Full Time Trainer
Dressage, Eventer, Hunter Jumper
An initial Equinety skeptic and now 100% Equinety supporter & believer
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Quote: “If you only do what you can you will never be more than you are.”
Barn Full of Equines
BFE is an exclusive equestrian facility located in Lebanon, TN. We offer personalized attention and individual care to all of our clientele as well as their equine partners by having a small, selective program. We offer lessons for beginner to intermediate riders on either their own personal equine partner or one of our lesson horses or ponies. For advanced riders we bring in Grand Prix and international clinicians and coaching is available at shows for our students as well.
Overnight stabling is available for individuals passing through the area. Conveniently located two miles off 840 with straight, marked roads makes it a safe haul at any time of day or night.
John Dowdy: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Equinety Podcast. I am your host, John Dowdy, and today we’ve got a very special guest on, Elise Parsons. I appreciate you being on the podcast. This is something new that we’ve started and I wanted it to be around education and some fun, and also of course getting into Equinety. But before we get into all of that, some of your background. You were a vet tech for several years and then you transitioned over into a full-time trainer.
Elise Parsons: I was a vet assistant for six years. Some of that time was spent in exclusive large animals, and the rest of that was spent in two different mixed practices that had done small and large animal. And I made the leap into full-time trainer and instructor about five years ago.
John Dowdy: Nice. While you were doing the vet tech and tech assistant, were you also training at that time, just kind of on the side?
Elise Parsons: Yes.
John Dowdy: Yeah.
Elise Parsons: I’ve always done a little bit of my own off the track thoroughbred retraining, reselling. And then about six years ago, I started teaching lessons and slowly building that on the side.
John Dowdy: Right. And so with your training, I know when we were speaking the other day, pretty much all of your basic groundwork starts with dressage and then you kind of expand out from there.
Elise Parsons: Correct. All of the students and horses have to start in dressage to learn the basics since dressage is just basic manners and control of their saddle. And depending on what the horse ride shows interest in, their training becomes specialized from there, either in eventing, or hunters, jumpers, or strictly staying in dressage.
John Dowdy: So as a trainer, what would be one of your, we’ll say your biggest challenges with students coming in? As far as, do they have super high expectations? They might think it’s easy and so you’ve got to bring-
Elise Parsons: Yeah. Oh, yeah. A lot of them come in thinking that they can jump within the fourth lesson. And some of the newer TV shows really don’t help that much. So unfortunately, I have to kind of spend that first month saying, “Yeah. No, you don’t know half of what you think you know.” And then once you tear them down enough, you build them back up.
John Dowdy: Yes. Yep. As a good trainer would, a good coach.
Elise Parsons: Yep.
John Dowdy: Yeah. So now that you’ve been in full-time training now for five, six years and I would imagine business is growing. You’ve got a lot of clientele growing there.
Elise Parsons: Yes. I actually have a wait list for my lesson times.
John Dowdy: Nice.
Elise Parsons: It’s really handy to be able to be in that spot where I don’t have to make everything happen. You know?
John Dowdy: Yes. Right. I would assume, and for those listening out there that may or may not know the operations of kind of what you’re doing, are you providing horses to certain clientele? Are they bringing their own horses in, or a combination of there above?
Elise Parsons: A combination of there above. I have lesson horses for people that either don’t have their own horses, or need to ride something that’s a little more schooled, or work on a special something that their horse isn’t providing them. And then I also have some people who keep horses really close by and basically can lead their horses over to the farm to get ready and ride for their lessons. And then of course, I have the ones who haul in for lessons with their own.
John Dowdy: Right. Right. Now I know when we first started talking several months ago, you had sent in some pictures of a horse. Hank, I believe his name is.
Elise Parsons: That’s correct.
John Dowdy: Yep. And so in the section below here, below the audio podcast, we’ll have everything listed in text form for you to read, but we’ll have the pictures of Hank. And the pictures that you sent in were … They don’t look like the same horse.
Elise Parsons: No. No. And I got a lot of flack from people trying to say I was trying to pass off two different horses. But no, it really is still Hank. Hank came to me as one of my student’s short stirrup hunter show pony. And he was in a really nice facility over doing the hunter circuit. And as he outgrew Hank, he wanted to transition more towards a mini. And so we worked out a trade, and I traded one of my thoroughbred prospects for Hank. So now he’s a lesson pony in my program, and making the transition from a hunter to a dressage horse.
And being in my lesson program, he’s getting ridden between one and three times a week on average. Of course, there’s the oddball week that he gets off, or the oddball week he has to pick up because another horse got injured and works five days in a row, and he thinks that’s just terrible because he is a pony after all.
