Honoring the Past and Discovering the Future

It was just over 45 years ago when, Dr. Doug Herthel, and his wife, Sue, began an equine veterinary practice in California's Santa Ynez Valley. They were a team with a vision. Doug was fresh from UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, and Sue was a UC Davis graduate acting as business manager, anesthesiologist, technician and catalyst to their dreams. Their practice, which was run entirely out of an orange Chevy Vega, has now grown into the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center. It certainly didn’t happen overnight but instead was realized over decades in practice alongside a team of fellow veterinarians, technicians and staff members that have stood as the backbone of the hospital. They’re a family and still practice alongside each other, staying true to the foundation of service and sound medicine built by Dr. Herthel while constantly breaking new ground.

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Taking Shape

One such breakthrough is what today’s veterinarians and equestrians know as Platinum Performance®. In the early 1990s, Dr. Herthel began building the framework for what he refers to as the Biological Approach to Healing. His theory was simple — no amount of medicine can heal a horse as well as it can heal itself. This resulted in the trifecta of healing used at Alamo Pintado and many practices around the country: hyperbaric oxygen therapy, stem cell therapy and therapeutic nutrition. The goal was to improve both the speed and quality of healing in horses after surgery for colic and orthopedic injuries. “We were able to improve recoveries dramatically with the hyperbaric chamber and the early work we were doing with bone marrow and stem cell therapy,” remembers Dr. Herthel. “But we knew we needed to improve the nutritional health of these animals to positively impact bone healing, bone quality and prevent fractures.”

From this initial work, Platinum Performance was born in an unassuming lab at Alamo Pintado. “The research showed that there were nutrients that would actually change the way an animal responded to surgery and stress,” says Dr. Herthel. “We found there were things you could do nutritionally that would change the prognosis for the better and influence the quality of healing and rapidity of healing.” It was an exciting time, as new territory was charted in the field of equine nutrition. Ask those closest to Dr. Herthel, and they’ll tell you his interest with nutrition in the early days bordered on an obsession. “When he goes into something, he goes all in deep,” says son Mark Herthel, CEO of Platinum Performance. “He really doesn’t stop until he figures out a solution. When he went all into nutrition, I had just started college, and I would come home and there were text books and research papers everywhere. He was trying to figure it all out and piece things together. He wanted to know what his patients needed, so they could heal better and become more durable.”

After making the early formulations of what would become Platinum Performance, Dr. Herthel would test them on his patients, refine, then test again. After several years of quiet work, he had developed the formulation that he believed best served the needs of the horse for both preventive and therapeutic purposes. “I watched the care and attention that went into the iterative process that became Platinum Performance,” says Mark Herthel. “Ultimately, the patients started healing better and going home looking better than when they came into the hospital.” Having an effective formulation was one thing, naming it was another. Sue suggested the name Platinum Performance, after which everything began to truly take shape.

“We constantly remind ourselves that we have worked hard to earn the trust that riders and veterinarians have in us, but at the same time, we'll never get comfortable, we'll never take it for granted and we'll never stop looking for ways to get better.”
— Mark Herthel, Platinum Performance® President & Co-Founder

Before establishing the veterinary clinic over 40 years ago, Dr. Doug Herthel and wife Sue began with an ambulatory practice, run entirely out of an orange Chevy Vega

Dr. Doug Herthel, a graduate of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and his wife, Sue, stand in front of the original building at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, the practice they founded in 1972.

Then a high school student, Mark Herthel assists as they bring a horse out from under anesthesia in the recovery pool. Mark has been CEO of Platinum Performance® since its founding in 1996.

The Rise of Therapeutic Nutrition

As Dr. Herthel immersed himself in nutrition, he learned how omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and trace minerals could influence disease processes. He studied the role of inflammation and oxidative stress in disease, injury and poor healing and became convinced of the power of nutrition and its place in veterinary medicine. “Our research showed there were things we could do on the trace mineral side and with essential oils,” he says, referring to omega-3 fatty acids. “We started formulating based on that, and we saw improved mood and decreased healing time — whether it was an abdominal incision or a bone injury.”

