The farm on Troy Pike near Versailles, Kentucky, is a Bluegrass showplace. Neat gravel roads lead back to a barn and arena set on spacious premises. At least a mile of black four-board fence surrounds the rolling pastures, and an arching wooden bridge spans the creek that flows between towering white-limbed sycamore trees. Everything about Sunrise Stables looks fresh and modern, but like the deep-rooted sycamores, there is age-old tradition at this central Kentucky farm that consistently produces champion American Saddlebreds.
Owner and trainer Melissa Moore grew up in a world of outstanding Saddlebreds--both of her parents were at the top of the industry for a number of years--and she has continued many of their successful methods of equine management. She orders a custom-mixed sweet feed from the same company her parents used, Woodford Feed, a local business. "I've used Woodford Feed as long as I can remember," Moore said. "All the horses on the farm get this product, along with a mixed alfalfa and orchardgrass hay."
Woodford Feed president Bob Mack Cleveland explained his mill will put together a custom mix according to a client's specifications and the needs of the horses to be fed. The sweet feed made for the horses at Sunrise Stables, for example, contains added fat in the form of soy oil and ground flaxseed. In addition to providing readily available energy for the demands of training and performance, fat is known to contribute a show-ring shine to a horse's coat. Finally, dietary fat is metabolized in a way that supplies so-called cool energy, giving plenty of flash to competition and breeding horses without sending them into the "sugar high" sometimes caused by overconsumption of carbohydrates.
"I tried another feed one time for my broodmares," Moore recounted, "but I wasn't happy with it. The mares lost weight and just didn't look as good. I went back to the Woodford sweet feed and have stayed with that."
The barns at Sunrise Stables are home to numerous broodmares, young horses in training, and experienced show horses, plus three stallions. In addition, horses come in to be trained and shown, and mares arrive to be bred or foaled out. Proper nutrition of broodmares and foals is critical because mineral deficiencies or imbalances can contribute to the incidence of developmental orthopedic diseases such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), a crippling condition that affects some young horses.
Achieving the correct complement of vitamins and minerals in a custom grain mix is guaranteed with the inclusion of feed balancer pellets formulated by Kentucky Equine Research (KER). As a KER Team Member, Woodford Feed includes these pellets in its sweet feeds in the proportion needed to support optimum growth in young horses and to assist in maximizing fertility in breeding stock. Balancer pellets contain lysine, an essential amino acid vital for proper muscle development; calcium and phosphorus, key for bone mineralization; magnesium, copper, and a host of lesser but still important minerals that support tissue growth and repair; and vitamins that may be lacking in traditional hay and grain diets.
"Our mares and foals are very healthy," Moore reported. "We have had occasional OCD problems in foals of mares that have been brought in from other farms, but no problems with our own foals."
Stallions standing at Sunrise Stables include Dellview Dare Time, imported from South Africa in 2007 and owned by Moore, and It's Double O Deuce, the current five-gaited national champion. "Deuce" is owned by Sherry Frankel of Tomball, Texas.
A third stallion, Gomez, has just turned four years old. The final proof of a young stallion is the record of his offspring, but as a grandson of Supreme Sultan, Gomez boasts a pedigree packed with champions. Moore said, "We do collect and ship semen, but our stallions also breed a lot by live cover because we have so many mares here." Her stallions thrive on Woodford Feed's custom sweet feed that supplies a complete profile of minerals important in sperm production and maturation such as zinc.
When the late-winter rush of breeding and foaling slows a bit, a busy schedule of sales and horse shows fills just about every weekend from April to November. Smaller shows let the Sunrise Stables trainers evaluate the potential of their young horses, and allow the wide-eyed youngsters to become familiar with the sights and sounds of the show ring. These classes act as a preparation for the all-important championship competitions in late summer and early fall.
Moore's skills as a trainer and exhibitor speak volumes of her talent. She has showed horses to world's champion or reserve world's champion titles more than 50 times, and has trained horses who have earned at least 25 more world titles for their owners.
Back home between shows, the days are still full. Every horse must be checked, groomed, exercised. Tack and equipment must be adjusted, cleaned, repaired. Stalls must be picked out, arenas raked, fences painted. The farm's feeding plan is a constant that hasn't changed much through the years. This spring's foals, summer's young show horses, and fall's champions are fueled by a feed mix that is a winner in every season.