Science and Innovation Behind Purina® Horse Feed

Nutrition : General Nutrition

Kelly Vineyard, M.S., Ph.D.

Senior Nutritionist, Equine Technical Solutions

Mary Beth Gordon, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Equine Technical Innovation

Purina Animal Nutrition has a long history of conducting research on horse nutrition, leading to the creation of many innovative horse feed products.

Our passion for horses and their health, along with our keen interest in nutritional science, is steeped in history and exemplified by our exclusive state-of-the-art equine research farm.

This farm is part of the 1200 acre Purina Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, Missouri. At this facility, we house and care for more than 70 horses, ranging from adorable newborn foals to treasured senior horses. We even have a group of rescued off-the-track Thoroughbreds who help us with exercise physiology research. Over the years, our in-house nutrition research has led to the creation of numerous new products and patents on our feed and manufacturing processes.

Among some of the ground-breaking innovations generated through Purina’s horse research program include:
  • Complete pelleted horse feed – Horse Chow® Checkers (1962)
  • High-fat horse feed - Athlete® (1985)
  • All-life stage horse feed for large commercial farms - Strategy® (1992)
  • Senior horse feed – Equine Senior® (1993)
  • Veterinary diets for equine disease conditions (WellSolve® line – 2007)
Our research is ongoing and we continue to push the envelope with cutting-edge concepts like immunomodulary nutrition (ActiveAge® prebiotic feed additive), targeted amino acid supplementation (Purina SuperSport®) and equine microbiome optimization.

At Purina, our approach to developing new products is relatively simple. We believe in the science of nutrition and it’s our primary goal to create products proven to work. We are constantly on the lookout for new information coming from a variety of places, including university research and industry trends. Once we generate a new product idea or identify an additive with potential benefits, then the real work begins.

Purina’s horse research process

Our nutritional research generally falls into the following categories:
  • Growth and development
  • Digestive physiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Palatability and intake behavior
  • Life stage investigations
For our growth work, we selectively breed registered American Quarter Horses with foals growing up on our farm, helping us to develop the next greatest horse feed to support their development.

In researching digestive physiology, we analyze aspects of feed going in the horse while also measuring components in the urine and manure to see how diets are being digested and nutrients are being absorbed. Recently, we have broken new ground with a group of cecally-cannulated horses, allowing us to delve deeper into the realm of digestive physiology and microbiome research.
equine innovation center at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center
Our exercise physiology research is particularly exciting as we gallop horses on the treadmill and train them in our horse Equi-Ciser to develop the next feed for racing and performance horses.

Since horses are extremely sensitive to the taste and texture of feeds, our palatability work focuses on combining the best ingredients so your horse is happy to eat their Purina® feed, every time.
Research with horses in different life stages, such as senior horses, helps us to identify their exact needs and how we can support them through a specialized diet.

Because of our commitment to the scientific process, it takes Purina anywhere from 2 – 6 years to bring a new product from concept to market. In most cases, we utilize our own herd of horses to conduct our studies. We also partner with university equine research programs with specialized capabilities for particular projects. An individual study can take 3 – 12 months (or more) to complete. Many times, the development of a new product will consist of multiple controlled studies. Once a study is complete, we then spend several more months analyzing data and adjusting formulas if necessary, all with the goal of developing feeds based on scientific results.

Once this is done, our work is not over. From here, we take our formulas to the “real world” in field trials all over the country. We need to make sure the feeds we’ve developed under controlled scientific conditions deliver as promised when fed to many types and breeds of horses managed in different ways. This is always an enjoyable part of the process, as we listen as horse owners tell us what is working and not working for their horses. From here, additional adjustments are made before we launch the product nationwide.

Overall, in our ongoing commitment to horse health, Purina continues to conduct in-depth research to evaluate new ideas and horse feed products. You can be assured that behind any compelling marketing story, all new Purina products have been thoroughly tested and meet stringent criteria for efficacy and benefit to the horse.
In the end, we are horse people using our scientific minds to conduct rigorous research to develop the next best feed for your horse, which helps you care for your horses in the best way possible.

Learn more about the Purina Animal Nutrition Center and the research we conduct there.