John Dowdy: Right.
Elise Parsons: But his workload isn’t what I would call very intense. It’s light to moderate. He gets everything from a walk only lessons to a lot of walk trot lessons and a couple riders that handle him. The biggest difference that I’ve noticed in him was his top line, and so he’s gone from a hunter program where he was ridden consistently three set days a week, to my kind of off and on, one to three, trotting a lot of times program, which is a wider workload and he has packed on so much muscle. He doesn’t look like the same horse.
It was actually his previous owners who noticed it first, since I see him every day. We were at a show and she kept going on and on and on about his neck. I’m like, “Yeah. His neck looks better. Whatever.” It is what it is. And then when I took the after picture and put it next to the before I was like, “Oh. He really has changed.”
John Dowdy: Right.
Elise Parsons: His neck is completely different and massive. Obviously, I work with a very talented farrier, and he had some pretty bad contracted heels that we’ve been working on. But that alongside with the Equinety has given him the nutrition he needed to stay barefoot so we could work on the contracted heels a little bit better because he had thinner soles and was a shoe puller and all that. Fitting shoes tight to keep him from pulling the shoes is what developed the contracted heels. But now that he has enough sole that’s healthy, he can be barefoot and we’re able to push the toe back and we’re able to get those heels to open up. So he’s moving a lot better than he has, and he was one that had to be in his aluminum front shoes or he looked basically crippled. And he’s fine barefoot on all footing. We show him barefoot. We go everywhere barefoot and he is fine. He’s better than a lot of my thoroughbreds are with shoes.
John Dowdy: Yeah. Right. Well, one of the things that was such a stark contrast in the pictures was that you started using the Equinety initially. Of course, with adding the extra muscle and the weight and the hoof growth and everything else, with all the exercise that he’s getting, that’s definitely going to help with adding muscle and top line. But you had to, as you mentioned, adding the proper nutrition and the things. I’ll ask you a leading question here because this is the Equinety Podcast.
Elise Parsons: Of course.
John Dowdy: But how much would you say that Equinety had to do with that transformation of Hank?
Elise Parsons: I would say it had a lot to do with his muscle transformation because when he came to me, he was on, what I’d say, higher mid range grain, and he was getting about four pounds of that a day. And so when he came to me I kept him on that. I added a couple other fat supplements because he still looked a little thin and I didn’t think a pony should need that much grains. I didn’t want to just bump the grain up to like my thoroughbred amounts.
And we were still struggling with weight and he just wasn’t looking good at all, not what I’d like. He had dapples. He had shine. He just didn’t look like what I like my guys to look like, especially a hunter pony. Hunter ponies are supposed to be fat. So I added in the Equinety and he’s on a dry lot along with a couple other horses. It’s the same hay, so that hasn’t changed. His gone from his four pounds a day plus fat supplements, down to now he gets Equinety, an electrolyte and half a pound of grain a day. That’s it.
John Dowdy: Wow.
Elise Parsons: So I don’t think that transformation would’ve happened without the Equinety because of how much problem I was having early on just getting him to cover his ribs.
John Dowdy: Right. And then you mentioned also with the hoof growth and that was all during the time that you’ve been giving Equinety as well.
Elise Parsons: That is correct. Yes.
John Dowdy: Yeah.
Elise Parsons: For sure.
John Dowdy: Yeah. Now one of the other things that we spoke about when we talked a few days ago, with your background in science and being around veterinarians and vet tech and things like that. And I know this happens a lot because, here’s Equinety. It’s a new product on the market. Well, it’s been on for four years now, but more and more people are being exposed to it. And so there’s people that want peer reviewed studies and they want all of this background and the research, which is completely understandable. And with your background of the science and everything else, what was your immediate reaction to Equinety when you first saw it and kind of read through the testimonials and everything? What was the first thing that came to your mind?
Elise Parsons: I was the same way. I wanted peer reviewed studies because there’s so few supplements out there that have that. I value those that do. And I didn’t understand the difference between feeding protein and feeding amino acids because protein is built of amino acids and my guys get enough protein in their diet. I really didn’t see how this was going to help.
John Dowdy: Right. And for those that don’t understand that, when we, people, dogs, horses, eat protein, the body has to take the proteins and use the … It’s energy to break everything down into amino acids. And that’s why amino acids are called the building blocks of protein. And then the body takes those amino acids and rebuilds them back into the necessary proteins. So Equinety is already in that stage of absorption.
Elise Parsons: Taking out a step.
