Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays from our Research Team!

Every year, I put together some wacky Christmas card that involves my animals. But the picture I took of my pony Jackie, wrapped in Christmas lights, is by far my favorite! She was a very patient and quite bombproof pony, who would stand anywhere for some food. Some Equine Senior in the snow was all it took to get this one done. My husband also came up with the greatest byline for this photo, "Redneck Electric Fence!" Although Jackie is sadly no longer with us, she lives on in our Christmas memories and in the hearts of the many kids she gave pony rides to.

On another note, as we wrap up 2011 and look forward to 2012, we continue to be very busy at the research farm. We are writing protocols for our new projects and we already have 40 weeks of research on the calendar and booked for the new year. That does not include our 5 months of foaling and the rebreeding of our broodmare herd. Yes, we are ambitious, but we really love what we do.

Mike and I are also trying to get caught up with writing all of our final research reports. Its an important step and we struggle to keep up! Afterall, in 2011, our team completed 15 research projects at Longview, have 3 ongoing projects at Universities, completed 7 field trials, successfully helped to launch our Equine Senior Active ( product, and published 4 extended abstracts with two more full-length papers in the works.

So now is a good time to reflect on our successful 2011 and look forward to 2012. And in between, we wish you the happiest of holidays, and hope you have some time to spend with your families- human, animal and otherwise!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our crazy crew at AAEP

Right before Thanksgiving, our horse business group headed to the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) convention in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to being a sponsor of the convention and serving as an educational partner of AAEP in general, we hosted a very large booth that we kept manned between ourselves and our local Texas sales team. This is always a very busy, yet fun event for us as we run from meeting to meeting, attend scientific talks and speak with more vets and vet techs about our products than we can count! Oh, and don't forget we get pretty high on the candy we keep in the booth as well. We tell ourselves that it is for our guests at the booth, but all those mini Snickers, Reese's peanut butter cups, jolly ranchers and more really just keep us going through the long days! Below is a video I took of Dr. Kathy Williamson giving a quick demonstration on the ease of pumping our Well Gel product. This is an enteral diet for horses that pumps easily through a nasogastric tube and is a great tool for vets in their practice. I took this video on our last day and in the last few hours of the trade show, so you will have to excuse my commentary and how I made up the word "fantastically."

The pictures show our snazzy booth and great crew that made the week fun and productive.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sensitive Stomachs - Gastric Ulcers in Foals and Adult Horses

Gastric ulcers are a very common cause of poor performance, abdominal pain, anemia, poor appetite and lack of thrift in horses. The reported prevalence of gastric ulcers varies depending on the source from 70 – 94% in adult horses and 25 – 57 % in foals. Invariably, horses in heavy training or competition are the most likely to have ulcers. Foals that are ill and/or hospitalized are likewise at greatest risk.

As grazing herbivores, horses produce gastric acid continuously. Under normal conditions, the lining of the stomach is protected by several mechanisms from the effects of gastric acid. Gastric ulcers occur when one or more of these mechanisms malfunctions or is overwhelmed. Our current knowledge of the pathways that lead to gastric ulcer disease is based on studies in humans. Research in horses is ongoing to determine which factors such as diet, exercise, stress, illness and medication affect the ability of the stomach to resist the erosive effects of gastric acid.

The clinical signs of gastric ulcers in horses can be very ambiguous. Colic and loss of appetite are most commonly reported, but many horses with severe ulcers will be completely asymptomatic. Definitive diagnosis of gastric ulcers can only be made by gastroscopy (endoscopic exam of the stomach). Many field practitioners do not have access to this expensive piece of equipment, therefore many horses are presumed to have ulcers and positive response to treatment is considered a positive presumptive diagnosis.

Foals on the other hand display clinical signs that make a presumptive diagnosis fairly easy. In general, most foals that suffer from ulcers also have a concurrent illness or are undergoing severe stress (orphaned foals). Additionally, foals with gastric ulcers will often grind their teeth and roll onto their backs with their forelimbs tucked up. Other signs include diarrhea and poor appetite (failure to nurse).

The treatment of gastric ulcers is a two pronged approach. First, therapy is aimed at decreasing the amount of gastric acid produced. This is accomplished with the use of proton pump inhibitors which block the release of hydrochloric acid into the stomach. There is currently one proton pump inhibitor drug available on the market for the treatment of gastric ulcers in horses. GastroGard (produced by Merial) is a special preparation of the drug omeprazole (commonly known as Prilosec in human medicine). This preparation took years of research to develop. The problem to be overcome was getting the drug past the harsh acidic equine stomach and into the small intestine intact where it could be absorbed. A special microencapsulated form of the drug was developed by Merial to accomplish this. No other oral form of omeprazole is available that will reach the small intestine intact where it can be absorbed. The second aspect of treatment is to protect the already damaged stomach lining using a drug called sucralfate (commonly known as Carafate). This drug forms a gum like substance in the stomach that sticks to the ulcerated and eroded areas forming a kind of plug (think of the Little Dutch Boy with his thumb in the dyke). Treatment is extremely effective, particularly if initiated early.

Clearly the best thing possible is to prevent the development of gastric ulcers. There are several things that may accomplish this task. First, remove horses from their stalls. Stalled horses are far more likely to develop ulcers than horses out on pasture. Regular exercise and small frequent meals (try dividing the concentrate portion of your horses’ diet into 3-4 feedings a day instead of two) will also aid in decreasing the risk. Provide frequent access to hay or pasture throughout the day. Additionally, recent studies performed at Texas A&M University and confirmed by other institutions have shown that horses receiving alfalfa hay as a portion of their ration each day are at decreased risk of developing ulcers as compared to horses that receive grass hay only. These findings were very surprising to the veterinary community. It had previously been believed that a continuous intake of grass hay was the best method of reducing the risk of gastric ulcers. It is now believed that the high level of calcium and protein in alfalfa hay has a buffering effect on gastric juices which helps to protect the stomach. Therefore it is recommended that horses receive at least one or two flakes of alfalfa a day (divided up for each feeding) to help reduce ulcer development. It is also a good idea to provide horses with some alfalfa to consume during trailering. Finally, if you anticipate a stressful situation for your horse (competition, travelling, surgery etc.), UlcerGard, a lower dose form of GastroGard can be used prophylactically to prevent ulcers.

Gastric ulcers in horses and foals are quite common and can pose a very serious health risk. They can also significantly impact the performance and quality of life of the horse. Great advances have been made in our understanding of the prevalence, development, treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers. If you have concerns about your horses’ gastric health or ulcer risks consult your veterinarian for prevention, diagnosis and treatment advice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In the thick of it.......

Dr. Gordon put up a couple of posts about a test we started at the farm. In her last two posts she details how we started this particular test, now we are right in the middle of working our horses on their exercise program! I made a quick video of the daily workout for our exercise study here at the farm. You can see the horses being set up with a heart rate monitor so that we can see how hard they are working, then see them progressing through a workout. All sixteen horses on the test get work 3 days per week at this stage, we will increase the intensity as they become more fit throughout the test. We had rain all day yesterday so there are a few muddy horses in the picture, but it sure was nice today!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Success is sweet!

Our sixteen horses ran very well this week on the treadmill and we are excited to be getting this exercise physiology project underway. And now that all of our preliminary treadmill data are taken, we review our horses' basic physical fitness and set their exercise regimens that will begin on our Equi-ciser in two weeks. Next week, they start acclimation to their specific dietary treatments and from there we have about 14 more weeks of Equi-ciser exercise, ultrasounding, weighing, body condition scoring, blood work, treadmill testing, and more as we determine how these horses are training and how diet affects fitness level and increases in athletic ability. Above is a picture of one of the horses cooling down after a bout on the treadmill. After a warm shower in the wash stall, the horses would steam in the sun getting hand-walked during the beautiful fall mornings we have been having in St Louis. Doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Running for the roses at the Purina Research Farm this week!

