Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is it really you??

Year end work at the farm is typically pretty crazy. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up with paperwork, and on top of the paperwork we have a bunch of horses to take care of. This time of year in our part of the country is kind of tough on the horses because of big swings in temperature and the amount of moisture that we get, so the normal workload is amplified to make sure all of our horses are happy and comfortable! Most businesses slow down or take a break for the next couple of weeks, but for us it is just business as usual- research projects to work on and horses to take care of. Because we run full staff on holidays we try to make the most of the holiday season by having a little fun here and there. In the picture above, Santa (aka Chubby) is visiting Charlotte (one of our weanlings). He brought her all kinds of good stuff including some Ultium Growth and Nicker Makers. Chubby is a 16 year old quarter horse that does treadmill and palatability work for us. Charlotte is also a quarter horse that has been doing some growth and development work for us by eating Ultium Growth while we measure the rate at which she is growing. Every horse here has a job, whether it is growing young horses, or older horses. They all help us understand more every day about how to make products that can make a difference for you and your horse. So from all of us here at the farm, Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

AAEP 2012

The Purina Horse Group spent the first week of December attending the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention in Anaheim, CA. Not only does this meeting provide us a great opportunity to visit with veterinarians from all over the country, but it is also our chance to demonstrate our support of current and future veterinarians alike. At our trade show booth, we showcased our premium Purina feeds with a special emphasis on those developed with a veterinary focus, such as our Wellsolve family of products (L/S, W/C, and W/G). We also “unveiled” our new Hydration Hay product and exclusive supplement line to the veterinary community (stay tuned for more details on these in future blog posts). I am really excited about these products, and it was great to see that the vets were also enthusiastic after learning more about the unique features of the Hydration Hay and the technology behind the supplements.

Purina has been a long-time sponsor of the vet student luncheon held at the AAEP Convention, and this year Dr. Gordon and I also participated in the roundtable discussions following lunch. Our table topic was “The power of nutrition in your practice”, and it was refreshing to see how many future vets recognize the importance of nutrition in the overall health and wellness of the horse. Purina also sponsored an afternoon session that focused on orphan foal nutrition, behavior, and care.

One of the highlights of the week for me was to attend the featured lecture delivered by the world renowned expert on equine muscle disorders, Dr.Stephanie Valberg of the University of Minnesota. She discussed the latest developments related to tying up in horses. I definitely learned some things that I will utilize in my work with horses diagnosed with PSSM or RER. There were many other educational talks at the convention, and did a good job of covering those that are of interest to horse owners (just search “2012 AAEP” from their homepage). All in all, attending the AAEP convention this year gave me a renewed appreciation for the many dedicated equine practitioners who are truly committed to keeping our horses healthy.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Common Causes of Poor Body Condition and Performance

The first step in determining why your horse is not eating well, losing weight or failing to thrive is to examine his nutritional program. Your Purina Certified Expert Dealer or Sales Specialist can help you with this process. Careful assessment of your horses eating habits and diet may be very revealing. Here are some basic questions to ask:

 Is my horse properly taking in, chewing and swallowing both forage and feed? – By observing your horse while eating hay, grass and feed, you may find that while he is taking in food he may not be actually chewing and/or swallowing it – this is especially common in older horses with poor dentition that may be quidding forages or dropping feed. The horse appears to be eating well, but in actuality the forage or feed is actually balling up in the cheeks and then being spit out by the horse.

 Is the forage high quality and available in sufficient quantities? – It is not uncommon to find that hay and pasture that appear to be of good quality are actually poorly digestible or low in certain nutrients. By having your hay and pasture grass tested you can assess the nutrient content and digestibility of your forage source. Additionally, most people feed hay by the flake and do not weigh it. There is a lot of variability in the weight of a flake of hay that can be dependent on hay type and the way it was baled. Weighing hay is a good way of determining that you are feeding enough. While it is not possible to weigh the grass your horse is taking in while grazing, careful inspection of pastures to ensure that there is an adequate quantity of edible grass present is a good idea.

 Am I feeding the right type of concentrate for my horses’ lifestage and lifestyle?- Horses in different stages of life and with different levels of activity will have different nutrient and caloric requirements. Choosing a feed to fit your horses’ lifestage and lifestyle will help to ensure that those requirements are being met

 Am I feeding enough of the right type of feed? Since most people feed by the “scoop” rather than by weight, if is often easy to overestimate the amount of feed you are providing. Weighing out your feed will help. Additionally, be sure to consult the feeding directions on the back of the bag. Most feeds are formulated in such a way that a minimum feeding rate is required to provide for the nutrient and calorie requirements of a particular weight, lifestage and lifestyle. For example, you may be feeding your horse 5 year old 1000 lb. horse in light work one scoop of Strategy twice a day but he is losing weight. You decide to weigh out one scoop of Strategy and find that your scoop holds one pound of Strategy, therefore you have been feeding 2 lb./day total. Strategy is formulated to be fed at a minimum rate of 3-4 lb/day to an adult 1000 lb horse in light work in order to provide that basic nutrients and calories a horse of that description requires. So even though you thought you were providing an adequate amount of feed, it turns out that based on weight, you weren’t and you need to increase the volume fed.

If it is determined that your horses nutritional program is adequate to provide for it’s needs, the next step is determining if your parasite control program is effective. New discoveries of parasite resistance and the high prevalence of parasites not routinely detected in fecal examinations (such as tapeworms and encysted small strongyles) have now made it imperative to consult with your veterinarian to determine if the measures you are taking to control parasites in your horse are appropriate and effective.

Once you have ruled out nutritional deficiencies and parasite issues, it is time to begin exploring the possibility that a medical issue may be the source of your horses’ poor body condition or performance. One of the most common manifestations of health problems in horses is poor feed consumption and weight loss. Trying to discover the ultimate cause for this can be a long and costly endeavor for horse owners, and very frustrating for veterinarians. The following outline covers some of the more common medical causes of poor intake and weight loss. This outline is by no means all-encompassing, but it at least can offer a place to start.

I. Medication – many medications, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and antibiotics can induce adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract and other organ systems.
A. NSAID’s – drugs in this category include: Bute (phenylbutazone), flunixin megulmine (Banamine), ketoprofen (Ketofen), naproxen (Equiproxen), firocoxib (Equioxx). These drugs are often used in combination, particularly in athletic horses, for musculoskeletal inflammation and pain.
Problems encountered when using these drugs include: overdosing, chronic usage, multi-drug interactions, and hypersensitivity in certain horses (especially to Bute). These drugs can produce oral, esophageal gastric,  and colonic ulcers. They can also produce kidney damage and liver toxicity – All of which can manifest in poor appetite and weight loss. Clinical signs associated with adverse effects to these drugs include: weight loss, diarrhea, inappetance, colic, poor hair coat/hoof quality, anemia, low protein (hypoproteinemia).

B. Antibiotic therapy – antibiotics are used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections. Commonly used antibiotics in adult horses include: penicillin, trimethoprim/sulfa, metronidazole, ceftiofur (Naxcel, Excede), enrofloxacin (Baytril), gentamicin. Adverse effects can include allergic reactions, diarrhea, renal damage and liver toxicity – All of these reactions can result in inappetance and weight loss.
Certain antibiotics, including trimethoprim/sulfa and penicillin, have been more commonly associated with diarrhea in horses. However, it should be noted that any antibiotic has the potential to induce an adverse effect. Diarrhea is thought to be induced by a disruption of the normal gut microflora due to the antibiotics’ action on the bacterial population of the gut.