John Dowdy: Yeah. It’s ready for absorption, ready to go to work. And so looking at Hank for example, it’s why … And we get this all the time with pictures, the coat color change, the stronger and faster hoof growth, and things like that, so we’re definitely blessed to have such an amazing product that does so many things. But one of the other things that I want to chat about is something that you are very passionate about called The Retired Race Horse Project. When you were telling me about it, and maybe a lot of people know about this, but for those who don’t, I think it’s a great thing to talk about and it’s very fascinating. So tell us a little bit about that.
Elise Parsons: The Retired Race Horse Project was founded about six years ago and it’s a group that puts on an annual competition called the Thoroughbred Makeover and basically within 10 months you have to take an off the track thoroughbred, retrain him in a new discipline, and go to this massive show. I mean, there’s 500 horses competing in this show. You show them in one of 10 disciplines. The top three from each discipline then compete against each other for America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred. And of course, there’s quite a bit of prize money involved. That’s what drives people to want to come and compete to it and get the value of thoroughbreds back up in America because they are such an amazing sport horse that has been overlooked with the importation of Warmbloods.
You get a lot of off the track thoroughbreds that have body soreness issues. Their feet are trained to grow differently than we want them to grow as a sport horse. They can have some mental exhaustion, depending on the trainer and all of that as well. And so I have valued the Equinety in their transition back into sport horse because it really seems to shorten that new life change shock that they go through.
John Dowdy: That is awesome. When is the next event?
Elise Parsons: The 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover is October 4th through 7th at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. They currently have applications open. So you go to their website. Fill out a trainer application. They will announce all of the trainers who’ve been accepted at the beginning of February. And you don’t have to announce, which horse you’re bringing or anything like that until much later in the year, so that if you run into issues with a horse, you have time to find another, or if you don’t know what discipline you want to do with that particular horse, you don’t have to pick now. You get to mess around with them for a little bit first.
John Dowdy: Right. Right. And how many horses are in the competition?
Elise Parsons: 500 thoroughbreds.
John Dowdy: 500 thoroughbreds. Wow.
Elise Parsons: I think they actually accepted quite a bit more last year because, like any show, there’s a little bit of an attrition right before you get to the show themselves.
John Dowdy: Sure. Sure.
Elise Parsons: But it’s a huge deal, and it’s a massive show. They have so many different rings going on at the same time for those days. There are clinics at the end that people like Elisa Wallace, or Steuart Pittman, he’s one of the founders, offer clinics to the trainers who are in there at extremely reduced rates. So you can show off your thoroughbred in a clinic and people can watch. You get to train with amazing trainers at astonishing rates.
John Dowdy: Nice. What would you say the, we’ll call it the caliber of horse? Are they all experienced horses? Are they brand new to … Or young horses? What’s their-
Elise Parsons: You see everything from war horses, who had more than 50 starts that are older, 10 to 15, being retrained, to, I’ve got two three year olds that I want to take. So you have babies. You have ones who kind of know the drill. But before the Makeover is started, they can’t have had any retraining in any of the disciplines. So prior to December 1st of this year, any horse that’s entered into the 2018 Makeover cannot have more than 15 rides after the track, so we’re all on a level playing field when it comes to experience in the new disciplines.
John Dowdy: Right. That is very interesting. I know one of the things that Equinety is looking into is, as you kind of mentioned, is doing some sponsorship within that project to help get these horses in their tip top shape. One of the great things that the product also does is help with anxiety and stress.
Elise Parsons: Oh, yeah.
John Dowdy: Which, in that kind of an event, as most all events, as you’re traveling around and doing things, that’s one of the big things that they need help with, so to speak.
Elise Parsons: That was actually the thing that made me get … Final jump to give Equinety a try. My 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse is now my own personal show horse. And while we would do really well at home, his anxiety off property was out of control. He would do it, but he’d be very tense and look like a little sewing machine in his spot instead of his nice, large, big pretty strut. And he’s fancy, but he would look terrible at shows.
John Dowdy: Right.
Elise Parsons: And so I talked to one of your sponsored riders, who’s a good friend of mine, about her experience with it and how it’s helped support her horses, her off the track thoroughbreds who have had some anxiety at shows as well. And I did not want to go the calming supplement route because even the legal calming supplements, I don’t like to use because it’s just not addressing the root issue. I don’t think anxiety is going to be treated by raspberry leaves and all of that. Well, it can help the first few times, help them learn and understand. I didn’t feel like that was going to help my 2016 Makeover horse. So I got a bunch of samples, since I have so many horses, and started the Equinety about three days before I had an event to take my horse to. And so this was trial by fire.
