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....