II. Medical Conditions – there are numerous medical conditions that can result in poor feed intake and utilization. Below are some of the more commonly seen conditions.

A. Oral/dental conditions – oral ulcers, oral defects (parrot mouth, missing incisors), jaw injuries, wave mouth, dental hooks and points, retained caps and missing molars can all affect chewing and grinding which is essential to proper feed utilization in the gut. Additionally, injuries or neurological conditions can affect the lips, tongue and cheeks making it difficult for the horse to pick up feed and chew it adequately.

B. Esophageal abnormalities – tumors, ulcers, erosions, strictures (particularly those associated with prior episodes of choke) and neurological abnormalities affecting swallowing and peristalsis (passage of feed down the esophagus and into the stomach) can all affect feed consumption.

C. Gastric issues – ulcers, cancer, and delayed gastric emptying can greatly affect appetite and intake amounts leading to weight loss.

D. Small intestinal abnormalities – can lead to maldigestion and malabsorption of nutrients preventing the horse from effectively utilizing what he is eating. These conditions may be infectious or inflammatory in origin, or due to cancers such as lymphoma. Many of these conditions are chronic.

E. Colitis- this is a very broad term for inflammation of the large intestine. Colitis can be caused by many different things, and usually results in at least some degree of diarrhea and protein loss into the gut. This category can be broken down into different classes of causes: Infectious – Salmonella, Clostridium sp., Lawsonia intracellularis, Neorickettsia risticii (Potomac Horse Fever); Parasitic – Strongylosis, bots, cyathostomiasis (encysted small strongyles); Toxic- NSAID’s, antibiotics, cantharidin (blister beetle) toxicosis, arsenic poisoning; Miscellaneous – carbohydrate overload, sand enteropathy.

F. Colic – horses who have undergone severe episodes of colic and/or colic surgery commonly experience restricted access to feed, inappetance (sometimes prolonged), poor gut motility, poor absorption, and fragile bowel tissues all while faced with an increased energy demand due to the healing process. Lack of intake in the presence of increased energy demand can result in very rapid and, often profound, weight loss.

G. Age – aging horses can experience many problems that can result in poor intake and weight loss including (but not limited to): Cushing’s syndrome (PPID), diarrhea due to poor water absorption in the large colon, dental issues such as tooth loss and wave mouth, decreased saliva production leading to difficulty swallowing and poor digestion of feed, pain associated with arthritis, chronic diseases of the kidneys and liver, and loss of nutrient absorptive capacity in the small and large intestine.

H. Respiratory diseases – long-term respiratory diseases such as pleuropneumonia and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO, heaves) greatly increase a horse’s calorie needs (due to increased work of breathing and high inflammatory states) while at the same time often suppressing appetite. Additionally with RAO, dietary restrictions with regard to hay and dusty grains may be in place, and many of these horses must be kept outdoors where they may be exposed to inclement weather (further increasing caloric demand). The end result may be significant loss of body condition.

I. Chronic diseases – virtually every chronic disease will result in poor feed efficiency and some loss of body condition. Specifically, melanoma, lymphoma, liver and kidney disease can affect horses of all ages but are most prevalent in senior horses, and can lead to ill thrift, poor body condition and hair coat.

J. Chronic pain – the negative effect that pain can have on the appetite and calorie needs of horses cannot be underestimated. Laminitis, osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease, fractures, tendon and ligament injuries or degeneration and Navicular syndrome are just a few examples of musculoskeletal disorders that can result in sustained pain in horses and lead to dramatic weight loss. Regardless of the source of the pain, the detrimental impact on the horses’ appetite and body condition will be significant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from our farm to yours!

Holidays can be a wonderful time for rest, relaxation, and time with family and friends.  But if you have horses, it can sometimes seem like any other day!  As you know, the horses don’t know it’s a holiday, they expect to be fed on time, and you need to clean stalls, sweep the aisle, get the turnouts done, etc. all before you need to be at your mother’s house by 3pm for a meal.  For us at the research farm, we are especially busy tomorrow because we have a large research project we need to finish before the weather gets really cold.  So, it’s all hands on deck this Turkey Day as our dedicated and passionate crew take care of the regular farm duties while also measuring hay, grain, water and supplement intake twice per day for our horses on specific trials.  But overall, it is not that bad.  After all, Thanksgiving is about remembering what we are grateful for and working with horses on a daily basis certainly tops our list.  We are grateful that we have the ability to know these great animals and develop products to support their health and well-being.  So Happy Thanksgiving from our working farm to yours, may you get your chores done in time to eat plenty of turkey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Winterize Your Horse!

As winter approaches and temperatures drop, horse owners need to consider how to winterize their horses. During the cold season, horse owners must make sure that their animals receive proper feed, water and shelter to stay healthy and comfortable.


Many horse owners believe that when the weather is cold, horses need to be fed rations containing more corn, because they think of corn as a heating feed. However, corn and other cereal grains do not cause the horse to become warmer, they simply provide more energy (calories) to the horse. Hay, which contains more fiber than grain, provides more of a warming effect internally, as more heat is released during the digestion of fiber than of starch from grain. Therefore, horses are more able to maintain body heat if adequate hay is provided in the diet. Further, good quality hay is important during cool weather and winter months when pasture grasses are short or are not growing. Horses need at least 1% of their body weight per day in roughages to maintain a healthy GI tract, but 2% or even more may be appropriate during cold weather, especially when the horse lives outdoors.

Although grain does not provide as much internal warming effect as hay, it is often necessary to increase a horse’s concentrate feed to boost calorie supplies. Cold temperatures increase the amount of calories a horse needs to maintain body weight, as well as support activity or production. Because a horse may digest feed less efficiently as the temperature drops below the horse's comfort zone, additional feed may be required to maintain body weight and condition. It is important to maintain the horse in a body condition score of 5-6 (moderate to moderately fleshy) because a layer of fat under the skin provides insulation against the cold. Further, horses in moderately fleshy condition require less dietary energy for maintenance in cold weather than thin horses. In general, feeding an additional 1/4 lb of grain per 100 lb body weight to nonworking horses will provide adequate calories during cold, windy and wet weather. Working horses may require up to an additional 1/2 lb per 100 lb body weight, depending on workload, to maintain body weight during cold weather. Higher calorie feeds such as Purina Ultium, Strategy, or Omolene #200 or #500 may be especially helpful in these situations.

Senior horses, which may be unable to chew hay completely due to poor teeth and suffer from less efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients, need a feed specifically designed for them such as Equine Senior especially during winter months. Equine Senior contains enough roughage and added fat to ensure that the older horse can meet its fiber and calorie requirements without depending on long-stemmed hay or grass.


Water should always be readily available to the horse. Ideally, the water temperature should be between 45 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If water is too cold, the horse may drink less, thereby decreasing water and lubrication in the gut and increasing the chance of impaction-induced colic. Further, if the horse drinks less water, it may also eat less feed, resulting in loss of body weight and condition. Finally, if a horse is forced to drink very cold water, its energy requirement will increase, because more calories are required to warm the water to body temperature inside the digestive tract.


