Why does my horse slobber like mad in the spring and sometimes the summer?
Horses eat everything. Generally speaking. Not as much as goats, but horses will eat just about anything in a field. Including clover, a common legume and subject of folklore, leprechauns, and good luck.
Clover doesn’t always grow alone, however. Often, Rhizoctonia leguminicola uses clover as a home. This fungus will also grow on other legumes, such as alfalfa. This hard to pronounce fungus (AKA black patch) makes a substance called slaframine which interest with your horse’s mouth and causes excessive salivation. You would think that most horses would just stop eating clover, apparently they don’t seem to care. The latherin in saliva creates foam, and the slaframine creates a lot of saliva!
Clover is delicious! And sometimes a lucky charm.
Is it dangerous? Superficially no, but some horses can have ill effects. Because so much saliva is produced, your horse may become dehydrated. This can lead to a slew of other health problems, including colic and organ damage. Once removed from eating clover with Rhizoctonia leguminicola, horses can still produce excessive slobber for two days! Some horses also develop colic like symptoms or diarrhea. There are also a few cased of mares aborting. None of this is fun for anyone and your Veterinarian needs to be involved for any of the above signs.
It’s also trickily similar to signs of vesicular stomatis. So, while vesicular stomatis and clover slobbers are caused by two different things (icky fungus and icky virus), if your horse has been eating clover all along with no slobbers and all of a sudden they appear, time to do some Veterinary intervention. And not to freak you out or anything - but vesicular stomatis is contagious to other horses AND PEOPLE. Horses develop sores and ulcers in their mouths, people get flu like symptoms.
Is it annoying when your horse has the clover slobber? Probably so. Especially if you are going to be riding, there’s a chance of slobber face bombs flying your way. But, it might also make for some great horse selfie photos? Or not….
What can you do if you want to reduce the clover and fungus population? A few things:
-Keep your pastures and grazing areas mowed to 3-4 inches.
-Use dry lots as alternatives to pastures, especially when things are wet and the clover/fungus is growing due to the moisture.
-Monitor the color of the clover in your pastures! You will see the bright green clover have gray or dark brown or black spots.
-You may want to check with your local agricultural extension service to find about about your region’s suggestions for dealing with clover and Rhizoctonia leguminicola.
How do you deal with the clover slobbers?