One of our favorite things to do at the research farm is conduct exercise physiology studies. We have a phenomenal set up with a high speed treadmill and Equi-ciser that we use regularly for experiments, training, weight maintenance and other research related matters. This week we have 16 horses running on the treadmill as part of a larger study that will take place until the end of December. The horses are all performing individual Graded Exercise Tests that involve running for a short time on the treadmill to determine fitness level. As the horses exercise, we measure heart rate, the volume of oxygen consumed, blood levels of different metabolites and more. It is very exciting to be taking all these measurements while a horse is running at almost 30 mph right next to you! In the pictures, you will see horse #510 (aka Chub) who is a seasoned treadmill horse for us. He is being led onto the treadmill and then getting fitted with a mask to measure his O2 and CO2 rates. I am also very proud of a young horse that made his treadmill debut today named Hank. We have a new set of young horses we have been training on the treadmill, and as you can imagine, this takes a lot of time, careful attention to detail, and patience. Hank entered the lab wide-eyed on his big day, but put in a textbook test. And all of this would not be possible without our fantastic crew of researchers that have prepared the horses, written the protocol, labeled all the blood tubes, processed all the samples, etc. It continues to be an exciting time to work for Purina and conduct research to develop products to help horses. We ran 4 horses today and have 12 more to go this week!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Field study "cuties" and a great dealer.

Mike Jerina has been posting recently on his visits to California and North Carolina to check up on some farms conducting field trials for us. And while Mike was away in those states, I have been here in the northeast checking up on our field trial farms in CT, NY and NJ.

I am happy to report that all the horses on the trial are doing extremely well and the horse owners and barn managers are excited about this new product we are working on. The top pictures in this blog are of some horses on the trial- looking super.

As part of my trip to NJ, I stopped in at Garoppo's feed and pet supply in Newfield. Not only are they helping us out with this field trial, but they are one of our Purina Certified Expert dealers, and they do a fantastic job. I posted some pictures of the store and they have the cleanest, neatest warehouse I have ever seen! They do a great job of offering feed on the floor in the store and their inventory for all animals is amazing. I certainly couldn't help myself when I was there and spent over $200 on all kinds of items like flyspray, dewormer, a huge pink rubber ball for my yearlings to play with, etc. Come to think of it, I didn't even buy any feed! One great purchase was a Thundershirt for my dog, Emery. It basically snuggles her and makes her feel more secure during thunder storms- and it really works! And it is much easier than the pile of pillows I usually bury her in or the polo wrap that my husband tried. So a big thanks to Pat and Judy Garoppo for assisting us with our trial and having such a great store with a diverse, yet perfectly targeted product offering. I am a happy researcher and customer!

Monday, August 22, 2011

More on water...

I wanted to follow up Dr. Karen Davison's post on water and electrolytes with something I saw in the field lately. In the pictures above, there are two water buckets. These buckets were side by side in a very nice, well kept barn. The top water bucket was offered with electrolytes in the water daily, and the other was "clean" water but had recent bird excrement that had fallen into it.

Which bucket would you rather drink from?

According to one of the barn managers, the horse was not a good drinker and did not like to drink the electrolyte water. Which leaves us the water with the bird poop- that can be a potential health risk to the horse drinking it.

Therefore, in this situation, I would recommend two things. 1) Clean, scrub/disinfect and refill any water buckets with bird excrement in them and try to keep birds out of the barn 2) remove electrolytes from the bucket the horse will not drink out of, and feed electrolyes as outlined in Dr. Davison's article below- as needed and either with feed or syringed to the horse individually.
Keeping horses hydrated during hot weather is very important. Make sure you are not getting in your horse's way and provide fresh, clean water at all times.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You Can Lead A Horse To Water....

With more than 50 days over 100 degrees and record drought here in Texas, water intake and electrolyte balance is a routine question horse owners ask about. I thought I'd post an article with some information on this along with a funny picture I took over the weekend of Homerun, a 4 year-old cutting horse playing in a water sprinkler. This is how you survive a hot, dry Texas summer!!

Water is the main component of the body. In fact, an average 1000 pound horse is roughly 660 pounds (80 gallons) of water. About two-thirds of this water is inside cells, called intracellular fluid, and one-third is outside cells or extracellular fluid. To function normally, the body must keep the amount of water in these areas in balance and relatively constant. This is termed water balance. The water in the body contains dissolved mineral salts called electrolytes, primarily sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These dissolved electrolytes exist as ions, which are charged particles that conduct electric currents, thus the name electrolytes. Electrolytes are used to maintain voltages across cell membranes, and are distributed through the body in a highly ordered way. Any disruption of this order can result in severe body dysfunction, including heart and gastrointestinal problems, muscle cramps and impaired brain and nerve function. Sodium and chloride concentrations are normally higher in extracellular fluid, while potassium concentration is higher in intracellular fluid. Electrolyte balance is tied very closely with water balance.

Water and electrolytes are excreted from the body primarily through sweat, urine and fecal output. The body attempts to maintain a balance between dietary intake of electrolytes and excretion rates. Kidneys adjust the volume and concentration of urine based on the water and electrolyte balance in the body through an intricate hormone signaling system. Electrolytes are not stored in the body, so the amount needed daily must be provided in the diet. If dietary electrolyte level is lower than needed, the kidneys will conserve and reabsorb electrolytes. If dietary electrolyte supply is more than needed, the kidneys will flush any excess. This very complex mechanism keeps water and electrolyte balance tightly regulated under normal circumstances. However, when the relationship between intake and output is challenged, normal mechanisms may not maintain the balance.

Hard work, especially in hot and humid conditions will challenge normal water and electrolyte balance mechanisms. Under these conditions, horses can lose as much as four gallons of sweat per hour, which carries with it approximately 10 tablespoons of electrolytes - primarily sodium, chloride and potassium. Human sweat is hypotonic, meaning the concentration of electrolytes in the sweat is lower than the concentration in the blood. As people sweat, sodium concentration in the blood rises. This triggers the thirst response causing the person to want something to drink. Horse sweat is hypertonic, the concentration of electrolytes in the sweat is higher than the concentration in the blood. As the horse sweats, sodium concentration in the blood remains unchanged even though large amounts of sodium are being lost in the sweat. Without the rise in blood concentration of sodium, the thirst response doesn’t kick in. This is why dehydrated horses often show no interest in drinking, which simply makes the situation worse.

Hay and pasture contain high levels of potassium and a normal diet will provide adequate potassium to meet requirements of most horses. Usually, only hard working horses that sweat for prolonged periods need additional potassium supplementation. Most commercial horse feeds contain 0.5 – 1.0% added salt (sodium chloride) which, along with free-choice access to a salt block, will supply adequate sodium and chloride to meet requirements of horses in light activity. Horses being ridden regularly and sweating moderately on a daily basis cannot eat enough salt from a salt block to meet their needs. Providing 2 – 4 tablespoons of loose salt daily in the feed will meet the increased requirements. For horses that are sweating profusely, a mixture of 2/3 sodium chloride and 1/3 potassium chloride (Lite salt), would provide adequate sodium, chloride and potassium to replenish the higher losses. Commercial electrolyte supplements are also available, but should contain sodium chloride as the primary ingredient.

