Alfalfa as Ritalin?

I’d love to find some science here but I’ll take anecdata, too.
The horse is question is a teenaged QH gelding. He’s generally a good guy. Well trained and lovable. He does his work willingly, in the arena or on trails. He’s also really spooky and a cribber. He’s never been scoped for ulcers, but does get alfalfa cubes in his mash as a buffer.
Our barn usually feeds timothy. We supplement with beet pulp, alfalfa cubes, millenium gold, joint sups and flax.
The barn recently switched to alfalfa. We braced for an abundance of energy but have seem be getting the exact opposite. Horse is now low key, almost flat. Owner commented that he seemed grouchy and attributed it to a reduced total quantity of hay (8#/feeding to 6# with the switch to alfalfa). I 1/2 lease the horse and wouldn’t call him grouchy but there is a definite change in his mood/behavior. We added a few pounds of timothy hay between meals, to offset the decreased quantity of roughage.
Has anyone else seen changes like this related to feeding alfalfa? I equated it to a hyper kid getting a stimulant and being able to gain self control. The change has been very rapid, coinciding with the change in feed. The only other thing to change is the weather. It has been a warm, sunny spring.

Well - I think you answered your question in your question!

Horse is a cribber - could possibly have ulcers - alfalfa fed as a “buffer” (because it has calcium) - alfalfa increased, and horse became quiet.

Maybe his stomach is feeling better than it was before.

Ditto what Appsolute said. His tummy just feels better!

May want to consider scoping/treating him (if the owner will consider that)… alfalfa doesn’t totally fix the problem.

We kicked around the alfalfa/ulcers theory, too.
My understanding is that ulcers are pretty painful for horses. Wouldn’t we see other behavioral indicators if he had them? Maybe it is a pre-ulcer situation?

Not necessarily. It depends on the horse. My horse had low-grade ulcers and just started losing weight, and he was uber sensitive about everything, so I would’ve expected him to be a wicked grouch, but he was the same ole happy go lucky guy.

Alfalfa is high in protein and some kinds of sugar but it also has high calcium and magnesium which act as stomach buffers and neutralizes the low pH of the stomach acid. In this manner, it can help prevent ulcer formation/stimulation. The downside of quality alfalfa is that it is very palatable and horses tend to eat it quickly. Then they are left with…nothing…for periods of time. If your horse is stalled and doesn’t have access to grazing, I highly suggest feeding alfalfa with a grass-type hay - something the horse will pick at but definitely will eat over the time he’s in the stall.

If you feed a cut of alfalfa with more stems you may not need to supplement with grass hay. I buy second cut alfalfa for my QH gelding for just that reason. He eats the leafy bits first and then spends hours eating the rest.

FWIW, he doesn’t have active ulcers right now, but alfalfa certainly doesn’t make him hot.