Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Time at the Equine Science Symposium

Part of the fun of traveling around the country doing horse research and attending scientific conferences is passing by sights like the “World’s Largest Pistachio.”  We couldn’t help but stop and take this in on our way to Ruidoso, New Mexico to attend the Equine Science Society (ESS) Symposium. The little shop there was full of homemade pistachio mixes from nuts grown on the property, local wine and fun gifts.  I am still enjoying the lemon-lime pistachios I picked up.

What in the world?

As for the conference, we had a great time at ESS and we stayed at the Inn of the Mountain Gods which is part of the Apache Indian reservation just outside of Ruidoso.  We had a busy schedule attending the scientific talks, meeting with colleagues and supplier companies, and catching up with the conglomerate of equine nutritionists that we get to see at this conference.  If you follow this blog regularly, I posted some pictures a few weeks back, which were a “teaser” to the talks Purina would be presenting.  Here is some more information about each one.

As part of the nutrition section of the conference, I presented data demonstrating how the addition of Purina® HydraSalt® Salt Supplement to horses’ diets increased  water intake versus access to free choice salt blocks.  The use of HydraSalt® supplement not only balanced  horses’ sodium requirements, but adding 3 or more scoops per day  increased water intake and maintained a more consistent intake of sodium.  It was no surprise to find that the intake of sodium from salt blocks was highly variable and some horses did not take in enough salt to meet their dietary needs in this study.  Interestingly, throughout the work we did, we found that weather also affected water intake and increases in ambient temperature caused horses to drink more water.  This makes sense and it’s a good thing- provide plenty of fresh water to your horses and supplement HydraSalt® supplement to meet sodium requirements and encourage water intake. 

In the Exercise Physiology section of the conference, Dr. Kelly Vineyard presented data on an amino-acid based supplement- showing how it supported muscle development and an increase in fitness compared to an alfalfa protein source.  Horses on the “muscle supplement” had shifts in muscle mass and fat proportions, lower creatine kinase blood concentrations following strenuous exercise, along with larger improvements in fitness markers such at VO2 max (measure of oxygen consumption), top speed on a treadmill test and VLA4 (speed when horses have lactate of 4 mmol/L in the blood).  We will continue to keep you posted on this exciting research, as we see potential benefit for many sport horses.

We had two presentations in the Production and Management section of the conference; the first presented by Dr. Mark Edwards of California Polytechnic University (who we partnered with on this research) and the second which I presented.  These two talks explained research that provided supplemental additives in horse feeds (chelated minerals, organic selenium, a direct-fed microbial, Yucca schidigera extract and a yeast culture) to determine fiber digestibility and the effects on manure characteristics.  This research was conducted in an effort to develop horse feed that improves nutrient digestibility and decreases excretion of nutrients via manure and into the environment.  So far, we haven’t found the magic bullet to make this happen, but we continue to work on feeding programs that provide optimal, but not excessive nutrients for the horse which don’t provide a large burden to the environment.

If you would like to read the research presented at the ESS symposium, the abstracts are printed in the current issue of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.        

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