Providing daily electrolyte supplementation beyond what a horse needs to maintain balance can be very counterproductive. The kidneys will become very efficient at flushing the excess electrolytes out of the system and then on a day the horse really needs a higher level, they won’t be available. The current recommendation for electrolyte supplementation is to provide additional electrolytes the day before, the day of and the day after a horse is going to work very hard and sweat a great deal. It is also very important that electrolytes are only given to well hydrated horses. Since you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, dehydrated horses should receive fluids intravenously to be sure water balance is adequately restored.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Checking things out

I have spent the past couple of weeks going between Longview and the work we have progressing there, and the field where we have several tests happening also. Once initial testing is complete at Longview we ask people to help us out by trying the resulting products we come up with on their farms. After they have fed the test diet for an extended period of time we look for feedback on the pros and cons of the new product so that we can understand if there are any more changes that need to be made.

The people that help us out by trying the product are great, their feedback is invaluable in the process of creating a new product! I took a couple of pictures at a farm in California last week that has several horses on one of our prototype diets, the owner is fantastic to work with and she is equally impressed by the new diet she is trying out for us. The beginning of this week I went to three farms in North Carolina to get feedback from them as well. They were also a great group of people to deal with, three very different types of operations, with different types of horses. NC had positive feedback for the same product also, which is always good for us to hear.

Getting positive feedback from the field verifies for us that we have done the correct groundwork and research to develop a new diet that will be successful for it's intended purpose. It really is a rewarding experience to be involved with, when you get to watch the product go from idea all the way to the bag! It takes quite a bit of time to do it that way, but taking your time ensures it is done the right way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Efficacy of Yeast Products in Equine Diets

In the past several years, multiple sources have recommended yeast products for inclusion in equine diets for many purposes, including improving fiber and phosphorus digestibility, increase feed efficiency, support hindgut bacteria, and even prevention and cure of gastric ulcers. However, a close look at the published data available on the efficacy of supplementing yeast culture in the diets of horses does not support the claims of positive effects in horses fed quality diets that meet nutritional requirements.

AAFCO defines a number of yeast products as feed ingredients, including dried yeast, yeast culture and yeast extract. Dried yeast may be either active or nonfermentative. Yeast culture is a dried product composed of viable yeast cells and the media on which it was grown. Yeast extract is a dried or concentrated product of cell contents from ruptured yeast cells.

Studies in ruminants suggest that addition of yeast products to ruminant diets promote bacterial growth in the rumen. It is generally believed that yeast additives either directly facilitate fiber digestion and dry matter intake, or contain metabolites or compounds that stimulate bacterial growth to facilitate fermentation and animal performance in ruminants. Since horses have fermentative capability in the hindgut, it has long been proposed that yeast products may have beneficial effects on digestion/fermentation in the hindgut, resulting in enhanced fermentation and increased fiber and/or nutrient digestibility.

According to the 2007 National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses, “Unlike observed effects in ruminant studies, supplementation of yeast in horse diets tended to show some beneficial effects on fermentation, but results were equivocal across studies.” There is great variation in published results of feeding yeast products to horses – most studies report minimal to no increase in cecal or colonic bacterial cultures as a result of feeding yeast products, although a few studies have reported beneficial effects when yeast products were fed with very high starch diets, or with low quality forages. Some studies have reported no improvement in nutrient apparent digestibility when yeast products were fed to mature horses, but others have reported some improvements in fiber and nutrient digestibility. However, the reports of improved digestibility of nutrients with the addition of yeast products are most often seen when yeast products are added to nutritionally deficient diets. The Purina Equine Research team recently completed a thorough, long-term study that looked at the efficacy of yeast in enhancing fiber digestion in horses, as well as several other parameters, and the data indicated no effects of yeast on fiber digestion. This data is currently being prepared for submission for publication in a scientific journal.

Yeast products can be a source of quality nutrients, including essential amino acids and B-vitamins, so adding yeast products to a nutritionally deficient diet will result in improved performance in horses, just as addition of any ingredient that supplies deficient nutrients to a ration will result in improvement in performance. However, when yeast products are added to diets that are nutritionally balanced and fortified to meet a horse’s nutrient requirements, the additional nutrients provided by the yeast products will be of no benefit. At this time, there is insufficient data to support the inclusion of yeast products in horse feeds for benefits other than those simply provided by the nutrient content of the yeast products, and there are many other feed ingredients that provide quality nutrients for optimal nutrient content in horse rations. Purina Premium Horse Feeds are nutritionally fortified and balanced with quality protein sources as well as specific essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins to meet horses’ nutritional requirements when fed as recommended.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gastric Ulcers - a pain in the stomach

I received several requests this week for help with horses suffering from gastric ulcers. Unfortunately, performance horses are especially prone to developing ulcers because of the way they are fed and managed. Even exercise itself can contribute to ulcer formation. We know from previous research that horses maintained on full-time pasture have almost no incidence of gastric ulcers. If a horse has been diagnosed with ulcers, they must be treated with medication such as ranitidine or omeprazole in order to allow the gastric mucosa to heal. There are also several feeding and management practices that can help prevent ulcers from returning or occurring in the first place. Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to a horse owner looking for help with a horse suffering from ulcers.

For a horse with gastric ulcers, one of the best things you can do is to allow constant access to forage. Not only does this keep some quantity of feed in the stomach at all times, but also the act of chewing produces saliva which can buffer the stomach contents. Allowing 24/7 access to pasture is the optimal scenario, but if this is not possible, then the use of hay nets that slow down the rate of intake to more closely mimic natural grazing behavior can help. One such hay net that I like and recommend is the “Nibble Net”. The type of forage is also important, and including alfalfa hay in the ration has been shown to decrease ulcer incidence. Some horses can tolerate 100% alfalfa hay with no problem while others may do better with a 50:50 grass/alfalfa mix. I would recommend slowly replacing some of the timothy hay with alfalfa. Depending on how he tolerates the alfalfa (maintains normal fecal consistency, no undesirable changes in attitude under saddle), you may even replace all of the timothy and consider replacing some of the chopped forage with alfalfa. This would increase the amount of “chew time” he has, as horses usually consume chopped forages fairly quickly. I do not expect him to have trouble with alfalfa hay, as long as it is introduced slowly.

For the concentrate portion of the diet, a high fat/high fiber feed is recommended. We have had very good luck with Purina Ultium in ulcer-prone horses, especially those which are in regular work. Ultium is also very calorie dense and will help with weight gain. The fiber level in Ultium is actually higher than most Senior feeds, and because this horse can also consume some forage, a senior feed is not necessarily required.

I would NOT recommend that this horse receive oral paste electrolyte preparations, as these can exacerbate ulcers.

Minimizing stress in the horse’s environment is also something that should not be overlooked; this may include increasing turnout time, insuring the horse is not isolated from other horses, and/or preventing “overtraining” (strenuous exercise on a regular basis without adequate rest periods).

As far as dietary supplements go, most of them are untested and unproven in the horse to improve gastric ulcers.

Following some of these suggestions can really make a positive difference for those horses that suffer from ulcers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another Friday Funny...

We have had a crazy busy week (and spring for that matter) here at the farm. I found it amusing this morning when the first thing I found pulling into the farm was a lot of water in place where there should be none! Happy Friday morning! Looks like we get to dig up our pasture and try to find the leak and repair it before the sun gets up far enough to really get hot.

Lola was fascinated by the bubbling water coming out of the ground in her pasture, she was having a good time pawing and playing in it!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Funny - O Lord, Won't You Buy Me.....

Someone sent this to me in an email, and I wish I knew who to give credit for these lyrics because I think they are great. Enjoy!