Another consideration in cold weather horse care is housing or shelter. In general, even in cold climates, horses are happier and possibly healthier outdoors. Closed and heated barns are often inadequately ventilated. Horses living in poorly ventilated stables tend to develop respiratory diseases more often than horses maintained in pastures, even during cold weather.

If given the opportunity, horses adjust to cold temperatures with little difficulty. A horse's comfort zone is very different from that of a person. In the absence of wind or moisture, horses tolerate temperatures down to near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and even colder if shelter is available. Horses living outside should have access to adequate shelter from wind, sleet and storms. Trees, brush, or an open-sided shed or stable can provide adequate shelter. In severe cold, horses will group together to share body heat. They may all take a brisk run to increase heat production, and then come back together to share the increased warmth. A long thick coat of hair is an excellent insulator and is the horse's first line of defense against cold temperatures. Horses that live outdoors during the winter should be allowed to grow a natural, full winter coat. Horses that live indoors will need adequate blankets in the cold weather to ensure that they do not get too cold.

With sufficient thought and care by the horse owner, even horses that live outside in very cold climates will survive quite well during the cold winter months.  And now, everybody go enjoy the cold!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reporting From Congress

There doesn’t seem to be much of an off-season for horse owners. Horses keep us on our toes at all times, watching for changes due to age, variations in activity levels, unavoidable and unexpected changes in their environments, or just the general turning of the seasons.  Competition and hardworking horses have the added challenge of managing these factors with an added layer of performance expectations.  Not providing much of a retreat, fall and winter are no exception because though the days may be getting shorter, they bring with them a slew of high-profile horse shows and competitions.
Recently wrapped in Columbus, OH was the 2012 All-American Quarter Horse Congress. Estimated to be the largest breed show of the year, the Congress serves as a warm-up for some before they head to the AQHA World Show later in the year. Spectators can watch horses of all ages in a large variety of disciplines in over 25 days of classes. Purina has participated as an exhibitor for several years at the Congress and we were back again this year with an early bird preview of our new line of products you’ll be seeing at your nearest dealer in the coming months.
Being at large events like these is a great opportunity for Purina to not just showcase our products but to also connect with our consumers. For three weeks we got the chance to talk to horse owners of all walks of life, to share their success stories, and to hear about their newest barn occupants. Perhaps the biggest reward is getting the opportunity to talk with horse owners about their challenges and answer their nutrition questions.
We encountered a wide variety of questions about how to properly feed and care for the ultimate easy keepers, insulin resistors, endearing seniors, yearling investments, injured reserve athletes, blue ribbon superstars, and even just the average horse.
As if horses themselves don’t give us enough to keep an eye on, a varying hay market across the country gives owners an X-factor to consider in their feeding programs. Great hay, poor hay, expensive hay or no hay, forage can’t go unaddressed. For virtually each of these scenarios, you guessed it, we have a way to help and are here to do so. We can recommend products and assist with managing changes to the feeding programs, equipping owners with the necessary information to be successful. We like to think of ourselves as more than a feed company, we are also a resource to help horse owners with their trials and tribulations. So whether you’re hunkering down for winter with your longtime equine or loading up for the next end-of-the-season show with your latest purchase, we have a nationwide team of dealers and specialists here to help. How do you find us? You can check out our online dealer locator for the nearest Purina Dealer, contact us at 1-800-227-8941, or submit your questions on our Purina Horse Feed Facebook page. If you like a more personal touch, we invite you to stop by and see us at any number of events we’re at throughout the year, including:
2012 NRHA Futurity, November 29 – December 1
2012 Wrangler NFR / Cowboy Christmas Show, December 6–15
2012 NCHA Futurity, December 15
To find more events, click here.
Congratulations to all our customers who participated at this year’s Quarter Horse Congress and a special shout out to Shawn Flarida and High Point Performance Horses for their many accolades. Xtra Quarter Horses’ Wimpy’s Little Step had a good showing in spirit as his offsprings’ earnings at Congress helped push him over the $4 million mark. This is just one stop on a year-long road and we’ll be here every step of the way!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Role of Antioxidants

We know antioxidants are important for health, but few people really know what they are or what they do. Simply put, antioxidants fight free radicals. So what are free radicals? Think back to your high school science class. Somewhere between memorizing the periodic table and blowing up chemistry beakers, you probably learned that cells are made up of molecules that have an even number of paired electrons. Sometimes, however, a molecule will end up with an odd, unpaired electron that makes it unstable and reactive — a free radical.
The free radical’s unpaired electron tries to “steal” an electron from other molecules, setting up a chain reaction that continues to produce more and more free radicals. The immune system may utilize free radicals to neutralize viruses and bacteria, so in some cases free radicals can be helpful. But when free radical production becomes excessive, damage to cells and body tissues can occur.
Free radical damage occurs with age, stress and environmental pollution. Unchecked, free radicals in the system cause wear and tear on organs and body functions. Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, E and C, and the mineral selenium, protect the body against the destructive effects of free radicals by acting as free radical scavengers. They donate one of their electrons to the free radicals, stopping electron “stealing” reactions and helping to prevent cell and tissue damage.
Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. According to the newly published National Research Council (NRC) Nutrient Requirement of Horses, the vitamin E requirement for horses has not changed since 1989. (See sidebar.) Some research suggests that extremely hardworking horses, such as those running endurance races, might benefit from dietary vitamin E levels as high as 5,000 IU/day. This has not been well duplicated in other studies, but there are no reported adverse effects to intakes in that range. Most research supports the recommendation of 0.9 to 1.0 IU/lb of body weight for hardworking horses. But, for horses exhibiting some muscle stiffness or elevated muscle enzymes, the higher level may be of some benefit.
The concentration of naturally occurring vitamin E varies considerably in typical feeds for horses. Fresh forages and immature harvested forages contain the highest concentrations of vitamin E, ranging from 15 to 50 IU/lb. Grains, such as oats and corn, tend to have lower concentrations, from 10 to 15 IU/lb. A diet of fresh pasture containing 50 IU/lb of vitamin E would well meet the requirements of all horses, except possibly for those doing intense exercise that may benefit from higher than normal recommended levels. 
However, vitamin E content declines over time in stored grains and hay. For example, vitamin E in alfalfa stored for 12 weeks has been reported to decline 54% to 73%. So a horse eating fresh alfalfa hay will usually consume adequate Vitamin E, but if hay is very mature when it is cut, or is stored for an extended period, another source of vitamin E may be necessary.
Vitamin E intake will vary in typical, unfortified diets for horses. Therefore, choosing a feed that is fortified with vitamin E will ensure adequate vitamin E intake. Owners should be cautious when adding a vitamin E supplement to a well-fortified concentrate, because most vitamin E supplements also contain selenium. Too much selenium can be harmful, so contact your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist for help in determining if your horses need additional vitamin E and if the supplement you are using is safe with your current ration.
Vitamin E Requirements
1,100-pound mature horse at maintenance   .45 IU/lb or 500 IU/day
1,100-pound mature horse with exercise    .72-.90 IU/lb depending on type of work
      light work    792 IU/day
      very intense work    990 IU/day
1,100-pound pregnant or lactating mare     .90 IU/lb or 990 IU/day
600-pound growing weanling .90 IU/lb or 540 IU/day

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Should Science Prevail?

