Can Horses Eat Clover

Can Horses Eat Clover? (A Comprehensive Guide!)

As herbivores, horses primarily survive on a diet consisting of grasses and forage such as hay. 

Their digestive system is designed to efficiently process plant material, utilizing specialized hindgut fermentation to extract nutrients.

While the bulk of their diet revolves around grass, horses also benefit from the inclusion of various plants and herbs in moderation. 

With that in mind, an intriguing question arises: Can horses eat clover?

I have clover around my farm so this question is particularly interesting to me.

That’s why I decided to do a little digging and here’s what I found:

Yes, horses can eat clover. Clover is generally safe and is even a common component in pastures and hay. It provides nutritional benefits, including fiber and some vitamins. However, it’s important to note that clover contains compounds known as “saponins,” which can sometimes cause excessive salivation in horses but are generally not harmful

In this article, I’ll go over the relationship between horses and clover looking at the potential nutritional benefits, risks, feeding considerations and more.

Let’s begin!

Can Horses Eat Clover? (Key Takeaways)

  • Clover is generally safe for horses to eat and is a common component in pastures and hay.
  • Clover provides nutritional benefits, including fiber and some vitamins, contributing to a horse’s well-rounded diet.
  • Introduce clover into a horse’s diet gradually to monitor their response and prevent sudden dietary changes.
  • Clover contains saponins that may cause excessive salivation in some horses, but this is generally not harmful.
  • Clover can be included as part of a varied and balanced diet that typically includes hay, grains, and other suitable treats.
  • While safe in moderation, avoid allowing horses to consume excessive amounts of clover, as with any food item.
  • If there are concerns or questions about a specific horse’s dietary needs or if unusual reactions occur, consulting with a veterinarian is recommended for personalized advice.

Clover and its Nutritional Value for Horses

Can Horses Eat Clover

When it comes to clover, horses have a range of options available to them. Red clover and white clover are the most common types that you’ll come across.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is easily recognizable with its vibrant pinkish-red blossoms, while white clover (Trifolium repens) displays small white flowers that are often tinged with a hint of pink or purple. 

Both red and white clovers have their own unique nutritional profiles and can provide various benefits to horses.

Richness In Essential Nutrients Like Protein, Vitamins, And Minerals

Clovers are packed with valuable nutrients that can greatly contribute to a horse’s overall well-being. 

One notable nutrient found abundantly in clovers is protein.

Protein is crucial for muscle development, tissue repair, and maintaining a healthy immune system in equines. 

Additionally, these legumes contain vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E which play significant roles in promoting good health by supporting vision, boosting immunity, and acting as antioxidants respectively.

Moreover, minerals like calcium and phosphorus found in clovers aid in maintaining strong bones and teeth for horses. 

Alongside these essential nutrients, clovers also provide an excellent source of fiber which aids digestion in horses.

Benefits Of Clover Consumption For Horses’ Overall Health

Integrating clover into a horse’s diet can offer numerous benefits that contribute to their overall health. 

The high protein content found in this legume helps support muscle growth and repair after exercise or strenuous activity.

Furthermore, the abundance of vitamins present aids in enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight off infections or diseases. 

Clovers also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can assist in reducing inflammation in horses’ joints and alleviate discomfort.

Additionally, the fibrous nature of clovers promotes healthy digestion by aiding in proper gut function and preventing digestive issues such as colic. 

By including clover as part of a balanced diet for horses, it can provide them with essential nutrients that contribute to their overall well-being and support their optimal health.

Potential Risks and Considerations

When it comes to feeding horses clover, there are a few things we need to be cautious about. 

One of the main concerns is the presence of compounds called pyrazolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in certain types of clover. 

While not all clovers contain PAs, some varieties like white clover and alsike clover may have higher levels.

These PAs can cause liver damage in horses if consumed in large quantities over an extended period. 

Therefore, it’s essential to monitor the types of clovers being fed to our equine friends.

Explanation Of “Slobbers” Syndrome Caused By Mold-Infested Clover

Another potential risk associated with feeding horses clover is the occurrence of “slobbers” syndrome. 

This peculiar name refers to a condition where horses excessively salivate, drool, and experience mild gastrointestinal upset after consuming mold-infested red clover or sweet clover hay.

The molds responsible for this condition are known as Rhizoctonia leguminicola and Penicillium spp., which produce a mycotoxin called slaframine. 

Although slobbers syndrome is generally harmless and resolves once the horse stops ingesting the moldy forage, it can still be uncomfortable for our equine companions.