Sung to the tune of Janis Joplin's "O Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz"

Oh Lord won't you buy me a horsey that bends
My friends all ride warmbloods, I must make amends
I practice my leg yields each evening 'til ten
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horsey that bends

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse that won't buck
I'm tired of trying to land standing up
I spend all my time brushing dirt off my butt
Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse that don't buck

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse that won't bite
I count all my fingers and toes every night
I feel like a carrot when I'm in his sight
Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse that won't bite

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse that stays clean
I brush him, I groom him, I've considered chlorine
His colour's too chestnut for a horse with grey genes
Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse that stays clean

Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse with some guts
This spooking and shying is driving me nuts
And while you are at it make me less of a klutz
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse with some guts

Oh Lord, won't you give him some hindquarter drive
This horse is soooo lazy, not sure he's alive
We bend and we circle 'til way way past five
Oh Lord won't you give him some hindquarter drive

Oh Lord, won't you give me a mule that gaits well
No trotting, no pacing...he four beats like h***
Lop eared and no withered; man it'd be swell
Oh Lord if you'd give me a mule that gaits well

Oh Lord, won't you give me a mare with a brain
One that keeps working when hormones are strained
The gelding's in therapy, the stallion is drained,
Oh Lord won't you give me a mare with a brain

Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse that don't eat
No grass or no hay, now that would be neat
No rain means no pasture, my wish I'll repeat
Oh Lord won't you give me a horse that don't eat

Oh Lord, won't you give me a horse with no bills
My vet and my farrier are first in my will
Work hard all day long just to pay for his pills
Oh Lord, won't you give me a horse with no bills

Oh Lord-please-make his IQ just a 3
The horse I got now thinks he's smarter than me
Well, he doesn't just think it, he's right, don't you see
Oh Lord-PLEASE-make his IQ just a 3

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse with some spots
I'm bored with the bay ones and chestnuts and such
Leopards or snow flakes or peacocks with socks
Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse with some spots

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse with good feet?
No head bob or hip hitch, no screwed up right lead
I could finally ride more than I soak, wrap and knead
Oh Lord, my achin' backside would rejoice, INDEED

Oh Lord won't you buy me a horse with a saw?
One who can measure and manage an awl
A horse that can eyeball and set a post straight;
drill holes, screw hinges and hang a tube gate
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a horse with good tools?
These crooked fences make us all look like fools!

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a saddle that fits
My arse is so tender I can't hardly sit
Something soft to my tushy and wide for his back
Maybe deep seated, cushioned and in shiny black
Ooooh, Lord, won't you buy me a saddle that fits

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fireworks and Horses

The 4th of July is just days away. If you are like me, you dread nightfall, because that is the time when your crazy neighbor decides it is time to shoot off a truckload of fireworks in the field next to your horse pasture. The first time my horses heard fireworks, I thought they were going to run through the fence. Now I've learned to bring them in the barn and turn up volume on the barn radio to help keep them safe. I came across this article from The Horse with some good tips on how to prepare your horses for a fireworks display:

The Horse | Fireworks and Horses: Preparing for the Big Boom

I think the key is to know your horse so that you can predict where he will feel most comfortable and secure. For some, that may be in the barn with their buddies, while others may prefer to be out in their pasture. Making sure that your fences are in good repair and there is nothing that a scared horse may run into is a good idea. And if your horse truly can become a danger to himself, consider talking to your vet about whether or not it is safe to administer sedatives.

Enjoy your 3-day weekend everyone, and stay safe! Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 Equine Science Society Symposium

Recently, the Purina team travelled to Murfreesboro, TN, for the Equine Science Society Symposium. If you’ve never heard of the Equine Science Society, you can learn more about it at their website. The Society is comprised of equine scientists from both academia and industry, and the bi-annual symposium is a place where any significant research in the fields of nutrition, reproduction, exercise physiology, genetics, management, and many other fields pertaining to equine health and management are presented. Basically, anyone doing any “real” research involving equine science will be at this meeting. Many cutting edge ideas and technologies in nutrition and other aspects of horse management are presented here first. This is why I personally had to be there, even if it meant hauling my 8-week old son along with me. He handed the trip very well, by the way, and check out the amount of stuff we needed for just 4 days (good thing we drove and did not fly)!

I also was there to present the data from two of Purina’s research studies in the poster session. One of the studies was entitled “Evaluation of the safety and performance of an enteral diet formulated specifically for horses”. This was the culmination of the research that went into the development of our new liquid diet for sick horses, Wellsolve Well-Gel, which is now currently available to veterinarians. The other study was entitled “Milk composition in mares fed a fat and fiber-added concentrate”. This data was compiled as part of the research that was done for the development of Ultium Growth. Dr. Mary Beth Gordon presented the majority of the data from the Ultium Growth project in an oral presentation, which covered the growth characteristics and the glucose/insulin dynamics of foals on the trial. She did an excellent job presenting the comprehensive data that spanned the course of two years. This data showed that feeding foals a typical sweet feed such as Omolene 300 will not cause them to become insulin resistant. Her final summarizing comment that “carbohydrates are not always evil” was met with hearty applause by the scientists in the audience! Dr. Kathy Williamson also gave a presentation that discussed our use of a GPS tracking system to assess the activity level of the foals on the Ultium Growth research trial. All of these studies were published in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

In addition to me and Drs. Gordon and Williamson, Drs. Raub, Davison, and Young, several members of our sales force, and Mike and Andrea from the research farm were in attendance. I am very proud of the fact that I work for a company that remains active in equine nutrition research and emphasizes proven science over fads and hype, which seems to be the norm for many feed and supplement companies these days. I know it is often hard for horse owners to decipher what is real from what is just a “good story”, because marketers do such a good job of making outrageous claims sound so…legitimate. If you ever question the validity of a claim, just ask to be shown the science that supports that claim. At Purina, I can assure you that we go to great lengths to ensure that any claim we make is backed by solid research and proven results.

EHV-1/EHM Update

It appears that the EHV-1/EHM outbreak is coming to an end. New cases are trickling in but in the last few weeks, they have all come from herds/farms that are already under quarantine. The USDA issued its final situation report on June 24th, which is a clear indication that the spread of the disease has been stopped. California, the state which has had the most confirmed cases (22), has reported that they have had no new cases in over 2 weeks.

Horse owners are still cautioned to use common sense and utilized basic biosecurity measures when co-mingling horses, and are reminded that the proper quarantine of newly arrived horses or horses that have been travelling to shows can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The cooperation and quick actions on the part of the many state veterinarians’ offices, the NCHA and local equine practitioners are the reason why this didn’t turn out to be a bigger tragedy. Their efforts are to be commended.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sometimes you just need a spa day....

Its summer time in St Louis, and its always a great time to catch up on horse haircuts! Pictured here is one of our research horses at Longview, getting vacuumed and cleaned up. This horse is also doing palatability research for us right now, so it has a "tough day" of taste-testing feeds in the morning and afternoon, being turned out on a drylot/stall combo the rest of the time, with periods of grooming in between!
Notice the stacks of hay outside the stall doors- all the hay is individually weighed for each horse at each feeding. As researchers, its important for us to monitor everything going into each horse. Those piles of hay are ready for the PM feeding. All in a days work!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More research feed going out the door...

Last week, Kent Lanter and I traveled to our horse feed plant in Guilderland, NY. We were there to make a test run of a new feed formulation we are doing research on. This is a different feed than the one we made at Mulberry in April- we have lots of irons in the fire!

As usual, the plant did a great job prepping for our test and having everything on hand we needed. Its always great to work in the plants and get to be involved in the manufacturing process from set up to sewing up the bags! Special thanks to Jim Hopkins, Gary Slater and the rest of the GNY team.

After our successful manufacturing test, the feed was shipped out to 9 different farms across the country to be fed to over 100 horses. Feed is also being shipped to our research farm at Longview where it will continue in trials with our own horses.

