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Getting Inside One of the Most Unique Minds in Equine Nutrition

Jeanne van der Veen, Equine and Specialty Nutritionist at KNG.

Jeanne van der Veen

Equine and Specialty Nutritionist

Van der Veen joined Kent Nutrition Group in 1988 and currently serves as the Equine and Specialty Nutritionist.

How Sentinel Equine and Specialty Nutritionist Jeanne van der Veen combined a love of math, science and animals to create a healthier horse feed.

If you ask her colleagues, they’ll say there’s no other mind in equine nutrition quite like Jeanne van der Veen.

Ask van der Veen herself, and she’ll say with a chuckle, “Nobody wants to be inside my head.”

It’s all humble admissions from the equine and specialty nutritionist at Kent Nutrition Group. Especially humble, considering van der Veen was one of the driving forces in developing Sentinel® Extruded Horse Feeds, introducing a new generation of veterinarians and horse owners to a feed form that provides the best in nutrition and digestive health.

“We developed extruded products to help improve the digestion in the horse, which then helps the horse look better, feel better, perform better,” she said. “With about 75% of the immune system located in the gut, anytime you can improve the digestive system, you’re going to see better health.”

What’s extruded feed?

Extrusion takes high-quality, finely ground ingredients and pressure cooks them with moisture into light, airy nuggets. Lighter than feed pellets, these nuggets have more volume, which encourages more chewing and slower eating.

Extrusion also allows feed to break down faster and easier, as soon as a horse takes their first bite. This releases more essential nutrients where they’re meant to be naturally absorbed in the stomach and small intestine.

Math, science and a love of animals

The knowledge to develop these feeds came over a decades-long career in animal nutrition and science-based research. It started in van der Veen’s hometown of Columbia, Maryland, where, as a child, she would nurse injured animals back to health. In addition to a love for animals, van der Veen showed an aptitude for math and science.

That proved useful, earning her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Virginia Tech and her master’s degree in animal nutrition from the University of Kentucky. While she enjoyed all aspects of the work, she was particularly drawn to research and feed formulation.

“We got exposed to everything,” van der Veen said. “I just loved every part of it.”

While working on her doctorate, van der Veen took a job with Kent Nutrition Group as a ruminant nutritionist and formulation nutritionist, which briefly expanded to include equine nutritionist, specialty nutritionist and regulatory affairs manager.

Developing the best in nutrition and digestive health

Around that time, the way people thought about horse feed changed. As the industry grew and more people became involved with horses and horse care, research showed some horses may benefit from feeds that are specially formulated with certain nutrients.

From backyard hobbyists to competitive riders, they wanted feeds with high levels of fat and fiber and low levels of starch and sugar. These feeds are easier on the horse’s gut and help reduce excess starch fermentation, as well as the risk of gas-related colic, ulcers and other metabolic disorders.

Van der Veen revamped her predecessor’s two extruded formulas to meet these standards and further developed an entire line of extruded horse feeds, including the top performing “miracle feed,” Sentinel Performance LS. Today, Performance LS and Sentinel Senior continue to be the top selling and top performing horse feeds for Kent Nutrition Group.

“The whole package of extruded feed—easier breakdown, low starch and sugar, high fat and fiber—is what really helps that digestive system function the way it should throughout,” she said.

The nutritional resource for veterinarians

Throughout her career, van der Veen said the biggest changes in the equine feed industry came with the rise of social media. With so much information online, it’s difficult for horse owners and veterinarians to find nutritional advice that’s backed by sound research.

This is an area where van der Veen and the Sentinel nutrition team want to be a trusted resource.

“We’re faced with incredible challenges with what people want versus what they should want, what’s real, what’s false and what’s best for the horse,” she said. “Science is a lot harder to sell than honey.”

When she’s not formulating animal feeds, van der Veen keeps herself busy with long-distance cycling, camping, backpacking and training her dog, which knows over 50 commands, including those associated with canine agility and rally. With so many titles, skills and hobbies, how does one of the most unique minds in equine nutrition keep track of everything?

“To me, it’s all math and science,” van der Veen said. “It’s all equally challenging, frustrating and rewarding.”

Experts like van der Veen, Dr. Randy Raub, Kristyn Sturken and the rest of the Sentinel team can help you make the best nutritional decisions for your horse. Sign up for the latest news, research and expert nutritional guidance for all horses.

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