John Dowdy: Right.
Elise Parsons: And we made it up to Kentucky, which that’s a whole nother story for a whole nother day. Then our show, and the friend that I went with said, “Oh, my God. I’ve never seen him this relaxed at a show.” Now mind you, he was still tense, but it wasn’t like it normally was. It was the best trot work we’d gotten in our dressage test, and his canter was controllable, and it was nice. And I’m like, “Okay.” So stage one, three days, pleased with it. So the next week I had my normal dressage lesson with my dressage instructor and she commented something about how his eye looked so much better and he acted so much more relaxed that day. And that’s when I told her about Equinety and that I had him on it, and I was noticing these changes too and blah, blah, blah.
It took her a while to understand that, no, it’s not a calming supplement. It’s just amino acids. And after she looked into it, now she actually sells Equinety out of her barn as well. And she’s noticed a lot of similar changes in her Warmbloods, thoroughbreds, quarter horses, all of her barn.
John Dowdy: That is so awesome. Now I’m going to back up to a comment that you said earlier, because when we peer reviewed studies, which by the way, Equinety does not have because it actually started as a human product back in 1998 from a British and Cambridge and Harvard educated family physician. And when you are looking and, as you said, it makes you feel better or feel good that there’s peer reviewed studies. And now knowing that Equinety didn’t have that, were you a bit apprehensive? What made you just said, “You know what, I’m going to go ahead and give it a shot anyways”? And then what was your thoughts on that?
Elise Parsons: Of course, it made me apprehensive. I want to see something that has a little more proof behind it because testimonials are only that. They’re testimonials. And just because someone thought they saw an improvement in one horse does not impress me. There’s so many placebo effects out there in owner’s perception as well, that it’s not something that I hold a lot of value in. Like I said, I was frustrated with how poorly my horse and I were doing at shows when I know he could do so much better. One of their sponsored riders is a dear friend of mine, and she went through a very similar experience. And she’d been touting how well Equinety did with her horses. And so I just messaged her and said, “All right. Give me the truth. Tell me about this, what you’ve noticed, how long it took. I want to know honestly how you think it’s helped, because I don’t see how it’s helped. I don’t understand how it could,” and I even called you.
And I’m like, “Tell me why. Why is this different than the alfalfa and the [inaudible 00:20:42] and all the other quality stuff that I feed? Why? How?” My husband has been making pet food for living for 17 years in research and development for it, and after I started using Equinety and seeing these results, I talked to him for a little about it, and he said, “Oh, yeah. That’s like the only supplement I would ever actually endorse you trying.” He said, “Amino acids, they’ve proven that in animals on and on.” I’m like, “Well, okay.”
John Dowdy: Yeah. Thanks for telling me there, husband.
Elise Parsons: I know. I’m like, “I’ve tried all this stuff for all these years,” and now you’re like, “Well, this is the only thing I can actually see working. Good job.”
John Dowdy: Yeah. We husbands do tend to keep some things back from the wives, just every now and then we like to shine, once every 10 or 15 years.
Elise Parsons: Yeah, well, thanks buddy.
John Dowdy: Yeah. Okay. Well, as we’re kind of wrapping up here, there’s a couple other horses that you had on product, one by the name of Elmo and one Sandman. And of course, you had already seen the benefits with Hank, which the before and after, and we’ll also post the collage of his changes over the time. Tell us a little bit. By the way, I want to personally thank you for all of the … We posted. I ran an ad on Facebook with Hank, the before and after, and Elise was completely torn up and with several people, and man, you just held your ground and [inaudible 00:22:13]. It was so much fun to watch him. But I do feel a little responsible for some of that, but you held your own.
Elise Parsons: It’s all right.
John Dowdy: Okay. Tell us a little bit about Elmo and what happened with him.
Elise Parsons: Okay. About six weeks ago, Elmo was turned out with the group as usual. We added a new horse to the herd, which isn’t too unusual since I do a lot with off the track thoroughbreds. He came in holding up one of his back legs. I assumed he had an abcess because thoroughbreds. I went to go pick up his foot and running my hand on his leg, his hock was the size of a grapefruit, but more. It was definitely bigger than a grapefruit but fuller than, probably a gallon jug. We’ll call it a milk jug. And so my heart just sank because the little 10 year old girl was absolutely in love with this horse.