And for those of you that know Kent Lanter (aka MacGyver), I was especially lucky to have him in my neck of the woods last week. During his visit, he helped me to feed my horses, do barn chores and fix a window in my sunroom that had been broken for quite some time. Hand him a screwdriver and that man goes to work!

Have a great day! Mary Beth

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blog back up!!

Sorry everyone for the blog being down!

It was erroneously flagged as spam and was shut down.

We have a lot to catch up on and we will be filling you in over the next few days...

We had a great time at the Equine Science Society Conference, our summer intern has started at the farm and our team has been out and about traveling all over the country.

More to follow this week!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Lesson Horse Joys (not so much!)

Along with my real job as an equine nutritionist, I also train a few horses and give riding lessons. Unfortunately, my little lesson herd has become fairly geriatric, and in the past year I've had to give up one of my wonderful horses to a perfect home where she could tote beginners around and be loved forever, and another of my girls is now only giving lessons to small people who are not ready to jump much larger than crossrails. So, for the last 10 months, I've been trying to find one nice horse to add to my happy lesson horse herd. While some horse people absolutely love shopping for horses, I hate it! My modus operandi is usually to wait until a horse finds me that I fall in love with, and after about a 10-minute trial ride, I just write the check and take him or her home. I don't like sifting through websites and classified ads, calling other trainers and friends, traveling to try out horses, sitting on unfamiliar saddles, getting my hopes up, getting my hopes crashed, etc, etc, etc. Just not my idea of fun!!! However, unless I want to get out of the lesson business entirely (which I don't want to do because I really enjoy giving lessons and I love my peeps), I really do need another horse.

Late last summer, I thought I'd found the right horse. The woman that I bought my personal horse (Conor) from, had another little Quarter horse that she thought would be good as a lesson horse. I went and rode him, and while he was fairly green, he was quiet, sweet, and had a really good mind. I figured that I could ride him a few months, teach him to jump, and then start putting some more advanced students on him. I took him home, named him Clancy, and started teaching him the things he needed to know about being a lesson horse. Well, in the 30+ years I've been giving riding lessons, I've never encountered a horse like Clancy. He just never could get the hang of jumping. I always start a newbie over trot poles on the ground, and then gradually move up to a crossrail, and take it on from there. My favorite moment is when the horse figures out that the jump is not actually a barrier, it's a fun thing that they get to jump over! Well, Clancy never did make that mental leap. While he was willing to hop over the barrier, you could just tell he was wondering "why on earth do these people keep asking me to go OVER the barrier when it would be so much easier to just go AROUND the barrier? And isn't that what a barrier is for - to keep me on this side?" So, much as we all enjoyed Clancy's sweet face and kind personality, I ended up selling him early this year to a friend who is using him on a ranch where he gets to work cattle and doesn't have to leap over any barriers ever again, and he's doing just great.

However, I had to go back to the lesson horse search, which was no fun at all, until I discovered Craigslist!!! There are lots of horses for sale on Craigslist, and they are close to home so I don't have to travel so far, and there are lots of horses in my price range! I found a couple that sounded good and had nice pictures, and made a few phone calls. The one that I was most interested in had a picture of the owner standing on the saddle, and I thought "this horse has the kind of attitude that I like!" Not that I condone standing on the saddle - probably not a really safe riding position, but I like a horse that will put up with that kind of thing. So I took a couple of friends on a little road trip to try him out, and came home with a lighter checkbook and a new set of Quarter horse papers. Eoghan (pronounced "Owen" in case you're curious) is an 8 year old ranch broke gelding, and we'll see how he gets along with an English saddle and jumping over barriers. So far, he's ok with trot poles and a tiny crossrail. After a week, he's already beyond Clancy in jumping potential (but that's not saying much!). He's also learned that I and my peeps are good sources of fine things to eat, including carrots, horse cookies, and even a banana (I've never had a horse that liked bananas, but Eoghan was looking at the one I was eating with such interest that I just had to share). He seems to be very happy with his new home, and as soon as his quarantine is over, he'll get to go out to pasture with his new herd. If I was a better blogger I'd have already taken a picture or video of Eoghan to post, but I haven't, so I'm posting a picture of Clancy instead. And next time I post a blog, I'll include a picture of Eoghan - maybe one of him jumping (I'm very optimistic)!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

EHV-1/EHM Update

I just listened in on a very informative webinar presented by The Horse and sponsored by Intervet Schering-Plough. Drs. Lunn and Morley from Colorado State University presented updated information on the outbreak.

The current numbers: 121 horses have tested positive for EHV-1. 142 premises have been identified as potential exposure sites, of those 42 have horses that have been confirmed to be infected with EHV-1. It will likely take at least another week or two to determine the exact extent of the outbreak, but the feeling is that the quick action taken by local and state veterinarians has really helped to minimize the spread of the disease as much as possible. It is still being recommended that a risk-benefit analysis be undertaken when deciding about the whether or not to hold horse events or move horses right now. It may not be a prudent to do so until the middle of June. Be sure to check with event organizers for scheduling changes and new requirements for entry to the event facility before leaving home.

For the latest updates, please be sure to keep checking the information available for horse owners at:

Monday, May 23, 2011

EHV-1/EHM Update

Things are fairly quiet right now with regard to news about this situation. The USDA has not issued a new situation report since the 19th of May. California is now reporting a total of 17 cases confirmed. This may just be a lull as state veterinarian's offices and local veterinary diagnostic labs are working to gather information and analyze samples from suspect exposures and cases. I am attending a webinar tomorrow afternoon being given by Paul Lunn and some of his colleagues that should provide some more information and I will update you again afterwards with any new information.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20, 2011 EHV-1/EHM Outbreak - Update

8:30 am CST

USDA reports that 33 horses in 8 states have been confirmed as EHV-1 or EHM cases.

Late yesterday afternoon, two important communications were sent out regarding the EHV-1/ EHM outbreak. The first was issued by the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) and the AHC (American Horse Council) stating that these two groups and their members and stakeholders would be working in close coordination with state veterinarians to forward data on this outbreak to the USDA: APHIS: VS (United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Service). The USDA: APHIS: VS has agreed to act as a data collation center, and to provide equine practitioners, state officials and other stakeholders with accurate information regarding the incidence of EHV-1/EHM and the extent of the outbreak. This is a very important step in working to contain this outbreak. On the heels of this announcement, the USDA: APHIS: VS released its first situation report. The May 19 situation report contains the most accurate information available regarding the number of horses, premises and states affected to date. I have included the link below.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

EHV-1/EHM Outbreak - Afternoon Update

DVM Newsmagazine reports that 29 cases have now been confirmed in 8 states. The original 400 horses that competed at the NCHA Western Nationals in Ogden Utah came from 29 different states. The state veterinarians in all of those states of origin are working to track those horses and assess their current health status and subsequent movements. Here is a current state by state report from
• Arizona — One confirmed case; • California — 10 confirmed; • Colorado — Six confirmed cases; five that attended the NCHA event and one that was in contact with sick horses; • Idaho — Two dead, no confirmed cases; • Montana — 30-35 horses under observation, no confirmed EHV-1 cases reported; • Nebraska — Five farms quarantined, no cases confirmed; • Nevada — No confirmed cases; • New Mexico — One dead, one suspected and no confirmed cases; • Oregon — One confirmed case; • Texas — 20 under investigation. The one confirmed case was a horse from New Mexico that was taken to West Texas for treatment. • Utah — Five confirmed cases; • Washington — Three confirmed cases; • Wyoming — No confirmed cases
(When I add this up I get 27 cases in 7 states –however, another report states that 4 cases have been confirmed in Canada)

The Wyoming State Veterinarians’ office has issued new requirements for horses travelling to the state. The new requirements include a valid health certificate issued within 72 hours of the time of travel listing a temperature for each horse, and statements by the veterinarian (written on the health certificate) certifying that the horses are not infected, have not been exposed to and are not currently exhibiting clinical signs of EHV-1. A link to the press release is provided below:[1].pdf

The Arizona State Veterinarians’ office has confirmed one case of EHM in the state. The horse is under quarantine at its’ home farm. State officials are attempting to contact the owners of other Arizona horses that competed at the NCHA event in Ogden Utah which is considered to be the epicenter of this outbreak.

