My mom jokes that I'm paranoid. I've always been a little obsessed with expiration dates on food; I don't know why. But it wasn't until I read Michael Pollan's In Defense Of Food that I started reading food labels. And I was really alarmed by what I found in my own food. So I started reading the labels of the food my horses were getting.
I love science, and in addition to the wonderful advances in modern horse (and human!) nutrition, I also know that it's not realistic to try and control every tiny bite that goes into a horse's mouth. But I was shocked to see that on some bags of feed, real food didn't appear until four or five ingredients in. And some supplements promise things so incredible but seem to not have any science behind their claims.
I started feeding Pennfield grains about two years ago because I was impressed with their consistency (they have only one plant, so every bag of Pennfield grain, sold anywhere in the country, has a common source) and their science. Pennfield works with Kentucky Equine Research (KER) and uses "MicroSteed" analysis that determines the amount of Pennfield grain a horse should get based not just on their weight and activity level but on each supplement they receive, the type and amount of hay they get, even the climate where they live. SUPER cool stuff. They have several lines of feed designed for performance horses, whereas other companies I'd fed before only had one or two really dedicated towards high performing equine athletes.
When I started thinking of switching to Pennfield, my local rep, Super Doug, came out and took me through every horse in the barn, and we used the MicroSteed to analyze everything my top three horses put in their mouths. And since then, they've all really blossomed. Fender was pretty straightforward to feed, but Ella is a SUPER hard keeper, and Midge was an easy keeper with a stamina problem. Problems solved on Pennfield. Neat.
Most of the horses in our barn eat Pennfield's Fibregized Omega, which they call magic in a bag. It's true - since starting on Fibregized, my horses have the shiniest coats they've ever had, and while each horse is eating fewer pounds of food than on other grains, they're still maintaining their weights great. Some also get All-Phase, a ration balancer, and some who need a little oomph also get Grand Prix Granola, which I call jet fuel. It adds power without koo-koo OR fat.
I've been feeding Uckele supplements for almost 10 years. I started because I found that their joint supplements had the highest amount of active ingredient per dose, but I have continued to be impressed by Uckele's commitment to research and quality.
The "Sprieser Sporthorse Special" is Tri-Lube, a joint supplement; Pro-Lyte, a low-sugar electrolyte, which I feed year-round; and my favorite, GUT, an anti-ulcer supplement that is MAGICAL on my stressy horses. It comes in a powder, which everyone gets, but it also comes in a tube that we bring with us to all the shows.
I've also used—and loved—TriAmino and Cell Mass to put muscle on my guys as they develop. I find that Cell Mass adds bulk, whereas TriAmino adds stamina to existing muscle. And I've had clients rave about their Focus Calm for nervous nellies. For the record, that beautiful gray creature on the package is Cleo!
For my own health, I'm slugging through P-90x, and with the help of my iPhone, I'm trying to follow the spirit of Michael Pollan's food rule: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. By "food" he means things that are as unprocessed as possible that contain real ingredients, not things I can't pronounce. Label reading is helpful for that, and so is a neat app for the iPhone called Fooducate, which I recently discovered. You use your iPhone to scan barcodes on processed foods, and it gives them a grade based on their health. It's not foolproof, and sometimes ya just need a potato chip, but it's a start.
The Not Too Much part is my downfall—I'm a passionate snacker! But with my Nutrition app, I can track not just my calories, but also where they come from—fat, carbs, protein, the works. It's helped me find the root of my 1 p.m. fade—almost all the calories in my staple breakfast, that I've been eating for years, come from sugar. Bummer! A change of plan is in order.
As far as the plants? I'm a pretty dedicated meat-eater, but in the summers, I join a CSA. That's Community Supported Agriculture, and it means that I get a box of farm-fresh produce from a local farm (Shallowbrooke Farm; thanks, Eric!) delivered to my door every week during the growing season. Lately it's been squash-and-zucchini-palooza, which means that I'm making lots of fun things, including a modified version of this tasty zucchini crumble (made with yellow squash this time; I cheated) that I'm bringing to the Chronicle offices as soon as I'm done writing this blog, because while yes, I can pronounce everything in it, it is distinctly NOT great for you. Mighty tasty, though!