So I take pictures. I send him to the vet. I poulticed it. I iced it and all of that. She decides to give me 24 hours to get some swelling out of it so we can get higher quality x-rays. I’ve had chipped hocks before and I just knew in my heart of hearts that he’d broken something in there and was going to have to have surgery. It just tore me apart. Well, she came and said, “The x-rays, nothing was broken. He just sprained his hock. He pulled one of the ligaments on the inside of his hock pretty bad.” So we spent the next two weeks doing ultrasound therapy, alternating between hot and cold, stall rest, et cetera, the whole shebang like in ligament injuries. Getting the swelling out as much as possible.
At about the two and a half week mark, we called into the clinic and they sell platelet rich plasma injections. Before that, I had turned him out, he was sound. He would run around just a little bit [inaudible 00:24:15] so we put him back in the stall because it was a balancing act with his medical sanity, being a six year old thoroughbred because he’s got to have some turn out, but he can’t have too much. When we did the PRP about two and a half weeks in, I asked the vet, “So where do you think we are in the healing process? Are we on schedule, ahead, or behind?” Because with having to put him out in turn out, I was concerned. She said, “Oh, my God. You’re so far ahead of schedule, it’s crazy.” Okay. Good. We did another week of full rest after the PRP injections. He’s been turning back out now pretty much full-time, weather permitting. Obviously I wouldn’t put a ligament injury out in the slick mud.
And we started on the saddle this week. So we went from this [inaudible 00:25:10] swollen hock to being ridden in six weeks, unreal. That’s supervision. We’ve ultrasounded it. We x-rayed it. We’ve done everything right. We’re not pushing things ahead that we shouldn’t be. And we’re definitely way ahead of schedule of where we would expect to be with how he looked. And he is still sound. We’re trotting under saddle and he’s sound.
John Dowdy: Nice. That is so awesome. And then shortly after that-
Elise Parsons: Actually, before.
John Dowdy: It was right before. Yes, that was. About Sandman was another little story.
Elise Parsons: Yep. Sandman and I run a dressage clinic and he took a bad step. Went from … Take a look at it, but very quickly. The next day, the next morning, I go and [inaudible 00:25:55] and it’s the hock is a little swollen and he’s laying. And I just, oh, God. Of course. He’s my 2016 Makeover horse. He’s my show horse. And so I text the vet because I don’t like that we have swelling associated with lameness. Otherwise, you just typically think abcess. He did not have the strongest of digital pulses. Again, this can’t just be an abcess. So she actually came out to the [inaudible 00:26:26], which I why I don’t have a screen capture of the ultrasound. We ultrasounded the [inaudible 00:26:33] and he slightly pulled the insertion in one of his oblique sesamoidean ligament. And it’s the tiniest, tiniest of little holes. So she said, “Just two weeks time out. Obviously not if it’s locking. Keep him in his stall if it’s locking.” And it was doing work slowly. Not the end of the world. I can manage that. Well, five days later is when Elmo sprained his hock. And the vet was out to take x-rays of that. So while she was out, I’m like, “I know I sounds crazy. The swelling’s gone. He’s looking really sound at turn out. Just take the ultrasound to his oblique sesamoidean ligament. Let’s see where we are in healing.” And it was completely healed.
John Dowdy: Wow.
Elise Parsons: Five days later, and the gap that we saw on the oblique sesamoidean ligament had filled in.
John Dowdy: That is insane.
Elise Parsons: Oh, it’s absolutely insane and I believe my vet is now recommending people to buy Equinety [crosstalk 00:27:35].
John Dowdy: What? What?
Elise Parsons: Yeah. I know. I know. My feed store said there’s a sale that me and the people who have been recommending it and all of the people that come in and buy it are referred typically from there [inaudible 00:27:51] that like, whoa, there’s only one single vet in the area. That’s my vet. So I haven’t talked to her about it to confirm it’s her but, you know.
John Dowdy: Yeah. We kind of know. We kind of know.
Elise Parsons: We kind of know.
John Dowdy: Yep. That is so awesome. Well, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and sharing all of your information and your passions and all the kudos around Equinety and how it’s helped your horses, and all of your insight. I really appreciate that and I’m sure we’ll be doing some more updates in the future.
Elise Parsons: No problem whatsoever. If anybody wants to private message me on Facebook and ask questions or anything like that, they are more than welcome to.
John Dowdy: That is awesome. We’ll put a link in the blog here. But Elise Parsons, everybody. This is where I’ll input some clapping from a fake audience.
Elise Parsons: Yay.
John Dowdy: All right. Well, Elise, thank you so much.
Elise Parsons: Thank you.
John Dowdy: All right. You bet.
Elise Parsons: Bye.