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!