Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Don't forget the horses!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are enjoying the day with family and friends and eating plenty of those "once-a-year" goodies. Don't forget goodies for the horses either! Mine always get a bag of carrots for Christmas. If your horse is "sugar-sensitive", stay away from treats like carrots and apples. Some great low-carb treat alternatives for your horse include alfalfa cubes, hay pellets, sugar-free peppermints, prunes, celery, and commercially available low-carb treats (i.e. Skode's Horse Treats).

Please click on the link below to watch a Christmas video message from all of us here at Purina, and become our Facebook friend if you haven't already!!/video/video.php?v=1608949977072

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where did fall go! Fall was very busy for us here at the farm, we have have worked through several studies, hosted our veterinarian conference, and have been preparing for winter. Winter has hit us already with some unseasonably low temperatures, a little snow , and some ice. Being a farm manager means thinking of your employees and animals constantly, and moreso during inclement weather. Working outdoors when temperatures are in the teens and the wind is blowing is downright uncomfortable but entirely necessary, the horses have to eat! Keeping your horses comfortable and healthy can be a bit of a challenge as well! We take breaks to warm up (and drink lots of hot coffee!) and check the horses a little more frequently to ensure they can get to water and feed without trouble. We take comfort in the fact that there are other horse people enduring the same thing we are to take care of their animals, it just comes with the territory.

Friday, December 17, 2010

American Association of Equine Practioners and Well Gel launch!

On December 4-8 our Horse Business Group headed to Baltimore, MD for the AAEP convention. We had a large booth in the trade show and we also attended various scientific sessions and meetings. It is always a busy trip for us, but a great chance to see and catch up with all the veterinarians and veterinary technicians that we work with.

Most importantly, this year we launched a new product in our WellSolve product line, WellSolve W/G Well-Gel. This product is a nutritionally complete supplement for horses that is designed for enteral or oral administration, formulated to supply 100% of the horse's nutrient requirements when fed as directed. The proprietary formula allows for easy administration through a nasogastric tube, and it will be available to veterinarians starting in January. The research on this product has been led by Dr. Kelly Vineyard and the product has been successfully tested and utilized in equine vet clinics across the country. Well-Gel will be distributed via veterinary supply houses such as MWI, Milburn Equine and others.
We had a Well-Gel "ease of tubing" demonstration going on in the booth and as long as we didn't let Randy Raub handle the tube, we all stayed pretty clean.

Once again, our horse themed bags were a hit and we gave away over 1000 of them in 3 days.
Enjoy the pics!

Mary Beth

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What May Be Floating Around in Your Barn?

Winter brings cold temperatures and inclement weather. We want to keep our horses as comfortable as possible, which to us means keeping them warm and snug indoors when the wind is howling outside. So, we blanket them, put them in a warm stall, close all the doors and windows and feed them extra hay…they will be so warm and happy, won’t they? Well, they may be warm but they may also have trouble breathing.

Barns are often built for warmth and protection more than air flow and ventilation. Measurement of respirable organic particles or particulate matter in horse barns has shown potential danger for horses housed inside. The combination of structural design, hay and bedding stored in or near the barn, tractors and equipment running through from time to time, activities such as sweeping aisles and cleaning stalls, and possibly a connecting indoor arena can result in the level of airborne organic dust reaching damaging levels. Airborne particles in numbers greater than 2.4 mg/cubic meter (M3) of air have been shown to increase the incidence of airway disease in horses. In a study measuring air quality, most horse barns measured 40 – 60 mg/M3. The breathing zone during feeding was often 30 – 40 times higher. Measured particles included dust, endotoxins, mold spores, ammonia and silica from arena dust. Hay has been measured at 19.3 mg/M3, and bedding, especially straw bedding, can be even higher, making hay and bedding major contributors. All these airborne particles can wreak havoc on respiratory function in stabled horses.

Horses have an amazing respiratory system that is exceptionally equipped to function during exercise. Respiration rate (RR) varies dramatically from rest, 10 – 12 breaths per minute (bpm), to intense exercise, where it can increase to 150 – 180 bpm. Tidal volume (TV), the volume of air that is inhaled and exhaled with a normal breath, ranges from 4 – 7 liters per breath at rest. During strenuous exercise TV increases to 10 – 12 liters. Minute volume (MV) is the total volume of air inhaled and exhaled per minute (MV=TV X RR). Horses at rest have MV averaging 100 liters per minute, but during very hard work MV averages an astounding 1500 liters per minute. Even at rest, this is a tremendous amount of air flow into and out of the lungs. When the inhaled air contains high numbers of respirable organic particles, the potential for irritation is high. Add exercise and the increased respiration rate may cause deeper penetration of particulate matter. In addition to air quality concerns, winter also brings frigid air temperature. Research has shown that cold weather exercise can cause asthma-like airway disease in performance horses. Repeated work in cold temperatures can lead to chronic airway inflammation.

Non-infectious respiratory disease with airway inflammation in horses is a common clinical problem when horses are stabled. Some studies suggest that 25 – 80% of stabled horses suffer from Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), commonly known as “heaves”, and Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD). Horses may suffer from chronic coughing, decreased performance, difficulty breathing and abnormal lung sounds. Signs do not become apparent until a large number of airways are affected, and therefore many more horses may be affected than is realized. Once particulate matter is in the lower airways, the body sees it as foreign material and mounts an immune response. Inflammation is an important immune system weapon but can have negative effects as well. Airway walls thicken, become hypersensitive, spasm and lung function is impaired. Blood oxygenation decreases which causes increased respiratory rate and tidal volume. Most horses with RAO will develop an exaggerated expiratory “push” and a “heave line” which is a ridge of muscle along the lower abdomen that develops when the horse works harder to exhale against collapsing airways.

The most effective treatment for non-infectious respiratory disease is to prevent exposure to respirable organic matter and to limit hard work during extreme cold temperatures. If horses cannot be kept outdoors, then the focus should be on reducing airborne particles in the barn. Improving ventilation and feeding low-dust feed can make a huge difference. Feeding hay in feeders at ground level instead of hay racks above the grain is one step that may help, but hay should be thoroughly soaked in water and fed wet to effectively reduce dust and molds. Affected horses may not show improvement until hay is totally replaced by feeding a complete feed with hay built in. Purina Omolene 400 and Equine Senior are low-dust feeds containing quality fiber sources to replace hay. Many horses with RAO or IAD cannot tolerate any hay, even wet hay, and do much better eating one of these products. Keep in mind that horses eating hay in adjoining stalls can still cause problems for affected horses.

