Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Unfortunately, it is that time of year again...it 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://horse.purinamills.com. 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 farm...so 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!