The outward improvements Dr. Herthel and his clients were seeing reflected what was happening on the inside of the horse. With the advent of Bio-Sponge®, a natural clay mineral (Di-Tri-Octahedral Smectite) that binds Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens toxins, Platinum Performance became a recognized name among equine veterinarians. It was a life saver, especially in horses after colic surgery. Dr. Herthel then began to incorporate nutrition into every case, examining a patient's diet to determine if certain deficiencies were at play or if that horse’s feed was contributing to excess inflammation and free radicals. With the horse’s diet based primarily on hay, that was a logical first place to look. “With alfalfa, you may get 4-6 crops per year, and every time you cut a crop, you’re actually taking trace minerals with it. It’s like taking out of the bank and never putting anything back in,” says Dr. Herthel. He became convinced, through research, that the hay being fed to most horses was severely deficient in key nutrients. “We found that both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E were significantly depleted just 6 weeks post-cut.” This furthered his belief that, in order to thrive, horses required a quality forage-based diet with the right supplemental nutrients, most importantly omega-3 fatty acids.

Known for its flagship wellness and performance formulas, Platinum Performance® Equine and Platinum Performance® CJ, Platinum Performance® offers a complete line of therapeutic formulas for all aspects of equine health. Platinum Performance® manufactures all of its own products at its own facility.
““Nutrition is huge. It’s significant. In today’s equine athlete especially, we’re requiring more of them and now they have to go year-round. Nutrition is number one in keeping those horses at their best.”
— Dr. David Dutton, Hill Country Equine

“In the early days, few people knew what omega-3s were,” Dr. Herthel says looking back. “Nutrition courses in vet school focused primarily on ration balancing — carbohydrates, proteins, macro nutrients, etc. There was no mention of essential oils like omega-3s. That just wasn’t something we were taught.” From the beginning, Dr. Herthel’s focus became the therapeutic nutrients that could influence a horse’s inflammatory state and reduce the effects of disease or injury. “We realized that by using a formula that addressed some of those trace mineral and essential oil deficiencies in a quality way, it was much better for both the animal and the client.” The key was to use a product that was almost entirely human grade and had the right levels of each nutrient.

Dr. Lisa Teske of Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center and longtime client Barb Crist in Santa Ynez, California.

“For the best possible outcome, the veterinarian has to be involved in the horse's nutrition, supplementation and overall health. If you're just relying on someone at the tack store or the feed store, there are a lot of unknowns.”

Doug Herthel, DVM,Founder of Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center and Platinum Performance®

A Cut Above

Under the leadership of Dr. Herthel’s eldest son, Mark, Platinum Performance worked to become a different kind of animal health company. “As a child, I remember every dinner table conversation revolved around our clients and their horses at the clinic. That’s transferred over to Platinum,” says Mark Herthel. “We have clients here, not customers. We take a consultative approach, and we have a different mindset about how things should be done. It is an honor and responsibility having veterinarians trust us enough to call us or refer their clients to us for nutrition-related questions,” says Mark Herthel. “While we constantly remind ourselves that we have worked hard to earn this trust, we also strive to never get comfortable, never take anything for granted and never stop looking for ways to improve,” assures Herthel.

Platinum Performance® feeding trials, nutrition-focused studies and exploratory research with various colleges of veterinary medicine are constantly taking place. The focus on research and testing has greatly shaped the company and its products.

Research, Test and Learn

Much like his father, Mark Herthel has an unquenched need for information. “We’re all about research,” he says. “We’ll never stop learning and research is what allows us to move forward with new ingredients, big ideas and products that improve outcomes for horses.” At any given time, Platinum Performance is conducting several feeding trials, nutrition-focused studies and work with universities, such as Colorado State and UC Davis, to explore novel concepts in therapeutic nutrition.

The focus on research and testing has shaped the company’s perspective on how products are developed, launched, formulated and sold. “Our product development philosophy stems from our founding in veterinary medicine,” says Herthel. “We create products based on clinical needs in practices or from universities across the country. Veterinarians face clinical problems on a regular basis. When they ask us to help, we answer the call.” It’s a process that often takes months to years from the initial product concept to launch. “When my father was formulating Platinum, he put a lot of time and attention into identifying the right ingredients and sources. His eye was always on quality, and the products had to work better than what was already available on the market. This remains our approach today,” Herthel says emphatically. “A lot of products we work on never make it to market because they don’t meet our standards. You have to test and learn.”

