Will, what inspired you to switch from commercial feeds to a whole food feed program?
Will: For a couple of years now, I felt that my nutrition program for my horses was lacking in some ways. While many of our horses still looked the part, inconsistent energy levels, a lack of quality control with our grains, and the fillers/processing involved with producing most generic sweet feeds worried me, and made me wonder about how my horses might perform better with a food program that was more adaptable to some of their individual needs. Conversations with Dr. Tim Ober concerning one horse in particular led me to Tigger’s whole food supplements and a different approach to feeding equine athletes.
Sounds like the program has done well for you. What are some of the differences you’ve seen in your horses since going to whole foods?
Will: A more consistent energy level and increased flexibility have been apparent in all the horses since the switch. They warm up better, get looser faster, and feel more limber in general. Their backs, in particular, have felt better. I do think there is some relation between gastrointestinal digestive stress and the ability/desire of a horse to use his back properly in his work, and with the reduced stress on their gut and body systems, I think my horses have improved dramatically in this area. We travel a lot as well, and I’ve noticed that my horses, even when on the road, continue to eat happily and normally, and seem to keep their condition better.
Tell us about Twizzel, your Four Star horse.
Will: Twizzel is a 13 year old, Westphalian-Australian TB X. By the great Argentinus, Twizzel carries with him the strong personality and character of his father, and training him has always been a balance between allowing that personality to shine and keeping his ego in check. He’s a wonderful horse, and sincerely loves competition. A good friend of ours in Germany brought my attention to the horse several years ago, and we bought him with the hopes of producing him for the US. He has taken a while to bring that dream to fruition, largely because of a shoulder cyst we found not six months after we got him. Nonetheless, a miracle surgery and excellent management since then have brought the horse back with a vengeance, and his performances over the last year have been stellar. He is now generously owned by Jim Wildasin, a wonderful supporter of mine, and both he and I are thrilled with the prospects for next year and beyond.
Such an impressive horse! What are some of the qualities you look for in an event horse prospect?
Will: Event horses have to be athletes in every sense of the word, and certainly we look for horses that talent-wise and conformationally fit that mold. But, there is another intrinsic quality that an event horse must possess. It’s a tough sport, and these horses have to love to work. Their trainability is so important, not just because of the rigorous demands of our dressage and show jumping, but also the increasingly technical cross-country. On the big day, they need to have that drive, that “fighter” mentality, and it’s not easy to find a horse that has all the physical skills they need, as well the mental integrity to perform at four-star level.
How does a whole food feed program and BioStar fit into your training program and your training philosophy?
Will: Our horses are athletes, and we treat our horses as athletes in every sense of the word. Their training programs are specific and extremely detail-oriented. We try to control as many variables of the training process as we can to maximize efficiency and results. This approach carries over into everything, from the footing we use on a daily basis, to the way we get the horses fit, to the competitions we enter, and to the horses’ everyday management. Nutrition is as important to the athlete as any of these other factors. The whole food feed/BioStar supplement programs we’ve designed for each of our horses allows us to account for everything our horses eat, with no wasted calories or the empty “mystery fillers” that are a part of all processed sweet feeds. We can tailor the feed to their needs with expert accuracy and know with 100% confidence each component of their meals. Everyone wants a healthy horse, and for us a healthy horse performs better as an athlete. This program allows us to sincerely treat our horses as athletes, by feeding them within a nutritionally-conscious diet.