In case you haven’t heard…The National Cutting Horse Association has cancelled all NCHA-approved shows for this weekend (May 20-22). Whether or not future shows will still be held is still up in the air. In a letter posted on the NCHA website, the president of the organization asked its’ members to report any reliable news about the outbreak to the NCHA offices in order to help them make the most informed decisions regarding future events. Go to to learn more.

EHV-1/EHM Breaking News

8:30 am CST

In response to the current outbreak, the state veterinarians’ office in Colorado has issued new transport requirements for horses entering the state. Horse owners wishing to travel to Colorado with their horses must first contact their veterinarian, who then must contact the Colorado state veterinarians’ office to receive a permit number which will be required on the health certificate accompanying the shipment. This policy is being implemented in order to track the origin and destination of horses in order to quickly implement quarantine measures should they become necessary. Here is a link to the press release outlining the new policy:

It is strongly advised that if you are planning any interstate travel with your horse, that you contact the state veterinarians office at your destination to determine if any new policies or restrictions are in place governing the movement of horses. Additionally, if you are planning on attending a show or other horse event, call ahead to be sure that the event is still taking place as scheduled and to determine if any new requirements for entry into the facility have been implemented.

The veterinary teaching hospitals of Colorado State Univeristy and the University of California-Davis have closed their equine and camelid hospital services to non-emergency cases. This is being done in an effort to minimize spread of the virus. These hospitals are NOT quarantined at this time. Washington State University veterinary teaching hospital IS under quarantine at this time due to the presence of a confirmed case that was discharged prior to detection. All horses in the hospital population during that time have to date tested negative for EHV-1.

New Mexico is reporting 2 suspected cases. These horses are under quarantine.

Dr. Paul Lunn of Colorado State University, perhaps the foremost authority on EHV-1/EHM, has given some radio interviews that contain essential information for horse owners regarding the outbreak. Links to the broadcasts are below:

Here is a link to a very informative report from This story includes updates and comments from authorities in numerous states.

Be sure to continue checking in with the AAEP at their EHV-1/EHM Resources webpage. The AAEP continues to update this page with new information and resources daily, particularly in the “Related Items” section.

I will continue to monitor the situation and update you regularly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

EHV-1/EHM Outbreak Affecting the Western United States and Canada

At this time, 17 horses in several western states (Idaho, Utah, California, and Washington) and Canada have been diagnosed with Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), a neurological disease caused the Equine Herpesvirus 1 virus (EHV-1). The origin of the outbreak appears to be a NCHA event held April 29-May 8, 2011 in Ogden Utah. More than 400 horses competed at this show.

At this time, it is recommended that the movement and co-mingling of horses from different herds be restricted in an attempt to contain this outbreak. Owners of horses that have travelled to events (particularly in the western states) recently should monitor their horses closely for signs of infection.

Often the first clinical sign of EHM is fever. Horses can also first display signs of respiratory disease such as nasal discharge and coughing. Neurological signs include incoordination (usually of the hind limbs), urine retention or dribbling, lying down and being unable to rise. It is highly recommended that horses have their temperatures taken twice daily to detect possible infections in the earliest stages.

EHV-1 can be spread by inhalation of droplets from coughing or snorting from an infected horse or by direct nose to nose contact. People, equipment (buckets, feed pans, manure forks etc.), grooming utensils and tack can also spread the virus if they have come into contact with or have been used near a horse that is infected and shedding the virus through their nasal secretions or coughing. EHV-1 does not infect or cause disease in humans. The virus can persist in the environment for several weeks under the right conditions.

Treatment for EHM is largely supportive and includes intravenously administered fluids, anti-inflammatory agents and nursing care.

Horses suspected of being infected or that have fevers but no other signs of EHM may be treated with an anti-viral drug called Valtrex (valacyclovir). This drug is very expensive but has been shown to prevent EHM when given prior to exposure to EHV-1 or before neurological signs develop, in most cases.

Horses that are suspected of being infected with EHV-1 or who may have come into contact with an infected horse should be quarantined. Facilities housing horses that have been diagnosed with EHV-1 should also be quarantined. Extreme care should be taken in moving between quarantined and non-quarantined horses and facilities. It is recommended that non-quarantined facilities and horses be worked with first before moving to the quarantined area. Equipment, tack, and grooming supplies should not be transported between facilities and personnel should change clothing and boots after working with suspect or infected animals. Use of hand sanitizer and hand washing is also required after working with affected horses to prevent human’s from carrying the virus from horse to horse.
Unfortunately, at this time there is no evidence that currently available EHV-1 vaccines offer any protection against EHM. Therefore, vaccination does not preclude the possibility of EHV-1 infection and/or the development of EHM.

If you are concerned that your horse has EHM or may have been exposed to a horse infected with EHV-1, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The link provided below is to the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) web page on EHM and EHV. This web page contains further links and resources for you to better understand this disease and outbreak.

We will keep you posted via this blog and our Purina Horse Facebook page as updates on the outbreak become available.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Legends done until next year

We had a good showing at the Legends of Ranching sale last weekend, our horses all went to good homes and the students that trained them were very appreciative of the opportunity to work with some of our horses. We have the next batch getting ready for their turn in Colorado, (we send 4 a year). They have to do a little research work for us before they go, or sometimes they have to stay back to help with growth and development projects for a period of time before they can leave. Our foals from this year are growing like crazy, they are all able to wear a halter and lead fairly well. The next step will be to get them weaned in a couple more months! Unitl then rate of growth is tightly monitored, and we watch them very closely.

This picture is Kool Dory going through the ring at the sale last weekend, the student that trained her, John is leading her.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Help People, Help Horses in Alabama

As you know, the recent tornadoes in the South have devastated areas of Alabama and surrounding states. Our own Equine Specialist, Rhonda Bowles (from Ashville, Alabama, pictured above) is lucky to be alive and her family and farm are OK. The area around her however, is in desperate need of help. One farm that was integral in our research of Omolene 500 in 2008 was 5W Ranch owned by Donna Preskitt. Her farm has been demolished by the storm. Our hearts go out to everyone there. We have sent feed for horses that is being distributed, but further financial donations would be helpful. If you would like to help, please send donations to:

22401 US HWY 441

Also the following youtube link shows the devastation in Hackleburg and Phil Campbell areas.

Rhonda is going there today with the Sheriff to help catch surviving horses that are reportedly running loose.

Please donate if you can.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


We arrived in Fort Collins yesterday to see our horses before the big sale today at Colorado State University. They all look great, the students have done an outstanding job of getting them prepared and we are excited to see how they sell today.

Kool Dory was hanging out in her stall last night where we got this picture, she actually won the student competition between all of the horses in the class!

You can view the auction (and bid if you feel inclined to do so) at Superior Livestock Auctions online at 12:00 pm central time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Think back to August 27th........