Any time you notice coughing or labored breathing in your horse, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough exam to determine the cause and the appropriate course of action to provide relief.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Purina Dreamride in the Flint Hills

It's been a busy fall so far, and it's hard to believe that we're only a month into it! Karen and I had a wonderful time on the Dreamride in the Flint Hills, one of the Pink 50 events here in Kansas (even though we got pretty wet on the afternoon ride - I'm still working on conditioning the saddles!). Then came the trip to Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington to spend time talking to horse people from all over the world about feeding horses, and watch the eventing, of course. Next was the Veterinary Conference that we host in St. Louis every year, and finally RFD TV Monday Night Live in Nashville. After all that whirlwind, it's good to be back home working on formulas, tags, writing, proofing and editing, posting on Facebook, and all the other regular day to day activities.
Back to the dreamride - this was the 11th annual Purina Dreamride, and I believe the 7th ride that I've been on. It's always a great time - seeing friends, eating great food, talking to horse owners (about feeding their horses, of course!), and riding through the tall grass prairie in Kansas. There's only about 4% of the original tall grass prairieland left in the US, and it's a rare privilege to be out there on your horse enjoying some of the most beautiful landscapes in the midwest. On top of all that, this year the ride went pink for the Purina Pink 50 Campaign. So the theme of the ride was raising awareness and support for breast cancer research, and there was pink everywhere you looked! Shirts, hats, bandanas, saddle pads, even polo wraps and boots on some of the horses were pink! What a great event. I was so proud to be associated with Purina and this important campaign, and also appreciative of the work that our own Ernie Rodina does to put on this wonderful event every year.
If you have not had the opportunity to attend one of the many Pink 50 events throughout the country, you can check our website to see if there are any more scheduled in your part of the world. And if not, you can still participate by purchasing a pink bag of Strategy, Omolene 200 or Equine Senior. I'm thinking I might have to go buy a couple of pink bags just to have the bags (we feed bulk Strategy at our barn, so I don't usually have any bags), and maybe have someone make totes out of them! I saw on FB that people are doing this - some folks have such good ideas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is it allergy season?

I've always thought of spring as allergy season but I've been hit hard with some type of allergy reaction over the past couple weeks; sinus headaches, runny nose, etc. Just miserable. I've also gotten an increase in the phone calls and e-mails from horse owners concerned about allergies from which their horses seem to be suffering. So, I'm posting an article I've written on horses and allergies to help horse owners sort through how to deal with the various manifestations of alleric reactions in horses.

If you’ve ever experienced a horse with allergies, you know it can be a frustrating situation for both horse and horse owner. Frustrating for the horse with runny eyes and welts or itching and rubbing constantly while nothing seems to provide relief. Frustrating for the owner because you are trying desperately to find out what caused the problem and how to fix it.

Allergic reactions are essentially an immune system in over-drive. An allergy is an abnormal reaction by the immune system against a normally harmless substance. The first exposure to the allergen causes white blood cells to produce antibodies that prepare the immune system for the next encounter with that same allergen. No outward signs occur at this point. The antibodies attaches to mast cells that are found in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and the skin. During the next exposure, the allergens will combine with the antibodies and release chemicals, such as histamine or leukotrienes, which produce the allergy symptoms. The resulting allergy symptoms depend on where in the body the chemicals are released, and are generally some manifestation of inflammation.

The most common symptoms in horses associated with allergies are skin irritations such as hives, welts, and itching (urticaria) or respiratory problems such as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) which is very similar to asthma in people. Weepy eyes, nasal discharge or digestive upsets can also be symptoms of allergic reactions. These symptoms can be caused by contact dermatitis from exposure to organophosphate pesticides, heavy metals, dyes, bedding, topical medications, soaps, shampoos, blankets, wool and neat’s-foot oil. Other causes include atopy, an inherited predisposition to environmental allergen sensitivity, and “sweet itch” which is hypersensitivity to insects such as culicoides. Food allergies are commonly suspected but rarely prove to be the true cause of allergies in horses. Even in people, true food allergies affect only about 6 – 8% of children and 2% of adults.

An allergic reaction to protein normally causes what are historically referred to as "protein bumps" on horses. Instead of large soft welts, protein bumps are usually hard little bumps like a large BB under the skin. They may be a reaction to a certain protein, not necessarily of dietary origin, but may be from a protein injected in the skin when insects bite. Other skin reactions cause scabby eruptions on the skin that usually itch, causing the horse to rub enough to lose hair and even cause sores. These may be from an allergic reaction or a bacterial infection. Scabs can be cultured to determine if there is a bacterial infection and a regimen of antibiotics may resolve the issue.

Allergy symptoms such as hives, runny eyes, nasal discharge and coughing may be more indicative of an inhaled allergen. Removing long-stemmed hay and using a complete feed that is formulated to replace hay often helps alleviate these problems. Other management options including immersing hay thoroughly in water before feeding, feeding in a trough at ground level, wetting stall bedding or changing the type of bedding, and providing as much pasture time as possible will help minimize exposure to respirable dust and molds. In almost all cases symptoms due to inhaled allergens will improve if the horse is kept outdoors. Even short amounts of time in barns or trailers will exacerbate symptoms.

Determining the cause of allergy symptoms can be quite an exercise in trial and error. In humans, the gold standard for diagnosing food allergies is a double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge. A reaction is expected within a few minutes to 2 hours after ingestion but this is a very involved and expensive procedure. Other allergy tests include a skin prick test or a patch test where extracts of various foods, or other potential allergens, are injected into the skin. Reactions (called weals) at the injection or prick site are measured to determine sensitivity level. Many horse owners opt for a blood analysis that will measure antibody levels to various potential allergens including insects, molds, pollens, plants and foods. These blood tests are a tool that may help identify potential triggers for allergy symptoms but often have a high rate of false positives, especially for identifying food allergens. Rarely do the allergy symptoms resolve when the diet is adjusted according to the results of these blood tests.