Controlling Quality - Under One Roof

One of the unique characteristics of Platinum Performance is the company's relentless insistence that all products are made in its own California facility, by its own team and never sold over the counter. It’s a decision that was established firmly from day one and has remained a cornerstone of what the company stands for. “We realized how important it is to make your own product and maintain total control over sourcing and testing,” says Mark Herthel. “You can’t duplicate that kind of expertise and the quality that comes from it,” he says. “We can ensure every ingredient and finished formula is what it’s supposed to be, it’s safe and it’s going to work.” This is a point that matters to veterinarians and riders alike. What makes me feel confident in recommending Platinum formulas is that I have an understanding of what goes into the preparation of the product,” says Dr. Tim Ober, Team USA Show Jumping veterinarian. “I have full confidence in Platinum’s products and the impact they have on horse health.”

“Our clients may or may not be tested athletes, but we're going to treat every bucket, every product, like it's being fed to an Olympic contender.”

Dustin MojonnierPlatinum Performance® Director of Production

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Quality testing is taken very seriously at Platinum and is conducted by the same team of microbiologists, food scientists and ingredient experts that have guided Platinum’s quality program for years. “We’ve taken the quality approach and have made our own products from the very beginning,” says microbiologist Conor Keegan, who oversees the Quality Lab at Platinum. “That’s an important part of why our products work well. We know our ingredients, and we know if something doesn’t look right, taste right or test right. We’re out to protect our clients; there’s nothing more important.” Those clients range from ponies to trail horses, Kentucky Derby winners to Grand Prix jumpers and world class cutting horses. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. “We have a lot riding on us,” says Director of Production, Dustin Mojonnier. “Our clients may or may not be tested athletes, but we’re going to treat every bucket, every product, like it’s being fed to an Olympic contender. We have a lot of athletes — both human and animal — that rely on our products. We understand that they’re trusting us to not pick the cheapest ingredients, to not leave anything to chance, to protect them.” Dustin is referring to the human side of Platinum’s business, which has grown by word of mouth over the years. The products have become a secret weapon of sorts, used by NFL teams, Olympic athletes, weekend runners, physicians and clients simply looking to support their health. It’s a defining piece of Platinum’s so-called secret sauce — the human-animal connection. While the company’s human formulas are sourced using only the highest-quality ingredients, all equine and small animal formulas at Platinum Performance are comprised almost entirely of high-end human grade ingredients as well. The formulas are then rigorously tested identically, whether they be human or animal. “We’re screening for compounds and banned substances that, if left untested, can end the career of an equine or human athlete. Those are the reasons why we believe in maintaining total control of our products. I guarantee it’s not the cheapest way to do it, but it’s the right way,” says Brad Marr, Director of Quality.

Ultimately, it’s about the results seen in the horses, pets and people that rely on Platinum Performance formulas. Take a look inside the facility, and you’ll feel the difference immediately. Lab coats, clean rooms, state-of-the-art dust collection systems and climate-controlled production rooms are the antithesis of what one may expect from a typical animal supplement company. CEO Mark Herthel makes it clear that nothing here is done in typical fashion. “We never take the fastest route or the easiest way. Our entire team takes tremendous pride in a job done right, and I take tremendous pride in them. It’s the Platinum way or no way here.”

The Platinum Advisor Team is a group of educated, seasoned horse owners and athletes with degrees in animal science, nutrition and related fields. Kelly, left, has been a Platinum Advisor since 2010, and Heather has been a Platinum Advisor since 2007. Platinum Advisors answer every call that comes into Platinum Performance® and handle each nutritional consultation.

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Serving With Heart

The “team” at Platinum is the cornerstone of the company and defines its success. Take the Platinum Advisors, for instance. Known throughout the equestrian world, the Platinum Advisors are a group like no other. Educated, seasoned horse owners and athletes that bring not only degrees in animal science, nutrition and related fields to the table, they bring a heart to serve. “We have a tremendous, smart, dedicated team that gives our clients all they’ve got,” says Mark proudly. “You can be smart, you can know horses, you can know nutrition, but the real difference is the compassion that is in each of them.” One of the more than 15 advisors personally answers each call made to Platinum Performance and handles each nutritional consultation. “They’ll quite literally stop at nothing to ensure that each horse, each client, each veterinarian is taken care of,” says Mark. “That’s really the genesis of it,” he says proudly. “I trust every team member implicitly. They’re given the power to do the right thing, and they never let me down. Clients and veterinarians know that when they call they’re going to get someone who cares and who will work for them.”