It really does not seem that long ago, I have a quick video clip attached of that morning at about 5am. We are loading the first of four of our horses from here at Longview that were going to Colorado State University for the training program that leads into the Legends of Ranching Sale. This gelding is Kool N Lucky, and this was the last time I saw him in person. I am really excited to see him and the other three horses that went to Colorado this year because the transformation is amazing. The sale is this weekend and we are making preparations to head out West to see our horses again before they are sold and go to their new homes! The program assigns a student to a green horse and with guidance trains them for general purpose riding use. The students then organize and participate in the Legends sale/auction to sell the horses they trained in the program. I am looking forward to meeting the students that had our horses, and seeing the horses again.

Dr. Vineyard is a new mommy!

My husband Mort and I are proud to announce the arrival of our new baby boy Owen. As I spend time enjoying my precious new boy and losing more and more precious sleep (!), I'll be taking a blogging hiatus until I return from maternity leave in June. I hope everyone is having a wonderful spring!

Initially Cocoa Teal Birth Announcement
Shutterfly has cute baby announcements and Valentine's Day cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Growing, but stil needs a name....

Dottie's foal is growing and doing great but he still needs a name. I know, its totally unacceptable that he doesn't have a name yet, but a name is something that stays with you the rest of your life and when you're special like this little guy, it has to be a good one.

He is a month old now and we took he and his mom to the vet yesterday since she was teasing very strong on Wednesday evening. When we unloaded the foal, the vet techs commented on how stout he was for his age. Good genetics supported by good milk from mom and a little extra support from Purina Strategy GX - Professional Formula Horse Feed is doing the trick! Mom is eating 10 lbs of Strategy, 15 lbs of Coastal Berumagrass hay, 6-7 lbs of alfalfa hay every day and the "little guy" is nursing mom and eating right at 1 lb of Strategy GX since he is 1 month old now and he nibbles the alfalfa and grass hay as well. We're in a drought down in south Texas so grazing is more about roaming around and not so much about nutrition.

The vet ultrasounded Dottie when we arrived yesterday, finding a 40 mm folicle on one ovary and a 20 mm folicle on the other so she will be bred today and should ovulate by Saturday which would be perfect. We are breeding Dottie back to this baby's sire, so we will have three in a row, full siblings. Hopefully, soon we'll have a name for this little guy. Coming up with a registered name is easier than the barn name for me. I'll entertain any suggestions you may have, maybe we can get him a name before he gets started under saddle!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Legends of Ranching

Some might be wondering why we have information about a horse auction called "The Legends of Ranching Sale" on our website. The horses that we raise here at the farm stay here to work with us, developing new products, and then go to individuals that would like to purchase them. For the past several years Purina has been actively involved with this sale and has had horses in the sale. We send 4 long yearlings to Colorado State University in late summer/fall each year. Students train the horses to work under saddle, and the horses are then sold in an auction the following spring, which is the Legends Sale. The sale has many of the top ranches in the country offering horses for sale. You can see more information here; We are excited for the opportunity to be involved with this event, and enjoy the chance to show off some of the horses that are bred and raised here at Longview. The sale is covered by Superior Livestock Auctions, which gives everyone the chance to place bids over the phone or on the internet. Superior's site is; Keep checking back, there will be more posts to follow as we get closer to the sale and I will post pictures of the horses and the sale!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Manufacturing research feeds

I had a fun and productive day yesterday with Kent Lanter and Steve Furst at our Mulberry horse feed mill in central Florida. Kent and I traveled there to oversee the manufacturing of a new feed that is being shipped out for a large research project. Kent is our "mad scientist" so to speak that helps us on the process research side and to figure out how all the different ingredients us nutritionists want to put in a feed will actually end up as something a horse will eat! Steve is the plant manager with a huge amount of experience and always runs a great mill with a crew that is willing to work with us on new feeds and designs.

I always like spending time in our mills and it makes me proud to see how things are running smoothly- from ingredient testing, to mixing, pelleting, blending, packing, etc. Its nice to work with all our dedicated employees that are ensuring the feed is made correctly and with our high quality standards.

We made three different rations yesterday, 30 tons of feed in all that is now enroute to its research location. I wish I could tell you what it was, but of course, that is top secret while we are in the development phase. I can tell you this- if this product performs as expected, it won't hit the market until 2012 at the earliest! It takes time to do good research and develop new and innovative products that are good for the horse. A lot of formulating, testing, retesting, field trials and more.

So enjoy the pics of our Mulberry mill at sunrise and all the feed ready to load on the trucks! That's all you're getting for now....

And I have to give a shout out to Dr. Kelly Vineyard. This is actually a research project that she has been working on- and she was not able to make it to the mill because she is officially on maternity leave! Baby Owen Robert Vineyard was born last Tuesday, April 5th and the whole family is doing very well.

Have a great day!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nine is Fine!

Number nine out of ten expected foals arrived yesterday, he got to go out and explore the world this morning. (He thought the human with the camera was the most interesting thing apparently) Our foals get 24 hours with mom in a stall before their first turnout. It gives the mare and foal a chance to really bond, lets the foal get plenty of milk without having to chase mom, and gives their eyes a chance to start adjusting to being in the daylight. This gives them the best possible chance to get a healthy start before being exposed to all of the good stuff in the real world!

One more foal to go and all we have to do is get the mares bred back for next year!

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Product Release for Ultium Growth!!!

It is with great pleasure, that we announce the release of two new Ultium Growth products: Ultium Growth- Black Foal and Ultium Growth- Chestnut Foal. Through years of nutritional research, we have finally determined how to feed broodmares to influence foal coat genetics and ensure your foal is born in your desired color! See the pictures below of our babies, each a chestnut (yes I know some of you Quarter Horse people would want us to call this sorrel) and a black foal, each born from a mare feeding the appropriate “color marking” feed. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on when these feeds will be available in your area. And yes, we are working on more Ultium Growth color feeds- especially for grey, bay, palamino and even pinto horses.

PS. April Fools!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


We are getting into the thick of it now, there are eight foals on the ground for us. We have two more mares that are due in the first part of April, so we might get a short break of checking mares all night! All are doing quite well so far, and they are a good looking bunch! The pictures I have plugged in are two foals that are two weeks old now. We are working on getting our mares bred back for next year and it is a lot of work! Our oldest foals are already starting to consume Ultium Growth, and they love it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference

Last week, I traveled to the Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Timonium, MD. It was great to see a lot of my colleagues in the horse nutrition world and they had a wonderful line-up of speakers.

The joke of the day was that many talks seemingly revolved around trying to "kill" horses! The topics were as follows:

Laminitis- presented by Dr. Teresa Burns from The Ohio State University Vet School

Ionophore Toxicity in Horses- by Dr. Ken Marcella

Mycotoxins in Horses - by Dr. Lon Whitlow from North Carolina State University

Fescue Toxicity in Horses- by Dr. Rhonda Hoffman of Middle Tennessee State University

Toxic Plants- by Dr. Anthony Knight- Colorado State University

Young Horse Nutrition and Overfeeding- by Dr. Josie Coverdale from Texas A&M

Nutrient Management Update- by Ann Swinker from Penn State University

So, as you can see, a lot of discussion about what is bad for horses, complications of feeding horses wrong or bad things and what to do about it. The most fascinating talk for me was the Toxic Plants talk by Dr. Anthony Knight. We also ate lunch together and it was great to be able to ask him questions about poisonous plants and which ones pose more of a risk than others. His take home message was two-fold: 1) Dose Matters! There can be a big difference in a horse eating a little bit of a toxic plant versus a whole pasture full of something poisonous 2) Water hemlock is THE MOST POISONOUS plant to horses. It only takes 6-8 oz of the root to kill a 1000 lb horse. Scary.... I had read Dr. Knight's books on poisonous plants, but it was wonderful to see his talk in person and get a refresher course. We specifically chatted about creeping indigo, as it is native to south Florida and I've seen my horse grab mouthfuls of this toxic plant at horse shows before I could steer him away. Good to know this is one of the lesser toxic legumes and my horse isn't about to go into convulsions!