The only reliable diagnosis of a food allergy is an elimination diet. One difficulty with this is finding a diet that contains none of the identified potential allergens but still meets the horse's nutrient requirements. Sometimes that is absolutely impossible because of the long list of potential allergens. A horse that has previously been on a good plane of nutrition can be fed a hay-only diet for one to four weeks to see if the symptoms resolve. If they don’t improve then the symptoms weren’t caused by a food allergy and you have to look for other causes. If symptoms do resolve, then very gradually introduce one new food at a time in an effort to build a balanced diet that will not trigger an allergic response.

There is anecdotal evidence that feeding omega 3 fatty acids from a fat supplement such as Purina Nature’s Essentials AmplifyTM supplement may help resolve symptoms of skin irritation and inflammation. Feeding 1 – 1.5 lbs per day of AmplifyTM to horses suffering from sweet itch has been reported to result in cessation of itching and hair re-growth within 45 days.

If your horse is exhibiting allergy symptoms, get your veterinarian involved. They can help relieve discomfort associated with the symptoms and help you determine what changes in environment or management may best help manage through the symptoms. Then, just wait for a new season when most symptoms will spontaneously disappear....until next season.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meet Leo and Willie - the Veterinary Services Lab cats

Leo (under the jacket) was named after my predecessor. Willie (gray tabby) was named after the founder of Purina - William Danforth.

We found these two brothers at about 6 weeks of age in a concrete form that was about to be filled with concrete during a construction project here on the farm. Now they live in luxury and are very spoiled by all of the Longview staff. Many employees drop by just to visit with Leo and Willie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dream Ride in the Kansas Flint Hills

This past week was a great week. I started out in St. Louis for our Horse VIP meeting where I was able to catch up with some of our ambassadors that have been with Purina almost as long as I have. Clint Haverty, very successful reining horse trainer from Krum, TX made his first trip up to see our research farm and he's been feeding Purina Strategy GX for nearly 15 years! It is great to see how much of an impact what we do here at Purina has on those that get to see it first hand. Hearing about the knowledge, research and dedication to the horse that goes into our products from someone else or in an advertisement just doesn't do it justice. Seeing what we do first hand and meeting the people that make it happen, like Mike Jerina, that's impressive, even for a long-time customer and very successful trainer like Clint. Thanks to Clint and all the other attendees for taking time to attend our meeting and reminding us how important what we do is to them and their horses.

Now, to get to the title of my blog....

After the VIP meeting in St. Louis, I went to Kansas for the 11th Anual Dream Ride in the Flint Hills. This event is a wonderful trail ride hosted by Ernie Rodina and his great crew. This year's event was a Purina Pink 50 event, where the emphasis was on breast cancer awareness. There were pink shirts, pink ribbons, pink splint boots on horses, pink saddle looked like a sea of pink rolling over the Flint Hills. This was special because it was not only a coming together of people who enjoy the outdoors and their horses, it was a coming together for the common cause of helping fight breast cancer and so many people on the ride had been impacted by this terrible disease in one way or another.

Now, if you love to ride and you have never been to the Flint Hills of Kansas, you are missing out. I know because I've been riding for all my life, mostly in competition of one type or another, not as much as a trail rider, but I've seen some beautiful country from the back of a horse. This was my first trip to the Fint Hills and it was absolutely special. You get to see that there are still vast, wide open spaces in this world. And, the folks that come to this trail ride, including the Best of America By Horseback crew, are great people. There's just nothing like spending a weekend horseback amongst the nicest people you'll meet, provided the best food you 'll eat and listening to fabulous campfire music. I so appreciate all the hard work that went into this event for all of us to enjoy, I totally enjoyed my ride.

I have to thank Dr. Katie Young for providing me with a great horse to ride this weekend, Ghus (Celtic spelling for Gus I think?), is a beautiful bay gelding that was just a joy to ride. I spent the weekend riding Ghus in Katie's fabulous dressage saddle, and by the way, I've never ridden a dressage saddle before this weekend and found it to be quite comfortable. I was glad though, that Ghus was smooth and dependable other than one little fun "celebration" he did after we crossed a gully, since there isn't quite as much leather available for grabbing in situations where you'd like to grab a little leather! Katie took pictures and video of the ride and I'm sure she'll find a flattering shot to post on here for me :-)

Katie and I enjoyed visiting with people on the ride about feeding their horses. There was a fabulous gelding there that was long-time Purina Equine Senior guy. You'd never have guessed he was 28 years-old. He was so bright, sound and happy on the trail ride, really cool. It was also neat to see all the people feeding out of Purina Strategy GX and Equine Senior bags at the trail ride, all pink bags for the Purina Pink 50 Campaign for breast cancer awareness month.

Just a great weekend on the Dream Ride in the Flint Hills of Kansas. What a fabulous time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Busy Time of Year - Heck isn't it always busy...?

We just finished up two big guest events here on the farm. First we hosted a group of 25 veterinary students from Purdue and Michigan State University. They were primarily interested in livestock research and medicine but there were some who had an equine interest as well, and they all really enjoyed the chance to see our equine research facility.

Next we hosted about 140 horse owners and feed dealer employees for a two day conference. Lectures were given by myself, Dr. Karen Davison, Dr. Randy Raub, Dr. Kelly Vineyard, Mike Jerina, Dr. Kent Lanter, as well as Equine Specialists. (Equine Specialists are uniquely qualified and trained members of our sales force, most have a background in the horse industry and many have advanced degrees in animal science and nutrition). The guests had a great time attending a reception and dinner in their honor, followed by a day here at Longview featuring lectures about feed manufacturing, feed tags, nutrition and other aspects of horse health and management. A Q & A session allowed them to ask any questions they liked, and they ranged from inquiries about how to feed a particular horse to how to best prepare a mare for breeding. It was a great event and I really enjoyed getting to meet all of these wonderful horse people from around the country. As usual, our top-notch staff at the equine research facility had the horses, barns and exercise physiology lab looking their best and were on hand to answer questions about our herd and our day-to-day operation. Thanks to them and my fellow Horse Business team members for another successful event.