Committed to the Equine Veterinarian

“For the best possible outcome, the veterinarian has to be involved in the horse’s nutrition, supplementation and overall health. If you’re just relying on someone at the tack store or the feed store, there are a lot of unknowns — how and when to use the product, in what combination and are they paying attention to the expiration dates. There’s a lot to know, and we believe the veterinarian is the person that should be making those recommendations,” says Dr. Herthel. These are the reasons that Platinum Performance decided to sell its products only through veterinarians or directly to their clients with support from Platinum Advisors. “We didn’t make that promise as a marketing gimmick or because it was the most lucrative way to go,” says Mark Herthel. “We made that promise because we know that therapeutic nutrition belongs in the hands of the veterinarian.” For the past 20 years, that’s where it has been, being used successfully on cases ranging from wellness to lameness and surgery to medicine. “There are lots of nutritional supplements out there, and we’re asked about them by clients all the time,” says Dr. Mike Fox of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery in Texas. “The thing I like about Platinum is that it was formulated by veterinarians for veterinarians. I’ve always felt like their product was the best that it could be because of that.”

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“We’re really focused on learning more about nutrition and how it can become an even greater part of medicine.”
— Mark Herthel, Platinum Performance® President & Co-Founder

Nutrition as a Standard of Care

When Platinum Performance began, little was known about omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and other therapeutic nutrients. Consequently, veterinarians were skeptical that nutrients had a place amongst more standard medical therapies. As time and research progressed and veterinarians saw results using Platinum Performance formulas, reliance on these products increased. “We’ve learned a lot,” says Mark Herthel. “It’s pretty hard to argue when you see horses changing before your eyes or when you no longer encounter the complications you used to dread after colic surgery.” Equally important was the fact that the formulas were supported by sound research performed by well-respected veterinarians. “We continue to see a lot of great researchers showing that everything from reproduction to metabolic syndrome and neurological conditions can be positively influenced by diet and therapeutic nutrition,” says Mark Herthel. “For me,” adds Dr. Herthel, “the enjoyment is that veterinarians have been able to reduce the use of many medications just by improving health and having the body in balance with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory nutrients.”

Over the ensuing years, nutrition has transformed into a well-accepted therapy that complements other treatments used in practice. “Nutrition is huge. It’s significant,” says Dr. David Dutton of Hill Country Equine. “In today’s equine athlete especially, we’re requiring more of them, and now they have to go year-round. Nutrition is number one in keeping those horses at their best.” Mark Herthel agrees, “veterinarians realize therapeutic nutrition plays an important role in improving outcomes after surgery or responses to treatments being administered. It complements everything else that they do. In contrast, poor diets or too much grain hinder everything they do.” Nutrition has become a standard of care and is now widely accepted as a part of practicing good medicine.

  • Platinum Team Members in Early Days

    The original Platinum team celebrates shipping their first pallet of product.

  • Platinum Team Members at AAEP

    Platinum’s Advisor team members, together with CEO Mark Herthel and longtime team member Rick Roncka at the largest veterinary gathering of the year, the American Association of Equine Practitioners Conference (AAEP).

A Family Affair

Platinum’s commitment to veterinary medicine didn’t occur by accident. It stems from the Herthel family’s long history as equine veterinarians, both in clinical practice as well as in a research setting. “My dad focuses on being a good veterinarian and an inventor, and my mom focuses on making sure things are running right,” says Mark Herthel. “My mom’s brother, Dr. Jim Moore, is a veterinarian at the University of Georgia, and now my brother, Dr. Troy Herthel, is a veterinarian and board certified surgeon who’s focused on caring for the patients every day.” Mark is quick to point out that like Alamo Pintado, Platinum Performance is not simply a business, it’s a lifestyle. “I may not have been cut out to be a veterinarian or the type of student it takes to become one,” he says laughing, “but I love making things, and I love serving people.” Platinum Performance is a place that has allowed Mark to help create a business that mirrors the values of the clinic he grew up in, a fact that’s not lost on his father. “Platinum is led by my son. Mark grew up in our clinic, where he saw the hard work and dedication it takes to be successful. He was around when we developed and tested our first formulations and saw what it took to get the Platinum formula right. It was an exhilarating time, and it’s only gotten more exciting with his leadership,” he says proudly.

