of a metabolic disorder.  Because equines have a limited supply of amylase and a very simple and short digestive tract, sugars pass through the digestive tract in tact, where they accumulate in the hind gut.  This accumulation creates a harmful bacterial imbalance by feeding the “bad” bacteria that thrive on sugars.  Once these “bad” bacteria become prominent, their die off and metabolic waste enters the blood of the equine.  With the resultant toxicity and acidity, an enzymatic reaction occurs at the hoof, causing a degradation of the laminar attachment mechanism, a.k.a the living velcro that holds the hoof to the horse.  What follows is laminitis and results in a tremendous amount of pain.

But I always see horses eating lush green grass. Why is it harmful?

The horse evolved in an arid and sparsely vegetated, high desert type biome.  Today equines inhabit almost every reach of the world and subsequently, every varying environment, regardless of suitability.  Lush green grass is very rich in sugars and it is becoming more common place knowledge that it is a trigger for laminitis and should be avoided.  Observing the wild horses of Nevada demonstrates this understanding, as this arid environment harbors almost no green grass, and the horses there are vital, sound, and do not experience the lameness issues we see so prevalent today.  Lush green grass is not the only culprit. All other sources of sugar are risky as well including grain, grain based feeds, supplements sweetened with molasses or other sugars, and even chemical dewormers and vaccines. Years of anecdotal research have proven that this deadly disease can be almost completely avoided if the horse’s diet is cleared of such laminitis triggers.

What are the symptoms of laminitis?

Symptoms include—

  • Blood in the white line
  • Tender footed
  • Refusal to walk on hard ground
  • Rings and/or bulges in int he hoof wall
  • Stretched white line
  • Cresty neck
  • Inability to stand comfortably and sometime leaning backwards off front feet
  • Slipper toe

If any of these symptoms are recognized it is important to take immediate action in refining your management practices.

How can I prevent and heal laminitis?

Laminitis is completely preventable by naturalizing your horse’s life.  A proven way to eliminate the access to green grass pastures is to use a system of boarding called Paddock Paradise.  This mimics the natural movement patterns of wild horses by creating tracks defined by fencing with the pasture. Once these tracks are created and grass removed, slow feeder hay bags can be put in various locations, instigating regular movement- one of the key elements to healing laminitis.  Fill these slow feeder bags with dry grass hay.  Provide 24/7 access to dry grass hay so that your horse’s microbiology can return to its inherent natural balance and their ecology can return to homeostasis.

Proven, safe, dry grass hays include-

  • Timothy
  • Orchard
  • Bermuda
  • Teff
  • Organic- Non GMO alfalfa (no more than 5 % total daily ration of feed as alfalfa is very high in protein)

Crucial to healing and prevention is the removal of high sugar feeds of all types and to provide regular movement (wild equines move 10- 20 miles a day!)

Visit the Paddock Paradise fb group for support in transitioning your horse’s management practice to one that is more safe and natural.


Here is a free copy of the October issue of Horseback Magazine in an easy to navigate, digital format. You will not want to miss Jaime Jackson’s article Barefoot Performance Horses on page 44!

Jaime is a veteran “hoofman” of going on 40 years, and is responsible for the modern day natural horse care movement. His expertise in natural hoof care is something that all horse owners would find intriguing.

Jaime founded the Asscociation for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices, an organization whose mission is to advance the humane treatment of domestic and wild horses through proven practices based upon his four year study of the Great Basin wild horses.

Jaime teaches Natural Hoof Care through the Institute for the Study of Natural Horse Care Practices, the certifying body for the AANHCP.  He resides in Lompoc, California where he and Jill Willis manage the AANHCP headquarters.

The AANHCP is an advocacy organization whose heart resides in the preservation of the Great Basin wild horses, who they claim are the model and epitome of soundness in equines, based upon the evolution and natural habitat of equus ferus caballus.

Learn more about their mission and work here.

Are Wild Horses Destroying Our Range Lands

Are Wild Horses Destroying Our Range Lands?

There is much controversy around this subject today.  Fossil records and many leading researchers show that the equine evolved here in North America over last 55 million years or so.  They have without a doubt played a profound and integral role as a primary megafauna on this continent.

The General Accounting office and the National Academy of Science dispute the BLM’s claims that horses are in fact destroying our range lands through over population.  The BLM has in fact never presented any actual scientific evidence that wild horses are destructive to the habitat or even that their population levels are what they claim.  Anecdotal evidence shows that after large wild horse roundups the range lands show little or no improvements.

One contradicting factor is that after these horses are removed cattle are brought in sometimes almost immediately following the removal.  And when looking to the foraging and digestive ways of the equine compared to cattle, it is even more interesting to see that horses do not uproot vegetation like cattle do.  See cattle have no upper front teeth and use their tongue to pull grass out. Horse in the other hand bite the vegetation down but do not eradicate it, and then they move on, causing root die back and the formation of soil.  Cattle on the other hand, when not grazed in a holistic manner, will can fully remove vegetation and thus ground cover.  This exposes bare soil and leading to carbon being released into the atmosphere.

As opposed to cattle, horses help re-seed the grasslands as their more simple digestive tract does not destroy the seeds they eat.  When it comes to sensitive riparian zones, science has shown an interesting contrast between these two creatures.  A group of Russian scientists came in 2001 to study the effects of cattle and horses grazing in riparian zones.  They found that cattle tend to hang around and damage the stream banks, and that horses drink and move on.  “When we saw horses drinking from creeks, we didn’t see much impact except for hoof prints. The water looked clean, had good overhanging branches and there was no sign of erosion on the banks. There was an abundance of insects and animals, including frogs and dragonflies and water-striders.” Areas extensively used by cattle had fewer nutrients in the water and showed signs of bank erosion and other damage, concluded the study.

Beyond the seemingly undeniable evidence of the horse’s positive influence on range lands, there are the politics of mineral mining, cattle farming, and now on the rise, natural gas hydraulic fracturing as a major force in opposition to wild horses occupying public lands.  Big money and industry might be the single biggest threat to wild horses.  It seems the question must be asked, “Are these grasslands, everything that lives within them, and everything codependent on their survival more important than profits.”

Many think so. But since Big Ag and profits have come first for so long, it will definitely be a mighty effort to counter. What do you think?