El Dorado Farms Part 2 — The Nutrition Factor

Together, Ron and Nina Hagen of El Dorado Farms in Enumclaw are enjoying recent unprecedented breeding success. To understand their accomplishments, you have to appreciate their attention to every detail, awareness of each, individual horse and the deliberate thought that goes into every decision they make. From conception to starting gate, they address every opportunity for success.

The Hagens believe that they are making an investment when breeding or buying an animal. They are passionate in their belief that they are raising and growing an athlete, and that if you are asking that animal for its best, then you need to give your best to it in return, starting from the very beginning.

The Hagens’ feed program has been developed over many years of investment and research, working in particular with LMF Feeds representative Harris Statema and nutritionist Dr. Stephen Duren. Motivated by their success, Nina stated, “The results are in, and we want others to have the same successful results.”

El Dorado Farms was leading breeder, based on earnings, for three consecutive years, 2008-10. Although they were second leading breeder in 2011, they consider 2011 to be their biggest year yet, because they didn’t have just one “big” horse. Instead, they did it by virtue of the cumulative earnings from solid horses racing at all levels.

They have also had their share of big horses, including 2010 Washington champion Slew the Man and 2009 Washington champion Knight Raider, among numerous other stakes horses. They also bought and raised multiple Grade 2 stakes winner (2010-12) City to City; and they raised Washington horse of the year and world record setter Sabertooth.

Nina manages the farms. She informed, “Every horse that comes to us gets a balanced diet and leaves improved. You can see the difference, especially in the yearlings that come for the sale.”

Her philosophy is to grow a solid individual from conception to when it becomes the responsibility of the new owner to continue to care for that individual. She says she and Ron are dedicated to this work because “these horses are working so, so hard for us. We have to do a great job for them. When we’re asking a million percent from them, then we have to give a million percent on our end.”

Nina said they set out from before the mare is bred to lay down the blueprint to produce a stakes winner. “You can’t get part of it. You have to start with balanced nutrition from the very beginning. The nutrition creates a solid foundation for everything: organs, soft tissue, cartilage and bone.”

She compares it to planting a garden to get the best crop. “The soil must be properly balanced when you plant the seed. From there, you watch the plants grow and develop, making adjustments to the balance along the way with the addition of compost or nutrients. Growing young horses requires the same constant assessment and attention to detail,” she emphasized, “with the goal being to grow correctly balanced individuals, hopefully eliminating the obvious problems that are the most common, such as OCD, which can develop in utero.”

Statema emphasized, “Everything we do feed-wise does not work unless you have a farm like Nina’s where she is constantly on top of the horses.” He said that he has come out to consult on a problem with a horse and he couldn’t tell you whether or not she owned that horse because she cares for every horse as if it’s her own. He said it is a matter of possessing the motivation to help each horse reach its peak performance.

“We’re always looking to improve. As long as you do that,” Nina said, “you’ll be at your optimum as far as your accomplishments. And always surround yourself with good, knowledgeable people who have the experience and success.”

Nina said horse people shouldn’t worry what other people might think.

“Worry only about what you’re doing, and ask questions, because it will prove out down the line. You just need to take the time and opportunity to get educated. More information is always available and it is your best teacher.

“You hope that whoever gets this animal after you’ve done your job will continue to do a very good job, and that they are fair to the animal and do what’s right as far as training – that they are now the ones who are aware of what that horse is doing every day.

“I do this number one, for the animal, and number two, to see people succeed and have fun,” she stated in conclusion. “Then, if others see your success and the fun you are having, they will want to get into the business and have fun too. Quality equals success. Success equals fun. There is nothing better than seeing smiles in the winner’s circle. It’s really so simple. It’s all about the right choices. Be fair to the animals – fair, honest, have quality control and pay attention to detail.” – LW / MAS

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