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Purina Feed and Saddle Fitting Lecture At R&J


By Tommy Brannon

R&J Feed Supply in Jackson, Tennessee hosted an in-store horse information seminar on April 16, 2013.  Featured speakers were Jon Law of Purina Mills, who spoke on equine nutrition, and Ronnie Millican of Equibrand, the makers of Martin saddles  and Classic Equine saddle pads, who gave a saddle fitting demonstration.  

Jon Law gave a very informative, interactive talk on feeding horses and equine nutrition, beginning with a short video about Purina's research and animal nutrition center in Missouri. He asked the audience of about 65 horse enthusiasts some questions to gauge their knowledge of horse nutrition and found it high enough to skip some of the simple basics and go straight to details.  He asked the audience where a horse’s energy comes from. He emphasized that protein, which is what most people use to gauge feeds, is the most inefficient way to produce energy in a horse. 

Carbohydrates and fat produce more calories. And protein cannot be stored, so if too much protein is ingested, it will simply be urinated out of the body.

Law explained that Purina gauges a horse’s feeding needs based on its lifestyle, which is one of the reasons that Purina has so many choices in horse feeds. A race horse, barrel racer, or any other highly active equine athlete has different nutritional requirements from a horse that is only trail ridden once a week. A lactating mare needs as much as 16,000 calories a day, which is even more than she needed when in foal.

One type of specialty feed that Purina pioneered is feed for older horses, which Jon said is one of the biggest growing feed markets.  Noting how times have changed, he said that we used to think that a horse was old and ready for pasture retirement at age 15-16; but today with proper health care and nutrition, horses are living a very active life in their 20s.  Purina has three different Senior feeds. One is a complete feed with all of the needed forage in it. Another is for senior horses who are more active and are able to eat hay and grass, and the third is a more economical feed. He referenced Purina’s website  for an easy to use feed calculator.

Next, Jon introduced Purina's new line of supplements. 

Hydration Hay™ is a new product made of a compressed mixture of alfalfa, orchard grass, and Timothy hay. It was developed for the traveling horse that may not drink unfamiliar water and may not eat enough hay on a trip. Water is added to the compressed block, which expands. The taste of the water is masked and the horse gets a proper amount of forage and water.

Electroease™ is an electrolyte supplement that is encapsulated, so it dissolves in the small intestine rather than the stomach. He demonstrated this digestive process by pouring some in a beaker of vinegar. It clumped rather than dissolved. The advantage of Electroease™, compared to other electrolyte supplements, is that it will not upset the horse’s stomach and it tastes better. He also showed the audience Purina's concentrated paste electrolyte, which is designed with a sticky texture so the horse will not spit it out.

Freedomflex™ is joint supplement that was developed and is manufactured in the UK. Thoroughly tested by Purina to meet its strict quality standards, research shows that results can be seen within 14 days, Jon said.

Hydrosalt™ is a mint flavored salt supplement that is oil coated to protect the horse’s stomach.

Ronnie Millican from Eqibrand, the manufacturers of Martin saddles and Classic Equine saddle pads, was assisted by professional barrel racer Laurie Cooper of Humboldt, TN, who brought two of her horses, Perks Panita (Peanut) and Takin on Fame (Gabby), to help demonstrate proper saddle fitting. Millican explained that modern horses, due to breeding, nutrition, and muscle development, have bigger loins than horses had in the past. A saddle may need to have a wider tree and be wider in the back on such a horse. Shims should be used to make the saddle fit both front and back with no gaps. He showed several saddle pads that had padding distributed in specific places to make the saddle fit properly. He demonstrated on Gabby how to run your hand under the pad the length of the saddle to feel for gaps. To Laurie’s surprise, Gabby had more muscle development on her left side than on her right. Laurie attributed this to hot walker exercise, going only to the left. She said that with this new knowledge she would start hot walker exercising in both directions. 

Millican explained that Martin builds all of their saddles, including the tree. When asked his opinion on saddle trees made of cedar, Ronnie explained that the type of wood is not that important as long as it is covered well, because the tree will expand and contract with age and humidity. He was also asked about “flex tree” saddles. He answered that they will break down and pinch a horse. He said that his son had made a good living fixing bucking horses that had been ridden with ill fitting saddles. He explained, “Make a horse's back comfortable and you will make your butt comfortable. A quality saddle and quality saddle pad will make for a good ride.”          

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