If I were to give you one take-home message from each of the other talks, it would be this:

1) Laminitis- Remains devastating to the horse community, but cryotherapy (ice therapy) is very helpful in the acute stages for decreasing the inflammatory response. Its not always easy to implement, but get those hooves on ice as soon as possible and keep it up as your vet recommends.

2) Ionophore toxicity in horses- make sure your feed is manufactured in an ionophore free manufacturing system/plant such as our Feed Guard Model follows. To us at Purina, it is not worth the risk to our horses to make feed in a plant that has ionophores. Also, don't feed cattle feed to horses, as this is a common way horses get poisoned with ionophores.

3) Mycotoxins- again, you need to be informed on what you are feeding your horses and make sure the feed ingredients are tested for mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring molds that can be tested for. Every load of corn that goes into a Purina plant is tested for mycotoxins- if its not clean, it gets rejected. Again, Feed Guard helps to protect your horse from mycotoxin exposure.

4) Fescue Toxicity- this is not a new topic to horse owners, but important as a reminder all the same. Broodmares should not be maintained on endophyte positive fescue pasture, and if its unavoidable, the dopamine inhibitor Domperidone given during the last 20 days of gestation can help. If possible, only use endophyte free fescue in horse pastures.

5) Young Horse Nutrition/Overfeeding- rapid growth does not appear to increase the risk of OCD; it is the overall plane of nutrition and other factors of genetics and management that play contributory roles. Resist the temptation to rapidly decrease nutrient planes on young horses with OCD problems- they still require a BALANCED ration for growth.

6) Equine nutrient management- For those of you in the mid-atlantic states of MD, PA, NJ, etc. the regulations on manure management for large and small farms are in place and need to be learned about. Best management practices (BMPs) to minimize nutrient and sediment will need to be employed and it can be confusing figuring out where your farm fits in and what you need to do. Work closely with your ag-extension agent in your area for help.

Overall, it was a very educational day and good to spend time with colleagues and friends. If you would like more information and/or a copy of the proceedings from this conference, please visit: Have a great day!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ration Balancers - What are they and how do I use them?

You may have heard the term “ration balancer” before, but do you know what it means and how to use it in a feeding program? Even though I’d been around horses most of my life, I had never heard the term until I was in graduate school. Ration balancers are a relatively new concept in feeding horses, and they are some of my favorite products in the Purina line because of their versatility of use. A ration balancer is a concentrated feed (usually in pelleted form) designed to be fed at a low feeding rate (~1 – 2 lbs/day) that supplies protein, vitamins, and minerals at the correct level to balance either a grass or legume-based forage program. There are several scenarios when you may want to consider feeding a ration balancer, like Nature’s Essentials Enrich 32 (to be fed with primarily grass forages) or Enrich 12 (to be fed with primarily legume forages).

The Easy Keeper

Does your horse maintain bodyweight on plenty of good quality forage? Is he currently not in work or only ridden lightly? Then he is the perfect candidate for a ration balancer. Many people think that these types of horses do just fine on forage alone, but this is not the case. Yes, these horses do not need extra calories from a grain concentrate, but they still need essential amino acids like lysine, vitamins, and minerals like copper and zinc that are not present in adequate amounts in forage. Even though it may look like a horse is “fat and sassy” on forage alone, they could be suffering from a deficiency that would not show itself until the horse becomes stressed (i.e. exposed to a virus, hauled somewhere new, etc.). A ration balancer won’t contribute a significant amount of calories to the horse’s diet because of the low feeding rate, but it will provide the essential nutrients to “balance” a ration based on forage. You can almost think of a ration balancer as a horse’s daily multi-vitamin (+ protein). Many easy keepers are also suffering from metabolic syndrome, and Enrich 32 is low in soluble carbohydrates and appropriate for horses requiring a carbohydrate-restricted diet.

Feeding below the Recommended Feeding Rate

Did you know that feed manufactures have a minimum recommended feeding rate for their feeds? At Purina, we pay close attention to this. We formulate feeds to be fed at rates ranging from 0.3 lbs – 0.9 lbs/100 lbs bodyweight, depending on the specific formula. This information can usually be found as a sentence on the feed tag stating “do not feed less than 0.X lbs per 100 lbs bodyweight per day”. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this and end up underfeeding their horses. For example, if you are feeding a 1000 lb horse 2 lbs per day of Strategy (this might equate to ~1/2 “scoop” per day, depending on the scoop size), you are most likely not meeting all nutrient requirements, since the recommended feeding rate is 0.3 lbs/100 lbs bodyweight. I see this even more commonly with complete feeds like Equine Senior or Omolene 400. The minimum feeding rates for complete feeds are a bit higher at 0.6 lbs per 100 lbs bodyweight. This means that a 1000 lb horse should be receiving 6 lbs per day. Many horses are fed well below this level. This is where a ration balancer comes in handy. Enrich 32 works really well to “fill in the nutritional gaps” of a diet where a horse is only being fed a small amount of concentrate.

I find that I use a combination of Enrich 32 and Ultium frequently for Warmblood horses in light to moderate work (i.e. low level dressage). Warmbloods tend to be easy keepers, but those that are working do benefit from some of the unique attributes of Ultium. However, if you fed the minimum recommended amount of this calorie-dense feed to an easy-keeper 1500 lb Hanoverian (6 lbs/day), that horse could quickly become obese! In order to be sure all nutrient requirements are met while avoiding unwanted weight gain, this horse could be fed 1 lb Enrich 32 and 2 – 4 lbs Ultium per day. This program can work quite well in many situations and is not just for Warmbloods or limited to Ultium, but for any easy keeper breed with any feed you prefer.

Feeding Straight Grains or other Unfortified Ingredients

Many people like to feed straight oats, barley, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, etc. These are all great ingredients, but unfortunately they are not nutritionally balanced by themselves. Another great use for a ration balancer is to supplement this type of a feeding program. Basically, the plain ingredients are used as calorie and fiber sources, and the ration balancer is used to “fill in the nutritional gaps” of these ingredients, supplying essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Feeding as a protein supplement

Sometimes, a horse may benefit from additional high-quality protein in the diet. Perhaps he is returning to work after a long lay-up and needs to rebuild muscle. Perhaps he has lost muscle due to an injury or illness, and needs some additional protein in his diet to help him recover. Enrich 32 can be used in this type of situation as well, simply by top-dressing ½ - 1 lb per day over the horse’s regular daily feed.

But isn’t 32% protein TOO MUCH???

This is something that horse owners usually are concerned with if they are not familiar with a ration balancer. To understand why 32% protein is most definitely not too much, you must consider two very important things: 1) the horse’s daily protein requirement, and 2) the recommended feeding rate.

To easily illustrate this, let’s take a hypothetical 1000 lb Quarter Horse in light work. See the table below to see where the dietary protein and lysine would come from:

So, as you can see, the amount of protein contained in the recommended amount of Enrich 32 is actually LESS than the amount of protein in the recommended level of Strategy for this particular horse. You can also see that the majority of protein would be provided by the forage, but to meet the lysine requirement, additional protein is necessary. Feeding either Enrich 32 or Strategy would meet the horse’s daily protein and lysine requirements, and the decision on which to feed should be based on his body condition and calorie requirements.

There are a variety of uses for a ration balancer, and many times it is the most appropriate choice for you horse. If I had one Purina feed product that I could not live without, it would definitely be Enrich 32!