I recently attended the Minnesota Nutrition Conference where Purina was asked to participate in a round table discussion on prebiotic and probiotic use in feeds. We were asked to write an abstract for the scientific proceedings as follows:

As a panel member of the Industry Roundtable Discussion on the topic “Using Pre- and Probiotics and Other Products to Improve Gut Health in Equine Feeds”, please address the following questions in your abstract:

1) What feeds include pre- or probiotics (or similar nutritional aids), and what role does the product play in improving horse health or feed efficiency?

2) When is feeding a pre- or probiotic beneficial? When is it not appropriate?

3) What steps does your company take to ensure quality control of pre- and probiotic containing products?

4) What are your thoughts on the future (research needs, etc.) of feeding pre- and probiotics to horses?

Below, you will find the answers I wrote to the questions, but I would also like to make a few comments. First, the general conference was well attended by the swine, dairy and poultry sectors, yet lacking in equine attendees. The scientific talks on enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics as it pertained to other species were informative and can act as a bridge to design equine research. When delving into what we know and don’t know in other species, we get a clear picture that we certainly don’t know enough about prebiotic/probiotic use in the horse and how it may best serve the animal. It is from this knowledge and depth of studying the scientific literature that we continue to make our choices at Purina today.

However, when it came to the equine roundtable discussion, science seemed to fly out the window. Some did not answer questions directly, others gave a sales pitch for their products, and heart strings were tugged as additives were discussed as insurance against bad things that can happen to horses. Believe me; we understand at Purina that many horse owners perceive certain feed additives as beneficial. And it could make our sales specialists’ jobs easier if we added multiple items like prebiotics and probiotics to all of our feeds and sold them to horse owners as a benefit. However, no additive that we have studied so far has proven itself above and beyond good quality ingredients and proper management. In the past 4 years, we have spent over $400,000 on this type of research and we continue to look for feed additives that have a specific, measureable effect that improves the health of the horse. In addition, we focus each day on making feed that we know is healthful for horses. We go above and beyond with our FeedGuard Nutrition System including ingredient choice and quality, testing of incoming ingredients, ionophore free manufacturing systems and more. These steps we take and the formulations we create are designed to make a real difference.

The abstract:

Improving Gut Health with Equine Feed Additives… Are We There Yet?

Mary Beth Gordon, Ph.D., Director of Equine Research and New Product Development, Purina Animal Nutrition

Currently, no feeds manufactured for the Purina Animal Nutrition line of horse feeds contain pre- or probiotics or similar nutritional aids. Purina is currently researching the use of pre/probiotics and other digestive aids, but we require much stronger data supporting their use before adding them to our horse feeds. As with a lot of nutritional research, studies contradict each other in the results and implications of feeding these additives. For example, with yeast culture (prebiotic) research, Purina recently conducted an in-depth digestibility study that demonstrated no benefit in apparent digestibility of DM, ADF or NDF from the inclusion of yeast culture in the diet of mature horses (data under review, JAS). These results agree with the work reported by Hall, (1990); Markey, (2006) and Webb, (1985) who reported no significant differences of apparent digestibility of nutrients by mature horses, 3 year olds, or yearlings, respectively. Conversely, a series of experiments performed by Glade (1986, 1990, 1991) and Jouany (2008) suggested some benefits of yeast supplementation, including increased rate of gain in foals and improved fiber digestibility. Therefore, if research is equivocal across studies (NRC, 2007) should it automatically be added to feed? The answer for us is multi-factorial, but stems around more research, cost and need. Obviously, more persuasive data would help, but if it is going to add significant cost to a feed and horses generally may not need supplementation, why add it? Another point to make is how research is used to justify a need. Several companies cite the work of Medina (2002) that demonstrated a decrease in expected hindgut acidosis of horses fed very high starch diets along with S. cerevisiae supplementation. It is important to point out that the high starch diet in this study was fed at a rate of 3.4g starch/kg BW, which is within the suggested upper limit for starch overload of ~2.0-4.0g starch/kg BW (NRC, 2007). In reality, a horse would need to eat approximately 12 lbs of Omolene 200 in one meal to provide a similar amount of starch, which is at least twice the recommended feeding rate for one meal. One could also argue that feeding yeast culture to help a horse fed meals too high in starch is not a good solution. Changing other nutritional or management factors such as feeding a feed higher in fat/fiber and lower in starch, and/or feeding smaller meals, will be of more benefit to the horse in terms of decreasing the risk of hindgut acidosis. Therefore, due to the conflict in reported data on the efficacy of yeast culture, and other nutrition and management factors that may be more beneficial to the horse (i.e. feeding more digestible or different feedstuffs to begin with), we do not include yeast culture in our feeds at this time.

Direct fed microbials (DFMs/probiotics) are designed to provide live colonies of lactic acid and other bacteria for improved gut or animal health. However, the issue of product viability must be addressed first as there is questionable quality of commercial products when only 2 of 13 products tested met label claims in research conducted by Weese, (2002). Recent research demonstrated no benefit of DFMs on gastrointestinal microflora, cortisol response to transport stress, or antibody response (Saul, 2012). Further, the author of this study communicated that multiple commercial products claiming to have live cultures were found to be sterile upon culture testing. Therefore, work must be done and validated to ensure that products contain the live colonies claimed on labels. Once a viable organism is found, questions then need to be answered around both the proper inclusion rate in a feed and the organism’s survival during storage and manufacturing processes. If the product passes this test, in vitro and in vivo experiments would be necessary to determine efficacy and mechanisms of action. To date, there are very limited studies in horses that clearly show colonization and health benefit, and in fact, administration of a probiotic to foals increased incidence of diarrhea and colic compared to placebo (Weese 2005). Therefore, much more work is necessary in the DFM field before we can recommend these with confidence.

Due to lack of these additives in our feeds, Purina takes no steps to ensure quality control of pre- and probiotic containing products. However, we do have a commitment to research to continue looking at these products. When we find a product that meets our criteria for efficacy and benefit to the horse, as opposed to simply creating an interesting marketing story, it will be incorporated into our feeding programs.

For future research, the following issues should be addressed for pre- and probiotics: 1) viability and mechanism of action in the gut to produce desired effect 2) data to show stability in a plant environment and manufacturing system such as pelleting/extrusion 3) benefit, safety, efficacy, and dosage studies in horses in typical feeding practices over and above current beneficial feeding practices. In order to improve gut health in horses, current practices of feeding high quality feedstuffs in appropriate amounts, along with good nutritional management can help horses to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal environment that allows them to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients.


Glade M.J. and Biesik. 1986. Enhanced nitrogen retention in yearling horses supplemented with yeast culture. JAS. 62:1635.

Glade, M.J. and Sist. 1990. Supplemental yeast culture alters the plasma animo acid profiles of nursling and weanling horses. P 369-379 in Proc. 11th ENPS.

Glade, M.J. 1991. Dietary yeast culture supplementation of mares during late gestation and early lactation. JEVS 11:10.

Hall, R.R., et al 1990. Influence of yeast culture supplementation on ration digestion by horses. P130-134 in Proc. 11th ENPS.

Jouany, et al. 2008. Effect of live yeast culture supplementation on apparent digestibility and rate of passage in horses fed a high-fiber or high-starch diet. JAS 86(2):339-347.

Markey, A.D. and Kline. 2006. Effects of dietary fat and yeast culture supplementation on total tract digestibility by horses. PAS 22:261-266.