Next up here at Longview ---we are hosting close to 500 equine veterinarians, veterinary technicians and 4th year veterinary students for our annual Equine Veterinary Conference. The conference features guest speakers who are the top veterinarians in the country in their specialty disciplines. Attendees receive continuing education credits for their attendance, as well as the opportunity to learn more about equine nutrition and findings from our recent and ongoing research projects. This is an event I really look forward to as it allows me to reconnect with colleagues and make new contacts with"soon-to-be" veterinarians. The students really enjoy the event because it allows them to meet future colleagues (and potential employers) in a fun and relaxed environment, and it also provides a much needed respite from the rigors of their final clinical year (think the interns on the old TV show ER). The veterinarians also enjoy a brief interlude from their practices and the opportunity to enjoy the one of the best times of the year in the St. Louis area.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wow. It is already September. College football (a favorite of mine) debuted last night. Leaves are already turning. And I have hardly noticed that the summer has gone by. We have been so busy here at the farm, researching new diets and hosting events for customers and employees all the while keeping up the with daily work of operating an equine facility.

I was lucky enough to be the designated escort for Dr. Temple Grandin when she was here at Longview last week. She is an extraordinary person with a breadth of knowledge on many subjects. A conversation with her makes you truly appreciate the incredible journey her life has been. We were very grateful that she would make time in her busy schedule to visit with us. She was very excited about her upcoming trip to the Emmy Awards presentations in California and extremely proud that a movie showcasing her life and work was so well received. She felt it was a big step in her continuing mission to educate the public about animals in agriculture and humane animal handling practices. Congratulations on 7 Emmy wins.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Temple Grandin

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Temple Grandin when she spent a day at our research farm. If you are not familiar with Dr. Grandin, she's had a huge influence on the livestock industry with her innovative designs of livestock handling facilities, is a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and has conducted a great deal of research on animal behavior and management. She has also authored numerous journal articles and books, and is a consultant on facility design, livestock handling and animal welfare around the world. I've read one of her books and found it absolutely fascinating. So it was quite an experience actually getting to hear her talk about her thoughts and research results. She spent the day visiting the various species' units, and it was so much fun talking to her about our horses and facilities!

If you have not read Dr. Grandin's book "Animals in Translation", I highly recommend it, and I'm planning on reading "Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals" as soon as I can. Of course, the movie about her life on HBO was also great, as evidenced by the multiple Emmy wins on Sunday night! And it was pretty cool seeing her live on TV at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. I've got to think she had to just about fly directly from St Louis to California to make it to the show! What a privilege that she made time in her schedule for us.

Anyway, Dr. Grandin has remarkable insight into animal behavior, due to the similarities in perception and thought that she shares with animals. For instance, being autistic, Dr. Grandin thinks in pictures, not in words as most of us do, and research indicates that animals also think in pictures. This, as well as other unique characteristics due to the autism, enables her to look at the world and understand how animals perceive their surroundings, and share these observations with those of us who are not as in tune with what the animals see and how they react to what they see. I have to admit, owning and riding a very spooky horse (he's named "Boo" for a reason, after all) has been an education for me on viewing the world from a prey animal's perspective, but Dr. Grandin does an excellent job of verbalizing how and why animals react and behave the way they do. I think anyone who spends any time working with animals would benefit from Dr. Grandin's books or lectures. I know I did!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies

This week I went to Saint Louis to participate in a Purina meeting. On the flight home I was wearing my Purina Strategy Healthy Edge logo shirt. As I was getting off the plane from Saint Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth the pilot was standing in the door to the cockpit. I thanked him for a good flight and he asked me about my shirt. Turns out he is a horse owner who feeds Purina Strategy GX to his horses. He lives in Missouri and competes in ranch sorting and team penning events. He went on and on about how much he loved how his horses looked since he began using Strategy several years ago. It was pretty fun to meet a fan of Purina and always interesting to see where you can run into horse owners...even flying the friendly skies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Purina Ambassadors on WEG USA Reining Team

Shawn Flarida

Congratulations to Purina Ambassadors Shawn Flarida and Craig Schmersal for qualifying to represent Team USA in the reining competition at the upcoming World Equestrian Games. Shawn will be showing RC Fancy Step and Craig will show Boom Shernic in the upcoming international competition to be held in Kentucky in September. Both horses are fed Purina Ultium Competition Formula horse feed and we are very proud to be feeding these tremendous athletes.

Craig Schmersal

Monday, July 26, 2010

KESMARC-Florida - Roman's underwater treadmill experience

Several months ago, my local dressage GMO hosted a benefit event for our local horse rescue, the Horse Protection Association of Florida ( One of the fundraising activities was a raffle in which several horse-related services and items had been donated as prizes. The “grand prize” was a week-long stay at KESMARC-Florida (, which is an equine sports medicine facility located in Ocala, FL. One of the many therapy services they offer is the Aquatread (underwater treadmill), which is excellent for strengthening and conditioning the equine athlete. I had my eye on this grand prize, so thought I would increase my chances of winning by purchasing 10 tickets. Well, my strategy worked and I actually won the grand prize! I was so excited, because I travel quite a bit and sometimes it is hard to keep Roman (my FEI dressage horse) in shape while I am away for more than a few days. I also knew that the change in routine would be good for him, as all horses need variety in their training program for both physical and mental reasons.

I must say I was a little nervous about leaving Roman for a week, simply because he can be a little sensitive to changes in his environment. But the manager, Lee, made me feel comfortable about bringing him and didn’t seem to mind when I insisted on bringing his own feed for the week. She also offered to let me watch as they trained Roman to the Aquatread for the first time. This made me feel more comfortable; I definitely wanted to be there to make sure he handled this new experience well.

