Not long ago, nutrition meant something very different within the realm of veterinary medicine. While it was seen as an important part of everyday care, nutrition wasn’t thought to go much further than that. It was the early 1990s and Dr. Doug Herthel was convinced that a therapeutic approach to nutrition could, in fact, play a major role in both healing and performance in his equine patients and beyond. Could patients heal faster and more completely? Could they perform to their full genetic potential and, perhaps most importantly, could veterinarians help to create healthier and more durable athletes that could avoid the pitfalls of injury and disease when given the right tools? What began as profound questions, transformed into the mission of Platinum Performance®, founded in 1996 to change the scope of what therapeutic nutrition could accomplish within the cells of the horse, the walls of the clinic and the fences of the show pen.
Since the first buckets were made by hand on the grounds of the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center over 23 years ago, Mark Herthel, eldest son of Dr. and Mrs. Sue Herthel, has led the company with a simple mission. “Growing up in a veterinary clinic we had clients, not customers. We know them, we know their horses, and our mission every day at Platinum is the same as it is with our patients at Alamo Pintado; do right by the horse and its owner,” says Herthel emphatically. That simple credo has led every decision the company has made since day one. “We set out to redefine the role of therapeutic nutrition in veterinary medicine and sport,” says Herthel, “and we work every day with that focus.”
Mark has driven the company forward with, admittedly, an unlikely juxtaposition. Coming from a family of equine veterinarians, he knew the vast potential of targeted nutrients in equine health and was determined to prove those theories with science. Platinum Performance® made research one of its key areas of focus, investing in furthering the reach of equine health through studies performed at colleges of veterinary medicine and in private practices across the country. Today, this research drives product development, resulting in formulas that address real clinical needs. Those formulas are then delivered by way of a service model derived from Herthel’s roots in a veterinary hospital. “We have extreme service standards here,” says Heather Elliott, who has led Platinum’s Advisor team since 2001. Platinum Advisors are a select group of extensively trained nutritional advisors known for highly personal service. “Our team serves with the same mantra we’ve had since the beginning,” says Elliott. “Do right by the client and their horse, every time.”
Platinum Co-founders Mark Herthel
and Doug Herthel DVM (1946 - 2018)
Over the last two decades, Platinum Performance® has set out to lead the emergence of therapeutic nutrition as a vital tool in veterinary medicine. Now a standard of care in practices around the world, therapeutic nutrition continues to evolve in both scale and impact. “We know that therapeutic nutrition can help horses heal and perform to their full potential,” says Herthel. “We now understand that our reach could potentially go far beyond that, by helping veterinarians to create a more predictive, preventive and personalized approach to medicine. This emerging field is known as scientific wellness, and we believe it could have a profound impact on animal health.” The company is investing in forward-thinking research, spanning from the gut microbiome and metabolome to mitochondrial function and predictive bio-markers. “We see conditions and injuries in both equine and human medicine that appear out of nowhere. But do they really? Imagine being able to use bio-markers to give a veterinarian an indication that a patient was at a higher risk. Then, once identified, the veterinarian could take a preventive approach to stave off injury or disease, resulting in a longer, higher quality life.” Though the work is in infancy, Herthel is passionate about the future potential. “If we can come to a place in medicine where we can better predict, prevent and more personally treat these conditions, veterinarians could greatly change the shape of medicine.”
That knowledge requires advanced testing and diagnostics, fueled by ever-evolving science. While the research is young, it is driving forward at a rapid pace. “The intersection of equine and human medicine is key here,” says Herthel. “Human medicine is far ahead of us in terms of the science,” he explains. “However, in equine medicine we have a lot of potential, given the love and care provided to the horse and the veterinary-client-patient relationship. It’s well-known that oftentimes when something is effective in a horse it can be effective in a human as well. By working together we can exponentially further our reach.”
Platinum Performance® has dedicated itself to not only advancing the impact of therapeutic nutrition in daily practice, but to contributing on a foundational level to the development of the field of scientific wellness. “We know that the targeted nutrients in our formulas can influence the health and performance of nearly every case a veterinarian sees,” says Herthel. “We have the drive, the formulas and the nutritional knowledge, and we’ve recently joined forces with Zoetis® to leverage their diagnostic capabilities, significant R&D initiatives and global resources to bring the field of scientific wellness from concept to reality. This positions us to together impact the continuum of care in equine veterinary medicine to help discover better ways to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat injury and disease.”
At its core, the coming together of the two brands is a natural fit. “When we first explored this opportunity, we found ourselves aligned in what we wanted for the future but, importantly, also connected on a core level,” says Herthel. “We’re moving forward in unison and focused on making a difference.” Recognizing the unique position that the company has formed within the veterinary and performance worlds, Zoetis® will maintain Platinum Performance® as a distinct business and brand led by Herthel. “Our vision is within reach,” says Herthel. “Together we’ll move faster, go further and hopefully help to redefine what’s possible in veterinary medicine and performance. Beyond that, this will allow us to carry our work in equine veterinary medicine into the small animal realm as well. It’s an exciting opportunity,” says Herthel.
As with everything Platinum Performance® does, it all stems from a desire for impact. “While this is an opportunity to make a bigger difference, this is Platinum Performance® doing so while maintaining our values with the same incredible team, the same formulas our clients rely on, the same commitment to riders and veterinarians, and in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, the same place where we were founded,” says Herthel. “While the important things will remain unchanged, this opportunity combines resources, allows for a bigger vision to come to life at a faster pace and joins two companies made up of people who want to do better by the horse.”
To set the stage for a brighter and healthier future for the horse and, hopefully one day, the human as well, Platinum Performance® will host the inaugural Platinum Summit on December 7th in Denver Colorado, just one day prior to the 2019 AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) gathering. Platinum Summit will bring together leading researchers and practitioners in both human and veterinary medicine to share innovative perspectives with the goal of advancing animal health, exploring the impact of nutrient therapy on patient outcomes and discussing exciting research related to the equine microbiome, metabolome, predictive bio-markers and the science of systems biology. The goal of Platinum Summit is to support the development of more targeted and timely treatments using a predictive, preventive and more personalized approach to medicine. “Platinum Summit will be a landmark event for us,” says Herthel. “Here we’ll gather innovators in both daily practice and from a research setting to introduce a new perspective in veterinary medicine. We know that the best results come from treating the horse as an integrated whole animal. We hope to set the stage for significant shifts in the next several years, including the field of scientific wellness.”
The air of excitement in Platinum's Buellton, California headquarters is palpable. While big dreams are within reach, there is a comforting presence of normalcy. “My dad and I built this company together, and with so many of the people that have kept it authentic over 23 years,” says Herthel. “We’re going to continue his legacy and bring his vision to reality together.”