Medina, B. et al. 2002. Effect of a preparation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae on microbial profiles and fermentation patterns in the large intestine of horses fed a high fiber or a high starch diet. JAS.80:2600.

NRC. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses (6th Ed.). National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Saul, J. et al. 2012. Effects of probiotic supplementation on stress and immune responses in horses. Abstract, ASAS.

Webb, S.P., et al. 1985. Digestion of energy and protein by mature horses fed yeast culture. P 64-67 in Proc. 9th ENPS.

Weese, J. S. 2002. Microbiologic evaluation of commercial probiotics. J. Amer. Vet. Med.

Assoc. 220:794-797.

Weese, J.S. and Rousseau. 2005. Evaluation of Lactobacillus pentosus WE7 for prevention of diarrhea in neonatal foals. JAVMA. 226(12):2031-4.

(Roundtable members from left to right in the picture:  Roy Johnson, Cargill; Connie Larson, ZinPro; Mary Beth Gordon, Purina; Randy Raub, Riddley; Judy Reynolds, ADM/Consulting)  And for those of you that know Dr. Randy Raub from his tenure at Purina, he is doing well and happy in his new role at Riddley, although he readily admits to missing his Purina family.  We had a great time catching up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dressage for Days

It’s been a somewhat high profile summer for dressage, largely due to being dubbed the “Sport of the Summer” (thanks again to Stephen Colbert) and new world records set in London. As fall weather starts to creep in, a decades old tradition sets the stage for summer’s inevitable departure. For about six days each September, the dressage world turns its eyes to Devon, PA. A storied venue with over a century of history, the Devon show grounds hosts the best in warmblood and sport horse breed classes and dressage performance classes at the annual Dressage at Devon (DAD). Breeders from all over bring their top prospects from this year’s foal crop to current breeding stock in an effort to extend their credentials and pit their horses against some of the best in the country. On the performance side, professionals and amateurs alike converge to get a gauge on their progress and set the stage for the next training progression – plus saying you cantered the center line in the famed Dixon Oval isn’t too shabby of a day!

Silva Martin on Duvent

Now while hours of test-watching may not appeal to all, as a dressage fan and hobbyist, I couldn’t ask for a better line up than all dressage, all day! (There’s also some pretty stellar shopping like at all good horse shows). It’s even better when there are a few familiar names on the day sheets. This event was a great success for several of our Purina Ambassadors including Hilltop Farm in the breed divisions, Silva Martin with several young and developing horses, Chris Hickey and Witness Hilltop in the I1 division and Ashley Holzer in the Grand Prix classes. Check out the full list of results here.

Chris Hickey on Witness Hilltop

DAD provides a wide spectrum of nutritional targets to hit: foals at their mare’s side, broodmares, young stallions, developing young horses and high caliber performance athletes all of whom traveled in for the show, have full competition schedules in a new environment and travel home or to off season training facilities while under the same expectations of performance. We’re very proud of our extensive product line that plays many different roles for horses like these and couldn’t be happier to see so many of our customers succeed at their passion!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Formulating Horse Feeds

Different Formulation Strategies Produce Different Results

When choosing a horse feed, looking at the guaranteed analysis can help you determine if the nutrition content of that feed is appropriate for the age and activity level of your horse. You would think that two products both contain 14% protein, 6% fat, etc. would be pretty much the same feed. However, products with similar guaranteed analyses may be manufactured using different formulation strategies and result in very different feeds. This can affect the nutritional value for your horse. The most common formulation strategies are “least-cost” formulas and “fixed” or “locked” formulas. Both strategies have benefits and drawbacks. For premium horse feeds, Purina uses “constant nutrition” formulation, a more nutritionally accurate formulation.

Least-cost formulation allows a manufacturer to adjust the ingredients in the formula based on cost. As long as the formula still meets the guaranteed analysis, the manufacturer can change ingredients used in the formula. In some circumstances, the different ingredients don’t change the effectiveness of the diet, so it makes sense to meet the nutritional needs of the animal in the least expensive way. There would be no benefit to making a more expensive ration to achieve the same results. For instance, if you are feeding cattle and being paid for weight gain and a least-cost formula will not change the rate of gain or feed efficiency of the cattle, but will be less expensive to feed, then that just makes good business sense.

However, in some cases, especially when feeding horses, a major change in ingredients can dramatically alter the effectiveness of the diet, even when the nutrient levels don’t change. A good example of this is substituting cottonseed meal for soybean meal in a diet for growing horses. Soybean meal and cottonseed meal may both have similar total protein content and could be interchangeable in a formula to meet the protein guarantee. However, cottonseed meal does not provide the same quality of protein as soybean meal to support growth. So, in this case, the least-cost formula may be less expensive per ton but the loss in animal performance and growth will negate any cost savings. In addition to potential for reduced performance, there is always the potential for reduced palatability and digestive upset in horses when large shifts in ingredients occur in their feed.

With fixed or locked formulas, the same ingredients and amounts are used every time the feed is made, regardless of price or nutritional variation of those ingredients. This sounds like the most consistent way to make horse feed; however, there is a significant drawback. All ingredients, even high-quality ingredients, have variation in nutritional content. For instance, all oats will not have the same protein or mineral content. If the formula is completely locked and does not take into account the nutritional content of individual ingredients, the level of nutrition in the finished product will vary.

Horses do benefit from consistency in their diets, but they don’t have specific requirements for certain ingredients. Ingredients provide nutrients the horse needs. So, while a fixed formula allows for the same amount of ingredient in every bag, it may not offer the same level of nutrition. For example, a horse feed made of 49% oats, 20% beet pulp, 16% corn, 8% alfalfa and 7% soybean meal would average 14% protein, using the average book values for these ingredients. However, with typical variations in protein content of these ingredients, the end product could range from 12.4% to 21.1% protein. Other nutrient levels will vary as well. While a fixed formula does insure a consistent ingredient profile, it won’t provide the most consistent level of nutrition for the horse.

“Constant Nutrition” formulation is a key component of the Purina® FeedGuard® Nutrition System. This strategy provides consistent, reliable nutrition in every bag of premium Purina® horse feed. Under the Purina® FeedGuard® Nutrition System, stringent quality standards are set for ingredients purchased only from an approved list of suppliers that meet those strict criteria. Then, when ingredients arrive at a manufacturing facility, they are inspected, sampled and analyzed for nutrient levels. This is more accurate than using published book values or supplier averages for nutrient levels of ingredients. If an ingredient is approved, then the tested nutritional content is entered into the formulation system, which then makes small adjustments in amounts of ingredients to maintain consistent nutrient concentrations in the finished product. There are strict restrictions for how much adjustment is allowed to ensure consistency in formulation. For example, the amount of soybean meal may be adjusted slightly to compensate for lower protein in another ingredient, but cottonseed meal could not be substituted for soybean meal. This formulation strategy ensures that horses receive the most consistent nutrition possible, and that horse owners get exactly what they pay for.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fueling the Best of the Best

We’re very proud to say that we can feed horses of any discipline, age and activity level. We have nutritional products that can meet the needs of essentially every horse out there and if a need does go unmet, you can just about bet our research team is on the case.