When I arrived at the beautiful facility (the property was formerly a Thoroughbred breeding and training farm), I was greeted by Brittany, Roman’s “person” for the week. All horses at KESMARC are assigned to a specific person who will groom, feed, and pay extra attention to them on a daily basis. I was relieved find out that Brittany was a 2nd year veterinary student at the University of Tennessee, and I felt like he’d certainly be in good hands. After unloading Roman’s feed and going over my long list of instructions (I admit it, I am an overprotective horse owner), we were ready to hit the treadmill. We headed to the Aquatread room, where I passed Roman over to the experienced staff who patiently and methodically introduced him to this big water-filled chute (the Aquatread), which he was not especially fond of at first. I was very impressed with how they approached this process, and in no time Roman was walking through easily. Once he was comfortable standing in the water on the belt, they hooked the chest bar in front of him and turned on the treadmill. It was pretty awkward for him at first (what would you think if you were standing in a pool and the ground starting moving underneath you?), but he started to catch on fairly quickly. Once he got into a rhythm, it was amazing to see how the muscles over his back were working. I took a short video of the experience, and I am happy to share it here!

I left that day feeling comfortable that Roman would be in good hands. I let Brittany know that I’d like to get an email update sometime during the week. Little did I know that Roman himself would actually be able to compose and send me a personal update! His “update” was so clever and hilarious that I must share an excerpt below:

Hi mom!

So…I must admit I wasn’t that fond of the idea of letting you go to Denver without me. Though as time has passed, I am “tolerating” this place more and more each day. I will graciously allow you to leave me here whenever you please! You will be pleased to know that I’m still working hard for you in the aqua treadmill each and every day. After the 15 min of hard work, the real fun begins! That’s when the girls arrive! They make our time apart okay! The girls are awesome! They LOVE LOVE LOVE me! These girls can’t keep their hands off me! They fight over who gets to hand walk me everyday! They come in hoards and stand by my stall and gawk at how amazing I am, they groom me EVERYDADY (as an excuse, of course, to put their hands on me ;-) and and and I’ve got them thinking that I’m “sooooo sad and homesick that I can’t stomach the idea of grain.” Man, grain tastes so much better when lots of pretty girls are feeding it to me out of their pretty little hands!!!!!! ;-) This is the life! I always knew I was meant to be a rock star!!!

After reading this, I knew Roman would be just fine. And I suspected that in addition to a successful veterinary career, Brittany may have a future in some type of equine-related creative writing!

When I returned a week later, Roman seemed very happy and content. He looked great, and it was nice to be able to bring him home and resume training immediately. We’re gearing up for a big show in a few weeks, so a week out of work would not have been very good for our program. But with the conditioning he received at KESMARC, we didn’t miss a beat. And I think our medium trots are now better than ever! Thanks KESMARC!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Changing Seasons means Changing Diets

Looking at Mike's post showing how different a horse's environment can be from one season to the next is a great reminder of how very different a horse's diet may need to be from one season to the next. Forage, hay or pasture, makes up anywhere from 70 - 100% of most horse's diets. Mike's pictures show the full range of forage quality in pastures from season to season; from being just a place to buck and play in the snow during winter to providing excellent nutrition in the green grass of spring and early summer. Depending on your horse's age and activity level, what you provide for your horse in addition to pasture may change with the season as well. Sometimes this just means adjusting feed intake down a bit when the horses are transitioned from hay to pasture. Pasture will usually provide a higher level of nutrition, especially calories and a horse grazing pasture will get fatter than the same horse eating hay. For horses that are working at a moderate or high level, this may mean decreasing your current feeding rate by 1 - 3 lbs per day. Maybe you were feeding 7 lbs of Omolene 500 during the fall and winter while competing and feeding hay, but now with good pasture, you may keep the same level of work and condition by feeding 4 - 5 lbs of feed. Purina premium feeds are formulated to meet nutritional requirements when fed with good quality hay or pasture when fed at least 0.3 lbs per 100 lbs of body weight (3 lbs per day for a 1000 lb horse) of the feed. Some other feeds have higher minimum recommended feeding rates than that. If you are feeding a feed and you find that your horse is getting fat even on the minimum recommended feeding rate, then it is time to change to one of the Purina Nature's Essentials Enrich products. Enrich products are formulated to meet nutrient requirements in very low feeding rates, 1 - 2 lbs per day for most horses, so they provide the protein, vitamins and minerals without excessive calories for horses that maintain body condition on hay or pasture and little or no additional feed. The Enrich 12 is for mature horses eating good pasture or straight alflalfa hay, Enrich 32 is for younger horses still growing or any horse eating mostly grass hay or moderate quality pasture such as late summer/early fall. Another great option for horses eating good pasture that may need a little more than Enrich but can't quite eat Strategy, Omolene or Ultium without getting too fat is new Purina Strategy Healthy Edge. It is a super product for less active, easier-keepers that still need more than 1 - 2 lbs of Enrich. Purina Strategy Healthy Edge has a great nutritional balance that keeps awesome bloom and hair coat with lower calories than other Purina premium products designed for performance horses. It is a great fit for many horses, especially those that you want to keep in show shape, that do well on higher fat and lower starch, but don't need all the calories that come in a high-performance feed such as Ultium. For more information on choosing the right product for your individual horse or forage situation, go check out our Purina Feed Product Recommender at Have a great summer, enjoy the green grass while you have it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

Seems like just the other day we were complaining about how cold it was outside and now here we are with a heat index of 105 degrees! Our horses are enjoying summer pasture today, but were thinking a little differently about it in January when I took this picture with snow on the ground. The difference reminds me of how different management of your animals can be in just a six month period. In January you might be concerned with keeping your water source from freezing and keeping enough hay in front of your animals. July presents a completely different set of challenges, managing heat/humidity and delaing with insects just to name a few. Our location close to St Louis gives us both extremes in summer and winter with a lot of humidity mixed in. We are typically checking horses at least twice a day to ensure they are not having issues when we get into extreme weather. The barn crew was sharing a laugh this morning when the weatherman explained that you should not be outside unless you absolutely have to. With horses it does not matter, you are out in the best and worst of what mother nature has to offer!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Practice what you teach...

