Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Horses, A Family Affair!

It should be pretty apparent if you have been following our blog by now that everyone in the horse group at Purina Animal Nutrition is passionate about horses and interacting with them. If you are involved with horses you know that it is far more complex than your average job or hobby, it is more of a lifestyle. Dr. Gordon posted a couple of weeks ago about our first foal of the year, we are now up to six on the ground and three more to go. As the manager of our research herd and faclility, one of my responsibilities is getting foals on the ground safe and sound. We use several tools to help us out. We have a special camera system and a birth alarm which are the most frequently used. We make every effort possible to be present at birth just in case the foal or mare needs some help. This past Friday I had just picked my children up from school when the birth alarm was activated, I had only been away from work for about an hour. I raced back to the farm and made it in time for my children to witness seeing their first foal being born. What a great experience, they are still talking about it 6 days later! It can be tough splitting time between the barn and family, but I feel it is important to instill in my kids the passion, time, and committment it takes if you want to spend time with these great creatures. I had lots of help bedding a fresh stall for the new foal and mare.

Then we had to get a chance to say hello for the first time before moving to our clean stall.

Being able to experience these things while at work is a chance not many people get. It is just one of the reasons we all work here, and carry so much passion for the horse with us every day. Raising these foals to become future research horses and eventually someones personal horse is a lot of responsibility, but it is one we take seriously. When someone buys a horse from us for their own personal use I know someday it will be a family treasure that hopefully they can use for their own family experience someday! We still have at least a couple of late nights left to go to get the rest of our foals on the ground, but I know I will miss getting those late calls to  get to the barn once we have everybody safe on the ground!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Winter" Season in Florida

While many parts of the country are weathering spring storms and waiting for mud to vacate, the winter show circuits are in full swing in Florida. Well, winter according to the calendar anyways; you’ll be hard pressed to find a shaggy coat or heavy turnout anywhere in sight so I’ll use the term loosely. I was lucky enough to pack up the sunscreen, leave the snow behind myself and spend some time spectating and catching up with our national ambassadors.

First stop was Wellington and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Our show jumpers keep pretty full schedules throughout their stints there. I stopped by to watch the Thursday grand prix class and see Beezie Madden, Laura Kraut and Todd Minikus in action. It was a big class with 86 entries and a 28 pair jumpoff. There were dozens of international riders also in the class and several Olympians that competed in London last year; as usual the competition in Wellington never disappoints. The jumpoff was chalk full of talent and blistering paces and while we didn’t come away with a Team Purina win, Laura and Cedric held their own with a very respectable fifth place finish from a clear round in 31.468 seconds.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Timely Nutrition Talks in Belgium, Part II

This blog post is a continuation of the one below titled “Take Home Messages from Timely Nutrition Talks in Belgium, Part I.”  Read that post first to get the full story!

On day two, we had another tag team talk with Al Merritt (Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, retired) and Veronique Juilliand discussing “Equine GI physiology – some species specific features.”  They gave a great overview of the functional aspects of the GI tract, along with data demonstrating the unique and important enteric nervous system.  Overall, it was a timely review of the physiology of the equine GI tract and the importance of each unique component.  As nutritionists, we need to remember how a system works in order to figure out what is wrong with it and how to fix it when things go awry.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Take Home Messages from Timely Nutrition Talks in Belgium! Part I

I had the privilege to attend an international conference over the weekend, hosted by the European Equine Health & Nutrition Congress.  I traveled to the city of Ghent, Belgium where the University of Ghent hosted the conference, titled “Feeding for Gastrointestinal Health.” Over the two days, there were multiple talks related to equine nutrition and GI health and here are take home messages from a selection of them.  If you are interested in learning more about this topic, a well-organized and referenced proceedings was published at the conference and can be ordered through the following website:

On the first day of the conference, I signed up for a workshop titled “Dental pathologies with GI consequences & dietary solutions.” For two hours we discussed case studies of horses with poor, neglected dentition and their current feeding programs.  We all agreed that with proper and careful dental care and alterations in feeding programs, horses can be put back on the right track.  Take home message: Be proactive about dental care, especially for Senior horses.  Utilizing higher fat and fiber feedstuffs can help increase caloric density of rations and compensate for weight loss/lack of intake that may result from painful dental conditions.