Every four years, the USEF sends the top American horse and rider pairs to compete on sport’s biggest stage. This year, the destination was London not only for the Olympics but also the FEI World Endurance Championships that follow a few weeks after. At Purina, we have relationships with some of the best riders and trainers in all disciplines. As a result, we team up to help make sure their nutrition programs maintain consistent performance so they can focus on the final preparations for competition and this summer was no exception.
When we learned some of our ambassadors would be heading to the UK, we quickly set the right wheels in motion. Shipping feed overseas may seem like a relatively easy task but you might be surprised. There are several factors to consider including quantity, products, customs, shipping conditions, testing, arrival times and final delivery on site.
Once we had confirmations of the feed needed and how much, we began working to make sure we were able to deliver to expectations.
We selected one Purina plant in Milford, IN to pull all our products from to ensure the freshest product available and to also make sure all the feed we shipped came from the same lot as the samples we submitted for testing. At international levels of competition, the horses are thoroughly tested for a multitude of substances. We submitted all our products headed overseas for testing to provide peace of mind and a record of quality and safety.
We enlisted a third party to handle the shipping container as well as delivery to the host farms on site in the UK. We labeled each bag with the recipient’s name, discipline and federation and included packing lists with specific orders to keep everything headed in the right direction. Thanks to a lot of teamwork from our Milford plant, Dr. Katie Young and the team behind the scenes, some of our nation’s best were able to check one more item off their list of pre-game preparations.
We are extremely proud to support members of the US team and congratulate all the riders, horses and support teams for the well-deserved award of representing their country this summer in London!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Drs. Vineyard and Gordon present Purina research at a national scientific meeting

It is no secret that we stay very busy with research projects throughout the year at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, MO. Not surprisingly, every project is in some way related to horse feed, whether it is the formulation, palatability, physiological effect on the horse, or some other aspect we are interested in. The results of all these studies are used to enhance our current products or to create new ones. When we discover something we feel is of interest to other nutritionists (and is not considered proprietary), we will present and publish the results of the study at a national scientific meeting to an audience of our peers (i.e. other scientists).

Scientific meetings are a great place to meet with fellow nutritionists and discover what is new and exciting in the world of equine nutrition. The American Society of Animal Science held its annual meeting in mid-July in Phoenix, AZ, and Dr. Gordon and I attended to present 2 Purina research posters.

The study I presented was entitled “Biochemical markers of bone metabolism in growing Quarter Horses fed a higher starch versus a higher fat diet”. This abstract was published in the Journal of Animal Science (W146, J.Anim. Sci. Vol. 90, Suppl. 3).
Dr. Gordon presented a study entitled “Horses decrease water intake when supplements are added to drinking water”. This abstract was also published in the Journal of Animal Science (W138, J. Anim. Sci. Vol. 90, Suppl. 3).
One other fun thing for me was to be featured as part of the “I am an Animal Scientist” campaign at the meeting. The Animal Science Society asked members to send in a picture of themselves doing something with the animal they work with and to provide a quote explaining "why you are an Animal Scientist”. These photos/quotes were posted at various places at the convention center where the meetings took place. I just wish I had been a little less “verbose” so that more of my horse Roman would have shown up in the picture!
All in all, attending and presenting data at scientific meetings is a great way to stay on top of the latest research and to share information with other scientists that ultimately can be used for the benefit of the horse.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hay is for Horses

Record droughts or heavy rainfall. It seems like most of the country is experiencing one or the other. In some areas, it has been a year of record drought followed now by heavy rainfall. One major impact weather extremes may have on horse owners is availability and/or quality of hay and pasture. Since the bulk of a horse’s diet is hay or pasture, any change in the nutritional content of the forage affects the nutritional status of the horse.

How do you evaluate the nutritional content of your hay? Good quality hay, regardless of variety, will have the following characteristics: 1) a high leaf to stem ratio, 2) small diameter stems, 3) a fresh smell, 4) free from weeds, dirt, mold and other trash, 5) bright color, 6) few seed heads (grasses) or blooms (alfalfa). In addition, hay should be fairly soft and pliable to touch. If stems are hard and stick into your hand when you grab a handful, then you might imagine how chewing that hay would feel.

While visual appraisal of hay can provide an indication of quality, laboratory analysis is really the most accurate measure of the nutritive value. There is hay that looks pretty good but doesn’t test well and if you feed it the same as more nutrient dense hay, your horses will lose weight. If you buy several small quantities of hay through the year, testing may not be much help because you will probably feed most of the hay before the test results come back.  But if you buy hay in large quantities and store it for use over several months, having it tested when you receive it may be worth the time and expense. Often hay suppliers will provide you with an analysis for large loads of hay. If not, you may want to contact your county agricultural extension agent or feed supplier for guidance on properly collecting and testing hay samples. 

If your hay always comes from the same supplier or the same field, a test may not be necessary if the new load looks very similar to previous loads. However, climate conditions at the time the hay was ready to cut may have prevented harvest at the proper time or may have resulted in the cut forage getting a heavy dew or even a rain shower before baling. These things can significantly affect the nutritive value of the hay crop but may not be evident on visual appraisal. Even when properly fertilized, cutting the field late will significantly reduce the nutrient content and digestibility of the hay, and moisture on cut grass before baling will leach nutrients from the plant.

In addition to an estimate of the nutritional content, it is important to know how much your hay weighs. The weight per flake is crucial because so many horse owners are in the habit of feeding a certain number of flakes per day. An average flake of grass hay, such as Bermudagrass, may weigh 4–5 lbs. An average flake of alfalfa hay will usually be thinner than the grass flake but may weigh 5–6 lbs.

However, the weight of a flake can vary tremendously between types of hay, quality of hay within type and the settings of the machinery used to bale the hay. For example, flakes of alfalfa from different cuttings or suppliers can range from 2.5 lbs. to 8 lbs. per flake. Because of this variation, a good tool to have in the barn is some type of scale to weigh a couple random test flakes from a new supply of hay. When asked to estimate by looking or holding a flake, even experienced horse owners can be way off on how much it weighs. The only accurate way to know how much hay you are feeding is to weigh it. A fish scale works well and can usually be purchased for $6–$7 in the sporting goods section of a discount store. This small investment can be very helpful in making sure the amount of hay you feed is consistent between loads.

If the quality of your hay has declined, you will need to either feed more hay or adjust the amount of grain you feed. Pay attention to the amount of hay your horse actually consumes because when hay quality declines not only will it usually weigh less per flake and provide less nutrition per pound, but horses will voluntarily eat less of it. Lower-quality hay takes longer to chew and digest, so horses don’t eat as much. Just because you put two flakes in the hay rack doesn’t mean they eat two flakes. Often when hay quality declines, you find you are cleaning uneaten hay off the ground. If that happens, you will need to increase the amount of grain you are feeding accordingly so your horses don’t lose condition.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Helping Hoof

Some of you may have read Jamie Brockett’s recent blog post about Courtney King-Dye’s paradressage horse, Make Lemonade. A part of Courtney’s recovery included some time spent in therapeutic riding. As an FEI level rider, the choice of this type of therapy was not an unexpected one to see from Courtney but using horses for therapy can lend amazing benefits to both seasoned riders and novices alike.

A few weeks ago, I visited Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, a premier accredited PATH, Intl. riding center in southern Colorado. Since Purina is a corporate partner of PATH, Intl., I wanted to get a better understanding of how these centers were using horses as therapy. Collectively called Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT), the team here runs a variety of programs designed to help people througgh the use of horses.

