Recently, after moving a horse to a new barn, we noticed that she was chewing a lot and there was quite a bit of saliva coming out of her mouth. After doing a quick check to make sure nothing else was wrong, we remembered the barn manager mentioned that there was clover in the hay; we had our answer: “slobbers.”
While discussing this with some of our non-horse friends (don’t judge them, there are people who don’t know how awesome horses are) we decided that perhaps there are more than a few people who don’t know about the term “slobbers.” Perhaps there are horse people who have heard it, but don’t know too much about it other than its from clover. So, we are going to look at causes of slobbers and the benefits of clover.
There are many horse people out there who are very aware of the condition known as slobbers; most of the time, it is not really anything to worry about. That being said, just because you suspect slobbers, we encourage you to do the due diligence and make sure that there are not any other causes of excess saliva.
True slobbers is also known as Slaframine Toxicity or Slaframine Poisoning; a fungus mostly associated with red clover during wet or humid weather conditions. The fungus that causes Slaframine toxicity is noted by the red splotches typically found on the top of the leaf. The fungus is NON LIFE-THREATENING. This is somewhat important to remember, so we are going to say it at least once more: slobbers is not a life-threatening condition.
The first and primary symptom of slaframine or slobbers is excessive saliva production. Other symptoms may present if the condition continues or worsens including diarrhea, weight loss and colic in severe cases. Occasionally, Atropine will be administered by a veterinarian to help with these symptoms.
One of the other important things to note about slobbers is that the horse will tend to keep a healthy appetite. Many horses eat clover and never have problems with excess saliva. There are various types of clover and not all clover contains the fungus that causes slobbers.
Red clover is the variety that can culture the fungus that causes slobbers. Red clover also provides a good energy source with a fair amount of protein and fiber needed in a horse’s diet. Therefore, we do not discourage horses from eating clover. If a horse develops slobbers from the clover in the hay, you can simply change the diet to a hay with less or no clover. If the only symptom is excessive saliva, you may even consider leaving things the way they are and keep a close eye on them to make sure no other symptoms arise. What may have started out with a bit of foam could become something more severe if ignored.
If you’d like to learn more about how to develop structure in your horse’s life or about classical horse training in general, visit our website or blog, where we feature information about French Classical Dressage training, as well as care and maintenance of the horse!