Another week come and gone, lots of interesting questions from horse owners this week on feeding a variety of horses, from weanlings to senior horses. This morning at the Davison Ranch (Really we have a ranchette since it is 40 acres, seems like you really need at least three digits of acreage to have a ranch, most "ranches" in my area of Texas are at least 4 digits, 1000 acres or more. Anyway, I digress...back to the original blog...) my husband left to go judge a cutting horse show for two days. I worked in the office all day; talked to a few horse owners, a couple great Purina dealers and a couple Purina sales reps...not a bad gig when most days you get to talk to horse people about horses. The young lady that works for my husband fed this morning but was off this afternoon, so I closed up shop in the office at 5 PM and went out to practice what I teach all day, every day....feed horses.

I loaded up the Ranger and drove around the place looking at hungry faces of all ages and activity levels; our weanling, Texie, who is growing beautifully; a yearling we hope will grow up to be a nice barrel horse; the two-year olds here to be started under saddle; the three-year olds in cutting training; several geldings between 4 and 10 years old under various levels of activity; a nice 6 year-old mare and a 7 year-old stallion, both in cutting training; and our 17 year-old broodmare, Texie's mother who is in foal again to Freckled Leo Lena, Texie's sire.

So, what do we feed? Well, since we have such a variety of horses and have our help feed some of the time so we need it to not be too complicated, but we are of course, very particular about providing excellent nutrition, Purina Strategy GX Professional Formula is the very best choice for our horses and our operation. I fed from 3.5 lbs per day to the less active, mature horses to 5 - 7 lbs per day to the young growing horses and horses in training. We also feed both Bermudagrass hay and alfalfa hay, for most a 50:50 blend but for some geldings not doing much, we feed straight Bermudagrass hay and when our broodmare was still nursing, we fed her straight alfalfa hay. We adjust the amount of Strategy and the amount and type of hay based on age, activity level and individual body condition. The goal is to keep all horses between a body condition score of 5 - 6 (See the Body Condition Score Chart on if you aren't familiar with it). When Purina has taken care of all the nutrition research and provides the proper balance and ratios of nutrients in Strategy, there is no more guess work, all we have to do is adjust the amounts according to body condition of each horse. Don't really need a Ph.D. for that do you? Pretty simple but very effective.

Now, I'm going to go load the trailer and be ready to go to a barrel race tomorrow. I hope everyone has a great weekend and gets to enjoy your horse in whatever activity you love.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good start to the day...

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, hard to go back to work after a long weekend for many of us. I got up early this morning and helped my husband work horses on cattle this morning. He trains cutting horses and starts early in the morning before it gets too hot. I went out to help, really to get to work a horse myself but you have to help before you get to play. If you've never gotten to ride a cutting horse, you should put it on your bucket list because it is really a blast. They are such athletes and have such reaction to the cow, just too much fun. It is also very cool to watch horses who are well bred so they have the genetics to want to do the job you need them to do, are well cared for and are provided the nutritional support to do the job. All that goes together to let them become the best they can be with good direction from a good trainer.

As you can tell, in our family, we're all horses all the time. So, my husband is still out there working horses, it's starting to get hotter already and I'm back in my cool office getting ready to write an article for the NRHA Reiner magazine and answer phone calls and e-mails from horse people. Pretty good start to the day....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Unfortunately, it is that time of year is hot, humid, and just plain miserable here in Florida. But what’s even worse than dealing with the intense heat is dealing with a horse that has stopped sweating. Anhidrosis is common problem that has no quick and easy cure. Horses stop sweating for different reasons, and they respond to treatments differently. Personally, I have dealt with this issue in horses on my own farm, and my management approach is multi-faceted. Since I never know what a horse may respond to, I just try everything I think may have a reasonable chance of success!

Before I outline my management approach, I must stress that if you suspect your horse is anhidrotic, please contact your veterinarian for an exam. There are many conditions that can alter a horse’s ability to thermoregulate - some that can be easily treated and some that are very serious. Also, keep in mind that an individual horse’s sweat production can vary, and there is actually a test that can be performed to confirm whether or not your horse is truly anhidrotic. There are also reports that anhidrotic horses often have high circulating levels of epinephrine, meaning that there is some underlying stressor (i.e. pain). So, call the vet first.

Managing the anhidrotic horse:

1) One-AC – Start supplementation with the commercially available supplement “One-AC” according to package directions. This is a powdered supplement that contains vitamin C, L-tyrosine, and B vitamins. Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine and may help re-sensitize sweat gland receptors. The success rate is variable and reported to be between 30 – 80%. Best results are achieved when supplementation begins before the weather gets very hot.

2) Reduce heat stress – this is very important, especially during the first 2 – 3 weeks. This includes stalling during the hottest part of the day (if the barn is well-ventilated and cooler than being outdoors) with multiple fans to maximize air circulation. Consider installing a mister or put a sprinkler outside in the paddock to provide some “artificial sweat” that will help with evaporative heat loss. Frequent hosing during the day will also help reduce the heat load. All strenuous exercise should be stopped, and if the horse must be worked, only do it very early in the morning or late in the evening when the weather is cooler. The theory is to try and “re-program” the horse’s thermoregulatory mechanism by taking the stress off of the over-stimulated sweat glands.

3) Electrolytes – insure the horse is receiving adequate Na, Cl, K, Ca, and Mg in the diet. If you are feeding a fortified concentrate feed at the recommended levels paired with plenty of good quality forage, then all you need to be concerned with is NaCl. You should supplement 1 – 2 oz (2 – 4 Tbsp) of plain white salt or a commercial electrolyte supplement every day to provide the necessary NaCl (beware that many contain more sugar than salt).

4) Overall diet – be sure that the horse is receiving a balanaced diet and insure he is not consuming excess protein (>25% protein in the total diet). This scenario would probably only occur if a horse was eating a high proportion of alfalfa/legume hay and a large volume of concentrate feed on a daily basis. If the horse has a high calorie requirement, feeding a high-fat diet may help to reduce “metabolic heat”.

5) Acupuncture – at the University of Florida, clinicians are now utilizing acupuncture as a treatment for anhidrosis. I have seen it work. The key is to find a qualified and experienced DVM who is trained in acupuncture to treat your horse.

6) Dark beer – sure, why not? 1 bottle or can of dark beer (i.e. Guinness) per day for 6 days (that’s one six pack). Dark, unfiltered beer actually contains B vitamins and antioxidants, which could potentially be the reason for those anecdotal success stories you hear about feeding beer to horses. Hey, it can’t hurt…I just pour it over the feed, right after I take a big swig (for testing purposes only)!