It was very interesting to learn the many disabilities and challenges EAAT are being used to treat. Anywhere from spinal injuries to congenital disabilities, even emotional trauma has been addressed with the use of horses. Most of us horse owners know the stress relief an afternoon ride can offer and the muscle workout horse ownership in general can provide so it was amazing to see people with no prior horse history be affected and find success in their therapies. Almost every aspect of the horse can be a tool in recovery; their warmth in helping muscles loosen up, their natural gait simulating a person’s, their size in building confidence, even their listening skills give people the encouragement to open up or take an active part in their therapy. These centers have gone through great lengths to adapt the seemingly simple activity of riding or being around a horse so it is accessible to people of all abilities. There are wheel chair ramps modified to be mounting blocks, a full staff of volunteers and specific tack and rider gear to make sure everyone enjoys their experience safely.

Now of course not every horse is a therapy horse and each of these animals is carefully screened and tested to make sure they are fit for the job. The welfare of the horses is also at the top of the priority list; after all they are as crucial to the program as their human therapist counterparts. In addition to all the necessary feeding, farrier and veterinary care these horses need, each horse’s schedule is closely managed to prevent over or under use, each horse has designated tack and equipment to ensure correct fit and each horse get exercised and ridden by staff members to keep them stimulated and in shape. While many of these horses do tend to be a bit more mature and many are in their second careers, it was very clear that size, color, breed and age are not the determining factors as much as whether or not they have what it takes to become a therapy horse.

EAAT is increasingly being recognized for its effectiveness in helping a variety of people. Earlier this year, PATH, Intl. partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project nationwide to help offer EAAT to service personnel. While many centers have been working with members of the military for some time, this partnership will increase the availability of these services.

Those of us who own horses are touched by them every day and know what they bring to our lives. It’s nice to be reminded once in a while that us horse people aren’t crazy; they really are good for the mind, body and soul.

To learn more about PATH, Intl. or to find a center near you, visit

Posted by: Kimberly James

Friday, June 29, 2012

Big Fun and "Big Ideas in the Big Easy"

I love to attend veterinary conferences.  I always have – from the very start of my career as an equine practitioner, through my university faculty years and now as a technical services veterinarian in industry. Sure… attending conferences is a requirement of my profession - since I need a certain amount of CEU’s to renew my veterinary licenses every year (and don’t get me wrong, I really love learning new things to help out my equine friends and make me a better veterinarian) - but just as importantly, they provide me with the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues.  There is usually some sort of Iowa State University alumni event where I can meet up with former classmates and faculty and find out the latest happenings in Ames.  I also really love the trade show at a big vet conference.  It is really fun to walk around checking out all the latest and greatest veterinary equipment, medications and supplies. So attending is really not much like work for me.  In fact it’s more like a side benefit.  And another reason why I really love my job!!  

Earlier this month Drs. Karen Davison, Katie Young and I attended the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Forum in New Orleans, Louisiana.  This meeting is a gathering of over 3000 veterinary internal medicine specialists, non-specialist veterinarians, veterinary technicians and representatives of the pharmaceutical, veterinary equipment, specialty animal diet and miscellaneous other industries.  The main purpose of the Forum is to provide continuing education to veterinarians.  The ACVIM Forum is well known for providing the most up-to-date, cutting edge information in veterinary medicine and research.  The educational session presenters are widely recognized as the very best in their particular field.  So the meeting really is a great way for veterinarians to expand their knowledge and continue to develop and refine their clinical skills.  The theme for this year’s forum was “Big Ideas in the Big Easy”.

A large trade show is also associated with this meeting and the 3 K’s manned the booth for Purina Horse Feed.  Over the course of 3 days we fielded many questions from veterinarians who stopped by our booth to learn more about Purina Horse Feeds and the role of nutrition in equine veterinary medicine. Our focus for this show was to educate veterinarians about one of our newer products, WellSolve WellGel®.  WellSolve WellGel® is a powdered diet available only to veterinarians.  It has been formulated to meet the nutritional needs of horses suffering from various illnesses, or who are in the recovery stages after surgery or a long illness.  The diet is unique in that it can be administered in relatively small volumes through a nasogastric tube providing 100% of the horses’ daily nutrient requirements.  It also contains fiber to help maintain hindgut health and glutamine to support enterocyte function.  WellSolve WellGel® is also very palatable and can be fed as a slurry or topdressing.

Staying current on equine health issues and veterinary research is critical to our mission to develop diets that help horses stay healthy and active throughout their lives.  Veterinary meetings such as the ACVIM Forum and AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) Convention are wonderful opportunities for us to communicate with and learn from the veterinary community (we also attend several regional veterinary meetings and host our own Purina Equine Veterinary Conference each year in October in St. Louis).  These interactions allow us to quickly recognize and respond to the needs of veterinarian’s for nutritional products and programs.  They also give us the opportunity to learn how we can help veterinarians to educate their clients about proper nutrition suited for each horse’s particular needs.  WellSolve L/S®, W/C® and WellGel® were all developed directly as a result of our interaction with the veterinary industry.  Several years ago Equine Metabolic Syndrome was characterized and quickly became a widely diagnosed (and talked about) condition in horses.  Veterinarians and researchers here at Purina quickly recognized the need for a diet that would provide excellent nutrition in a formula that would not exacerbate insulin resistance.  After nearly 4 years of controlled research and field trials WellSolve L/S® was launched into the market.  Similarly, when the connection between obesity and insulin resistance was discovered the Purina Equine Research and Development unit went to work developing a weight control product now known as WellSolve W/C®.

I still have several vet conferences to look forward to this year. On my calendar of events are the New England Association of Equine Practitioners 4th Annual Symposium, the Purina Equine Veterinary Conference and the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention.  All of them should be educational and FUN!!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Helping Courtney King-Dye Reach the Paralympics with Make Lemonade

This article is courtesy of Jamie Brockett, Purina sales specialist from Poughquag, New York.

The life of a Purina sales specialist is exciting; it consists of traveling to all the farms in your area, seeing some magnificent horses, and having the reward of being a valuable resource for people to help best manage the nutritional needs of their four-legged friends. Last week was extra special though as I got to apply my “tools” to a very special horse, Make Lemonade.

Make Lemonade, also known as Buddy, is the new mount for Purina ambassador Courtney King-Dye.  He is a handsome fellow, a dark bay Hanoverian with bright eyes and a spunky attitude.

For those of you that follow Courtney’s blog (, he’s the horse she fell in love with in Florida and couldn’t get out of her mind. Jane Clark, a phenomenal supporter of the horse industry, graciously bought Buddy as a mount for Courtney to ride on her quest to the Paralympic Games in London this year. Courtney and her team have been training for the Paralympic Trials, coming up in June at the United States Equestrian Team Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey. Courtney has been working on rebuilding her strength after her accident two years ago (which by the way her progress is quite remarkable and inspiring!), and Buddy has been working on losing some weight!  Courtney, a professional who has been showing and training horses her whole life, knows the value of having the right nutrition program, especially with goals as big as London. Thus, she called in Dr. Mary Beth Gordon and me to evaluate and make any final tweaks to get Buddy in Olympic shape.

