Can Horses Eat Clover? Risks Associated with Feeding

Most people consider clover toxic for horses and all animals, in general. It comes under the big no-no list for some horse owners. So can horses eat clover? We wish there was an easy answer, a simple yes or no, suffice to illustrate the point.

Clover often grows with the hay on other grass on the pasture field. Horses and other animals grazing on the pasture often eat clover along with the grasses. When you search about it online, all you get is posts about clover toxicity.

However, that is one side of the story that does not give an answer to the particular question “is clover hay good for horses?”

Here are some detailed answers to all the clover-related queries.

Can Horses Eat Clover?

Yes, horses can eat clover, Putting all the concerns aside, clover is a useful forage or feed source which offers adequate protein, energy, and fiber to help meet the daily requirements of a horse.

It is often given in hay mixes. There are three different clover varieties that grow on horse’s pasture; Red Clover, White Clover, and Alsike Clover.

Clover is a nitrogen fixer plant that helps with the growth of other plants. An individual can determine the health of the soil by the presence of the clover.

It provides a sufficient supply of Nitrogen for the plants ensuring healthy pasture without having to top-dress with fertilizer.

Horse owners spray pasture with different insecticides and other things and then blame clover for all the health-related issues in their horses.

When horses are being fed on excessive clover, there will certainly be health problems. They can tolerate a low percentage of clover easily.

The exact percentage suggested by some equine experts varies between 10-20%, however, it is debatable.

At this point, are you wondering that the stuff you read online about clover toxicity, is it true? Yes, it is true, but it only happens when a horse consumes moldy clover.

Is Clover Toxic To Horses?

Not if it is healthy and fresh, if it is contaminated with mold or fungus, it is definitely going to cause trouble.

The Clover plant itself is not toxic and can be eaten by the horses under strict supervision.

However, the affected clover with mold and fungus can cause Clover Poisoning. Moldy clover often contaminates the hay as well.

Health Problems Caused by Moldy Clover

If you are not monitoring the pasture the horse is grazing on for moldy clover, the horse may encounter health problems like


That is one of the early signs that the horse is feeding on the affected clover when the horse drools after eating clover.

It is a well-known problem in red clover and the horse affected with slobbers can fill up five-gallon pails with saliva in one day.

Plants infected with the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola produces slaframine which is a mycotoxin that promotes drooling.

It flourishes in cool, wet, and humid conditions and can last for 10 months but declines over time. The fungus looks like a black marker dotting on the leaves underside.

If the horse is diagnosed with Slobber, give it enough water daily to avoid dehydration and take the horse off pasture till the fungus problem is resolved.



Black Botch disease in Red, White, and Alsike Clover is a lesser-known problem. Horse-consuming clover affected with Black Botch disease may develop bad sunburn and photosensitivity.

Photosensitization occurs when the non-pigmented areas of the horse’s skin become reddened or thickened.

It will look like a sunburn at first but the skin soon becomes crusty, dead, and may begin to peel. Luckily, this sunburn is treatable.

Liver Damage

The most fatal effect of long-term exposure to affected clover is liver damage. It is also known as a big liver syndrome where progressive destruction of the liver happens.

Due to different toxins in the clover, the liver quickly becomes damaged. The cell within the liver continues to die owing to liver scarring or cirrhosis.

Some of the symptoms of liver damage from moldy clover include loss of appetite, weight loss,
depression, lethargy, jaundice, colic, and death. If you observe any of these signs, consult the vet immediately.


Bleeding results from eating moldy white and yellow sweet clover. White and Yellow Sweet Clover is not generally found in pasture or hay mixes but grows along roadways and in older hay fields.

Bleeding is the only problem in the moldy sweet clover. Horses tend to bleed when they have been eating a large proportion of this clover for several days.

The mold changes a cumarol in sweet clover to dicumarol which is a blood-thinning drug. It can be treated by fencing out the horse from the pasture.

In some cases, the horse is injected with Vitamin K injection or blood transfer. Vitamin K injections restore normal blood clotting.

Can Clover Kill Horses?

Well, that is an exaggeration if the horse is eating fresh clover in a moderate amount. Clover is a common weed variety that grows along with hay. It becomes dangerous or toxic when infected with fungus.

Long-term exposure to moldy clover may have adverse consequences. If diagnosed and treated on time, the horse’s life can be saved.


Is too Much Clover Bad For Horses?

Yes, excess of everything is bad for the horses. Besides regular diet, give treats, and other additional Joint supplements in a specific quantity.

Too much clover can lead to a number of problems. A horse owner should monitor the growth of clover in the pasture and take timely actions if there is too much clover in the field.

When You should not be feeding Clover to the Horses?

Clover has its place as a feed material for horses but considerations like time of year and climate must be taken into account as well.

Clover tends to become moldy when the temperature is above 80 F and the humidity is above 60 percent.

During periods of wet conditions and high humidity, check for moldy clover in the pasture as it contaminates hay as well.

To not let the horses eat infected clover, fence out horses from the clover-rich field, mow clover strands and improve the water drainage system.

Use a herbicide to prevent the growth of clover in the pasture, use all these tricks to discourage the growth of mold on the clover in wet and humid conditions.

Key Takeaway

To clarify once again, clover itself rarely causes any health problems in horses rather it provides an adequate supply of different nutrients. Clover toxicity happens when the fungus propagates on the leaves and stems of a moldy plant. Some clever pasture management practices can prevent the problems caused by the moldy clover.

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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