“Our formulations are based on quality, not on the bottom line,” says Mark. “We don’t have a board to comply with or quarterly earnings that have to be met. We have only ourselves to answer to, and we do things the way we feel is right. As a result, we base our decisions on the longer term,” he says. For us, it’s all about quality and consistency. We’re here for the long haul, we’re going to stay true to who we are, and we’re really focused on learning more about nutrition and how it can become an even greater part of medicine.”

As successful as Platinum Performance has become, it remains a first name basis kind of company. This includes Platinum’s first employee, Raul Ortega, who in his twentieth year with the company is still a vital part of its daily operations. Together, the Platinum team is a lean group that gives it their all, and to Mark, they’re what makes the company tick in a very special way. “There’s nothing I love doing more than what we do and doing it together,” he says.

Dr. Mark Rick, one of the original veterinarians at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, has been instrumental in the practice since the early 1980s and is pictured with Rachel Mojonnier and Heather Elliott, the very first Platinum Advisors. All three are still in their roles today.

“There’s nothing I love doing more than what we do and doing it together.”

Mark Herthel,Platinum Performance® President & Co-Founder

The Next 20 Years - A Focus on Prevention

It’s a time like never before in the world of therapeutic nutrition. Researchers are placing unprecedented emphasis on nutritional therapies, and major breakthroughs are poised to impact the future of veterinary medicine. “We now can measure blood levels of inflammatory mediators and how they change appropriately when a horse is getting the right nutrients,” says Dr. Herthel with excitement. “It’s about prevention. That’s the key.” Prevention means greater durability and longevity for the animal, and more joyful time in the saddle for the rider. “The right nutritional supplementation and routine veterinary care are probably the most economical things you can do to support your horse’s durability, health and performance,” says Dr. Herthel.

In the 20 years since Platinum’s inception, thousands of horses have been positively impacted by what began as a theory in a small laboratory at Alamo Pintado. “We’re constantly learning how to improve the way we feed an animal for longevity and to prevent injury and improve recovery,” says Mark. “We’re excited about the decreases in research costs that have resulted because of new technologies and the new frontiers in medicine that are out there.” Platinum Performance intends to play an integral role in the discovery process and determining how nutrition can be used in a more powerful way for prevention, treatment and to improve performance. “If a veterinarian can keep an animal from breaking down or keep a horse thriving and healthy for more years, that’s what it’s about,” says Mark. “Quality of life and durability, and allowing clients to enjoy their horses. We’re 20 years old, but we’ve got a lot of big plans. The first 20 years were about making the case for nutrition and building the foundation, and the next 20 years will be accelerating that and making new discoveries.”

Platinum Performance has recently added a new research laboratory just a short walk from its headquarters where all manufacturing, shipping and client service take place. This laboratory will be near the Platinum Kids and Family Center that will open in early 2017 to provide on-site daycare and after school care for team members’ children. The new Platinum Performance Nutrition Research Lab will facilitate discoveries that will help to further the Platinum mission — “Good Nutrition is Good Medicine.” “We are really excited about some of the new capabilities that this laboratory will give our team,” says Mark, “and we look forward to finding more ways that nutrition is affecting the horse.”

Platinum Performance is a company with a deep-seeded history that defines who they are, how they operate and who they’ll become in the future. An unwavering commitment to veterinarians and the horses they serve will remain a cornerstone of Platinum’s ethos. It’s who the company is at its core, and there’s one thing that’s for certain — it’s all done for the love of the horse and the pursuit of exceptional formulas to help keep horses, pets and the people that love them healthy and thriving.

Jessie Bengoa
  • by Jessie Bengoa, Platinum Performance®