Factors Influencing The Safety Of Feeding Clover To Horses (Maturity, Harvesting Methods)

The safety of feeding clover to horses also depends on various factors such as maturity and harvesting methods. 

Younger plants often contain more nutritional value compared to mature ones; however, they may also have higher levels of potentially harmful compounds like PAs.

Harvesting practices play a crucial role as well since proper drying procedures should be followed to prevent the growth of molds. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider the overall diet and health of the horse.

Clover should be fed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, and any sudden changes in forage should be introduced gradually to avoid digestive upset. 

By being mindful of these risks and taking appropriate precautions, we can ensure that our equine companions can safely enjoy the many benefits that clover has to offer.

Watch this:


Clover as a Forage Option for Horses

When considering clover as a forage option for horses, it’s important to evaluate both fresh and dried forms. 

Fresh clover, with its vibrant green leaves, is often highly appealing to horses due to its natural moisture content.

On the other hand, dried clover, which can be stored for longer periods, offers convenience and ease of handling. 

Both forms have their merits depending on specific circumstances.

Nutritional Differences Between Fresh And Dried Forms

Fresh clover tends to have higher water content compared to its dried counterpart. 

However, the drying process may slightly reduce some of the nutritional content in terms of protein levels.

It’s worth noting that certain nutrients are more concentrated in dried clover due to the removal of excess moisture. 

Therefore, while fresh clover provides hydration benefits along with essential vitamins and minerals, dried clover offers higher nutrient density per weight.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Form

Fresh clover’s advantage lies in its enticing taste and hydrating properties that can encourage horses to consume it eagerly. 

Additionally, fresh clover generally retains higher vitamin C levels due to minimal exposure to air during storage or transportation. 

However, its perishability makes it less convenient for long-term use or during periods when pasture availability is limited.

Dried clover provides greater flexibility as it can be stored easily without spoilage concerns while retaining good nutritional value over time. 

This form proves particularly useful when seeking a reliable supply of quality forage during off-seasons or in regions lacking lush pastures.

Integration Of Clover Into A Horse’s Diet Plan

When incorporating either form of clover into a horse’s diet plan, ensuring an appropriate quantity is vital. 

Generally speaking, introducing clover gradually to horses and monitoring their response is crucial to avoiding any potential digestive upsets. 

It’s recommended to start with small amounts and gradually increase over time, keeping a watchful eye on their tolerance.

Furthermore, it’s essential to strike a balance between clover and other forages or concentrates in the horse’s diet. 

Consultation with equine nutritionists or veterinarians is highly recommended for tailored advice based on individual horse requirements, taking into account factors such as age, weight, activity level, and overall health.

Can Horses Eat Clover? Conclusion

Clover can be a valuable forage option for horses, offering a rich source of essential nutrients. 

Whether in its fresh or dried form, clover provides advantages and considerations that should be carefully evaluated when integrating it into a horse’s diet plan.

From historical significance to cultural associations and potential lesser-known benefits, the relationship between horses and clovers extends beyond mere sustenance. 

Ultimately, by consulting with experts in equine nutrition and veterinary care, horse owners can confidently navigate the incorporation of clover into their four-legged companions’ diets for optimum health and well-being.

Related Articles:



Can horses eat clover flowers?

Yes, horses can eat clover flowers. Clover flowers are generally safe and can be consumed by horses as part of their diet. However, as with any new food introduction, monitor the horse’s response and ensure it is offered in moderation.

Can horses eat clover grass?

Yes, horses can eat clover grass. Clover is commonly found in pastures and is a suitable component of a horse’s diet. It provides nutritional benefits, including fiber, but as with any forage, it should be part of a varied and balanced diet.

Can horses eat clover hay?

Yes, horses can eat clover hay. Clover is often included in hay mixes, and it can be a nutritious component of a horse’s forage. It contributes to the overall dietary variety, but, as with any hay, it should be provided in moderation.

Can horses eat clover leaves?

Yes, horses can eat clover leaves. Clover leaves are generally safe and are commonly consumed by horses in pastures. Introduce them gradually into the horse’s diet and ensure they are part of a varied and balanced feeding regimen. Monitor the horse for any adverse reactions.


I have a Masters degree in Communication and over 5 years working in PR. I have a wife and four children and love spending time with them on our farm. I grew up on a farm with cows, sheep, pigs, goats, you name it! My first childhood pet was a pig named Daisy. In my spare time, I love holding bbq parties for my friends and family

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