Usually I do these calls by myself, but since this was a special case, Dr. Mary Beth joined me on the road.  I think she secretly wanted out of the research office for a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and to get a glimpse at the horse we’ve all heard Courtney gush about. As with any other evaluation, the first thing Dr. Mary Beth and I did was take an evaluation of Buddy’s physical appearance. We placed our hands on Buddy and evaluated his current Body Condition Score. On a scale of 1 to 9, Buddy scored a 6.  This means he has just a touch of excess fat. In this case, Buddy was a little “curvy” around his shoulder and on his rump by his tail head. Other than the excessive weight, Buddy looked to have a healthy, shiny coat and good muscle tone.

Next, we talked to Courtney, her assistant trainer, Jen, and her working student, Koryn. We asked about Buddy’s medical history, his current feed program, his turnout schedule, what his routine work was like, and also if there were any concerns they had with his current program. They explained Buddy was transitioned to Purina® Ultium® Competition horse formula one month before they shipped him from Florida to New York, where they train for the summer season. The day we were there marked one week of the northern climate for Buddy, so he had some big changes in a relatively recent time frame.  

Additionally, they explained they are working on his extra curves and were excited to tell us he had slimmed down considerably from a month ago! As far as his work load, Buddy previously thought he was in retirement until he found himself in Courtney’s barn where he is being used for Para-competitions, and will also train as a third level dressage horse. This means he’s getting double rides five to six days a week, which pleased Dr. Mary Beth and me since he still has some weight to lose. With no known medical issues, we were able to then turn our attention to the feed program.

When evaluating the feed program, it is important to take all aspects of feed and forage into consideration. Buddy is out on good quality pasture for a minimum of one hour a day. They’re gradually working him towards more turn-out until he is out as long as he wants to be. Additionally, he is on free-choice hay. Pasture and hay make up a large portion of a horse’s diet, so knowing the quality of pasture and hay helps determine the amount and specific kinds of grain required to balance out its nutrition program. Dr. Mary Beth and I took core samples of the hay, so it can be analyzed and we can make sure it is an appropriate fit for Buddy’s program. From first glance, it looks like high-quality, clean, grass hay that should suit Buddy’s forage requirements. 

Next we looked at the amount of grain Buddy is getting. Currently they’re feeding him 1 quart of Purina® Ultium® Competition horse formula three times a day. A quart of Purina® Ultium® Competition horse formula is just a little heavier than 1 pound, so Buddy is on a little over 3 pounds of Purina® Ultium® Competition horse formula a day. Ideally, a horse should be on a minimum 4 pounds of Purina® Ultium® Competition horse formula a day to meet all of his nutritional requirements. However, since Buddy is slightly overweight, we opted to keep him on this lower feeding rate and recommended adding in 1 cup of Purina® Nature’s Essentials® Enrich 32® supplement at each meal. Any time a horse is not on a minimum recommended amount of grain, we suggest adding this supplement as a diet balancer to round out the rest of the nutritional needs the horse has. Purina® Nature’s Essentials® Enrich 32® supplement provides additional protein, vitamins and minerals to the diet. In Buddy’s case, it will be added in a month once he has adjusted to his new environment and the pasture. As with all things related to horses, we don’t want to have too many changes all at one time.

Overall, Buddy was on the right track with his nutritional program. The reassurance of the team at Purina helped Courtney and her barn feel that much more prepared for the upcoming trials, which will hopefully result in a spot on the Paralympic team for Make Lemonade and Courtney. We wish them the best of luck! 

For your own evaluation of your current feed program, please feel free to contact your local Purina sales specialist. These services are provided to all barns, compliments of Purina.

Jaime Brockett lives in Poughquag, New York, and received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and business and management from Pennsylvania State University. For the past two years, she has worked for Purina in the Hudson Valley with a focus on equine nutrition. She comes from a family of veterinarians who practice together at their private clinic in central Pennsylvania. Growing up, Brockett developed her passion for horses by riding and showing hunters from a very young age.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Horses and Astronauts: The Effects of Inactivity on Bone Strength and General Well-being

What do horses and astronauts have in common? Early in the space program astronauts were found to have significant loss of musculoskeletal strength and other health issues after spending time in space. Horses kept in confinement for extended periods have been found to have similar problems, with losses in bone strength, joint health and reduced function in other organ systems. Both horse and human bodies were designed for movement, and anything that limits activity can have a negative impact on strength and overall health.

Wild or feral horses routinely travel 3 to 10 miles per day to graze. Herds of horses also participate in group activities of mock fighting chasing, bucking and rolling. They spend the majority of the day in motion. This is in stark contrast to the activities of many stabled horses. Horses kept in stalls may stand around for 23 hours a day, with possibly one hour of riding or turnout. Because this is not what horses were designed to do, inactivity can have a negative effect on their physical and mental soundness.

Bone is a living tissue that must be “stressed” by movement and concussive forces to maintain strength. When gravity and activity are lacking, significant losses in musculoskeletal strength occur quickly and cannot be overcome by nutritional supplements. Researchers at Michigan State University have conducted investigations into the effects of confinement on bone mineralization in horses. Stalled horses, from weanlings to mature horses, were reported to have a lower bone mineral content (BMC) than their pastured counterparts as early as 28 days into the study.  Weanlings housed in stalls had lower BMC and smaller cannon circumference at 28 days than weanlings maintained in pasture full time and those pastured for 12 hours and stalled for 12 hours a day. Horses pastured 12 hours a day had similar measurements to those pastured full time. After 28 days of total confinement in stalls, weanlings began to show increased activity, rearing, bucking and running around in small circles in their stalls. Interestingly, that level of activity resulted in increased BMC measures by day 56 of the study.

Highly conditioned horses at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University were kept stalled for 12 weeks and walked on a mechanical walker for two 30-minute sessions every day. Bone mineral content began to decline at 3 weeks into the study, with more significant loss by 12 weeks.  An earlier study reported that short, vigorous sprints were the most effective way to increase bone strength. It was evident in this study that an hour a day on the walker didn’t combat bone demineralization. In another study, horses being conditioned experienced increased BMC when fed a higher calcium diet (0.69% vs. 0.35%). However, feeding higher calcium didn’t prevent the decline in BMC in stalled horses in the latter study, indicating that diet supplementation cannot overcome lack of activity.

Inactivity is detrimental to the entire musculoskeletal system, including bones, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. People confined to bed rest for a week to 9 days have been shown to lose as much as 20% to 30% of original muscle strength. Ligaments have been found to undergo biomechanical changes as early as 2 weeks after immobilization. Joint cartilage, which does not have its own blood supply, relies on synovial fluid to provide nutrients. This action requires joint movement. When horses stand still for most of the day, nutrient delivery to joint cartilage is diminished and may damage joints.  

Along with the potential problems confinement presents for the musculoskeletal system, the digestive system may be affected as well. When the body doesn’t move, the motility of the digestive system declines, which can increase the risk for impaction colic in horses. Confinement also tends to increase the incidence of stress-related behaviors. Cribbing, weaving, kicking and even gastric ulcers have been associated with being housed in stalls. There is no doubt horses living predominantly in stalls potentially have more health problems than horses kept in pasture for most of the time. The research shows that living in a stall and walking on a walker for 2 hours a day just doesn’t do the job.

While many horse owners cannot keep horses in herds out on pasture, the research suggests that consistent, ample turnout and regular exercise can contribute significantly to keeping horses happy and healthy.