The only proven “cure” for anhidrosis is to move the horse to a cooler and drier climate. Unfortunately, this is not always a convenient option. But if a horse is very severely affected, it may be the only choice that is right for the horse. In the majority of cases, though, anhidrosis can be managed successfully if you pay close attention to the horse and are careful to keep him comfortable when the weather is especially unbearable.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Catch Me if You Can

When we complete a project here at Longview with a group of horses, we understand they need a break just like people do! Earlier this spring after completing a palatability trial (taste testing session) for several weeks we turned the horses out for a little fun. They had a three week break just hanging out in pasture being horses. The clip below is right when they went out, do you think they liked it?

Friday, June 25, 2010


For many people, Friday is a day of winding down the week and getting ready for the weekend. For me, Fridays are often the busiest day of the week. I help our great customer service team answer phone calls and e-mails from horse owners around the country. We get a steady flow of great questions throughout the week but it seems like Friday is the busiest day. I think alot of horse owners are like me, busy with job/family and trying to get everything done during the week so we make our trips to the feed store on Friday evening or Saturday. I think if horseowners are contemplating a change or have a question about feeding a specific horse, they want to have the information before they go to the feed store on Saturday so we get the calls on Friday. That's fine with us, keep those calls and e-mails coming, we're always happy to help out. If you have a feed or nutrition question, you can always contact us through 800-207-8941 or e-mail us through our website at htpp:// Our customer service team, Dawn, Beverly and Pat are well trained and happy to help animal owners of all types find the best nutritional solution for their animals. If you have a horse-specific more technical nutrition question, they will forward you through to me. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The visitors we had earlier this week had a chance to see all of the horse feed products we have to offer. When the visitors leave, the products come down to the horse unit where our horses get to indulge on the samples!

Another Day at the Farm

One of the things I enjoy most about working for Purina at their research farm is simply that; working on the farm. I think many people associate Purina with other big corporate giants and do not grasp our agricultural heritage. This picture was taken from my office window. We turned horses out on it last week after they had finished cutting and baling the hay for the beef department. This pasture has been used in some capacity for over 80 years here at the farm. We understand our customers because we live the same lifestyle they do!

Morning at Longview

6:45 am. I really love to arrive early for work here at Longview. Even though it is still early the crew is already heading out to feed all of the animals. But still there is a peacefulness about it, and it offers me a great opportunity to think about the day ahead and make plans for how I will get everything done. I also wonder what will happen today because everyday is different here.

We are weaning at the farm, so I expect that in an hour or so I will begin to hear some whinnies from the pasture behind my office where the mares are brought. We like to do our weaning slowly, removing one mare at a time from the group, leaving the foals where they have been since birth - in familiar surroundings. Very low stress for the foals (just the way I like it) - many don't realize mama is gone until it is time to go back into the stall for the night but by then they are pretty mellow about the whole thing. The pasture where the mares are taken to is a considerable distance from the barns so whatever noise they make doesn't travel and they don't hear the foals calling in return. After about an hour or so all is quiet again.
Looks like another great early summer day here at the research farm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mineral or Salt??

I was at a cutting horse show last weekend and was asked a good question that I thought might be of interest to other horse owners. The question was, "If I have good pasture and mature horses that aren't being ridden very much, do I need to give them anything other than a trace mineral block? The answer is, Yes. Check the label on your trace mineral (TM) block...they are 98% salt in most cases. If it is hard as a salt block, it is a salt block. TM salt blocks have trace amounts of trace minerals, they don't have macrominerals like calcium or phosphorus and they only have enough of the trace minerals like copper and zinc, to make them red or brown. A horse can't eat enough of one of these blocks in a day to meet their mineral requirements or make up the difference between requirements and what pasture provides. So, if you have a horse that is not growing, working, reproducing or lactating and pasture is keeping them in good shape, they still need at least a true mineral source, Purina FreeBalance Horse Mineral being a great one. FreeBalance mineral is 95% mineral. You can easily tell the difference between it and a TM salt block, similar in color but FreeBalance is a softer block because it is only 5% salt, you are paying for mineral, not salt with these blocks. FreeBalance is also available in a loose form if you prefer. Now, free-choice mineral (along with a regular salt block) is a much better option than no mineral or a TM salt block, but if you really want to be sure that your horses eat every day exactly what they need, check into Purina Nature's Essentials Enrich 12 or Enrich 32. Enrich 12 if your pasture is great quality or you are feeding alfalfa hay, Enrich 32 if your pasture is marginal quality or you are feeding grass hay. These are concentrated "forage balancers" that meet nutritional requirements when fed at 1 - 2 lbs per day. Because of the low feeding rate, they don't contribute a significant amount of calories but they provide much more nutrition than if you fed 1 - 2 lbs of oats or even of a very well balanced feed (most feeds are formulated to be fed at a minimum of 3 - 6 lbs per day). When you feed a low amount these feeds, you are shorting the nutrition. With Enrich products you can meet the nutrition without excess calories. So, for your pasture ornaments that maintain good condition on hay or pasture alone, provide a true mineral source along with a regular salt block and access to clean water.

Welcome to our farm!

This week, our horse group hosted an equine nutrition conference for horse owners at LongView Animal Nutrition Center, which is our research farm in Gray Summit, MO. I really enjoy these events, because I get to meet so many interesting and successful horse professionals who have been personally invited by one of our Equine Specialists to attend. I also love the opportunity it gives us to “show off” our facilities and our people! I realize that it is probably impossible for most people to truly understand the level of commitment that Purina has to making exceptional horse feed….until they come to the research farm. I think that once someone actually sees first-hand what goes on “behind the scenes”, the immense amount of time and energy that goes into making our feed becomes obvious. Since we’d never be able to have every single horse owner in the country come to the farm in person, the entire purpose of this research blog is to serve as your personal “behind the scenes” view of our you can get a feel for our daily activities and our commitment to “do best by the horse” in all things.

