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From Horse Person to Trusted Expert in Equine Nutrition

Kristyn Sturken, Equine Product Manager at KNG.

Kristyn Sturken

Equine Product Manager

Sturken joined Kent Nutrition Group in 1995 and currently works in the marketing and product department with a major focus on her passion, equine products.

How Sentinel Product Manager Kristyn Sturken turned a love of competitive riding into helping horses live healthier lives.

Kristyn Sturken wasn’t always a horse person. It all started when her sister asked her father for a horse for her birthday.

“I remember vividly when she turned 10, my dad said, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ And she said, ‘Well, dad, you said when I turned 10, I could have a horse,” Sturken said.

The Sturkens got Buddy, or Eureka Star by his registered name, and they “just kind of went crazy with horses.” Traveling across New England, the east coast and as far as Oklahoma, they competed in English and Western riding events for nearly 25 years on the Quarter Horse show circuit. It was a family affair, with all three sisters riding and competing with Mom and Dad cheering them on.

Those experiences led to a career developing Sentinel® Extruded Horse Feeds, introducing a new generation of horse owners and veterinarians to a feed form that provides the best in nutrition and digestive health.

“It’s about providing a great solution to the horse owner,” Sturken said. “I’ve heard many people say, ‘Sentinel is a miracle feed, and it saved my horse.’ When you can be part of that and build that relationship with the customer, it’s a great feeling.”

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.

Hoofing it in animal feed sales

Before extruded feed, Sturken earned her animal science degree with an equine focus from the University of Connecticut. After graduation, her connections from competitive riding got her a job with a major animal feed company, traveling to different events for marketing and promotions.

The gig eventually turned to feed sales for everything from cats and dogs to sheep, goats, rabbits, horses and more. Through it all, she worked closely with feed dealers, retailers and horse owners.

“If you were to ask me way back then if I would have been a salesperson, absolutely not,” Sturken said. “But I loved the people and working with animal owners to find the best product for their situation. I enjoy being in the field to this day, interacting with horse owners day-to-day.”

After, she worked for Kent Nutrition Group in the field in sales, and then on the marketing side of animal feeds. That’s when Sturken met Jeanne van der Veen, the equine and specialty nutritionist at Kent Nutrition Group. There, the two would work together to further develop and enhance the first Sentinel extruded formulas.

Bringing a new horse feed to the market

Around that time, people wanted a different kind of horse feed. 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.

Combining those ideas with extruded feed led to the development of Sentinel Performance LS. Today, Sentinel Performance LS and Sentinel Senior continue to be the top selling and top performing horse feeds for Kent Nutrition Group.

“Majority of the time, if we can get someone on extruded feed, they’ll stay on it,” Sturken said. “That’s the big thing is getting them to make a change.”

The nutritional resource for veterinarians

Throughout her career, Sturken said the biggest changes in the equine feed industry have come with the sheer number of products on the market. With so much information in stores and online, it’s hard for horse owners and veterinarians to filter through all the options and find nutritional advice that’s backed by sound research.

That’s an area where Sturken and the Sentinel nutrition team want to be a trusted resource.

“You have to weed through a lot of information and ask, ‘Is this just somebody’s opinion?’” Sturken said. “You have to know it’s a reliable source, and that the idea isn’t just taken out of context. There are a lot of variables when feeding horses and getting to the best feeding recommendation.”

When she’s not thinking of ways to introduce more horse owners to quality nutrition and healthy digestion, Sturken enjoys gardening and spending time with her family, which includes her young black lab. They have logged many, many miles together. Looking back on her career, Sturken said she’ll always be proud of the extruded line and how it’s benefited so many.

“I really value being able to have an idea and then turn it into a real product that helps animals and their owners,” she said. “That whole process is the most exciting and rewarding.”

Experts like Sturken, Jeanne van der Veen, Dr. Randy Raub 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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