If you were at our LongView conference this week, your daily agenda would have included the following lectures by our experts:

  • Ingredients and Process Research
  • Feed Quality
  • Equine Reproduction and Growth
  • Equine Sports Nutrition (this was my lecture topic)
  • Equine Digestive Physiology
  • Body Condition Scoring

In addition, you would taken a farm tour and seen our:

  • Horse palatability lab
  • Exercise physiology equipment, including a demo by one of our treadmill horses
  • Herd of 70+ research horses of all ages
  • Veterinary services lab
  • Dairy, beef, and other species research units

It’s hard work putting this type of event together, but totally worth it. I hope that as time goes on, you will understand and appreiciate that we take equine nutrition research seriously at Purina. Stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Research Reality....for today

What is neat about this blog is that all of our followers can see first hand all the great research we are working on at Purina. But my day today didn't really involve exciting hands on work. It instead involved reading literature about digestibility of feedstuffs in horses. This picture on the left shows a small portion of some of the heavy reading I did. Digestibility in horses can be a tricky thing. We have done some very extensive and detailed trials at Purina measuring exactly what is going in and what is going out of our research horses on a daily basis. We collect manure and urine in special collection harnesses and we measure feed intake to a 10th of a pound. But when those animal studies are over, we move onto the analysis phase where we organize and interpret all the data, run statistics on the numbers to look for differences and overall, see if our results match our research hypothesis. Right now, we are analyzing data from a very large digestibility trial that had multiple collection phases and has taken almost 2 years to complete. We will spend the next few months analyzing the thousands of data points we collected. It may not be exciting to many people, but I really enjoy this part of the process. I like analyzing the numbers and really seeing if something works. How did the test product really perform? Are the differences between treatment and control diets significant? What does it mean physiologically to the horse? These are all questions we work to answer everyday. And although it involves just working in front of my computer and reading all day, its fun nonetheless.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Western States Horse Expo

I spent the weekend in Sacramento at the Western States Horse Expo. Didn't realize how big it was until I got there - I was proud to just find the building where the booth was! Great crowd at the booth - lots of good questions from the horse owners who stopped to talk to us, and it was pretty busy all the time. Plus there was a booth that sold fudge just down the aisle, which made the days more pleasant.

I found out the morning of my first talk that it was going to be outside in the sunshine (with no computer or screen), so the Powerpoint presentation I'd planned on was not going to be much help. Oh well. The folks that came to hear about Equine Nutrition were great, and asked so many questions that I really never got the chance to make the formal presentation anyway! The second talk also went well, except there were so many questions that by the time we headed back to the booth, the Expo was officially closed and the buildings were locked. Luckily, we found a nice maintenance person to let us into our building, since car keys are somewhat necessary to get back to the hotel!!

Our ambassador Stephen Bradley was at the Expo as a clinician, and it was nice to catch up with him. Hopefully we'll get to see Stephen and Joshua competing in Lexington this September. I'm going to try to arrange for Stephen to come to Kansas after his eventing season is over this year for a clinic. I've watched him teach several times, and would love to clinic with him.

Richard Shrake was also a clinician, and I am always amazed that even though I've probably only met him a couple of times over the past 10 years, he always remembers my name and is just one of the nicest people. We have some really lovely Purina Ambassadors!

After an evening at home, I'm now in South Carolina for another clinic. Tomorrow will be teaching young riders during the day, and then talking equine nutrition to the riders, parents and auditors in the evening. I'm hoping for air conditioning, since it was 97 degrees here today, but if not, I may have to use the hotel pool at the end of the day!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You never stop learning

One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity I have to interact with other nutritionists and to learn “what’s new” in animal nutrition. It is an ever-changing field, so you must stay current with the latest research. Today, I attended the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition’s Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium in Anaheim, CA. This meeting was not just for horses, but for all companion animal species. It was my first time to ever attend, and what a great opportunity it was to hear what the “hot topics” are in small animal nutrition as compared to equine nutrition. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are many similarities, and I feel like I am taking some valuable information back home with me. For example, including soluble fiber in dog and cat diets is a big focus right now. The small animal nutritionists are using some alternative sources of fiber that to my knowledge no one is currently using in horse diets (so, is this a potential new ingredient for horse feed??). Also, there was a study in dogs that looked at feeding a probiotic supplement to reduce the incidence of diarrhea. The supplement used in the study had no effect on the frequency or incidence of diarrhea and may actually have had a negative impact on fecal consistency (so, do we need to be more careful about feeding probiotics to horses??).

There were a few horse-specific presentations, and they all somehow related to glucose/insulin regulation in the horse. There was some good evidence to support the recommendation I always give to owners with insulin resistant (IR) horses – “you MUST limit pasture intake”. It is well-documented that grass pasture can induce a significant spike in insulin levels that would not be good for a horse with IR. Luckily, most horses can tolerate pasture grass with no problems. However, we now know that there is a population of susceptible horses out there that we must monitor pasture intake to prevent pasture-associated laminitis and other related health concerns.

I find these types of meetings to be highly educational and very beneficial, as keeping up with “what’s new” in the nutrition world is the only way to stay on the cutting edge.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time to wean

Texie is the first foal by the really nice stallion Freckled Leo Lena that my husband raised and showed in the cutting. We are so thrilled with her and can't wait to ride her, but first things first. She is just about at weaning age now, she was born on Feb. 16 (photo taken at 2 weeks old)and is soon to be 4 months old. We don't want to wait another month or two here in South Texas because it will be so hot which would add to the stress of weaning. So, we're getting a "friend" for her from another horse owner in town that has a foal to wean about the same time and we'll wean them both together so they'll have a buddy. The way Texie eats her Strategy, she won't miss her mom for too long, she's a real Chow hound! So, with a new friend, nice pasture and Strategy twice a day, Texie will have every opportunity to grow and develop to be the fabulous athlete she is bred to be.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

He has "Riddikulus Charm"

After years of working with our data at Purina as we developed Ultium Growth, I was really pleased when my own foal was born this spring on the Ultium Growth program. For those dressage fans out there, my colt is out of a Hanoverian mare named Watusi (Wolkenstein II, Laurie's Crusader bloodlines) by the Hanoverian stallion Rosenthal from High Point Hanoverians. His name is Riddikulus Charm (think Harry Potter) and we call him Ridley!