A Legacy of Quality Equine Nutrition Products – Life Data Labs, Inc.


BY Jessica Shannon

Life Data Labs, Inc. is a trusted name in the equestrian community thanks to their product, Farrier’s Formula, the number-one recommended hoof supplement by farriers in the U.S.

In 1973, Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, founded Life Data Labs, Inc. with the purpose of studying the nutrient requirements of horses. He set out to determine the requirements through laboratory testing of over one hundred horses’ blood and feed, then re-testing at intervals to determine the exact nutrients and the amounts needed for each animal. During the initial process, it quickly became clear that many severe problems could be corrected through supplementation.

Dr. Frank Gravlee’s son, Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS, practiced veterinary medicine for over two decades before joining his father at Life Data Labs and continues his father’s legacy by further focusing on equine nutrition research. Dr. Scott’s role in new product development also allows him to help horse owners understand their horse’s nutritional requirements.

Dr. Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS and his father, Dr. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, who founded Life Data Labs, Inc., in 1973

His father’s vision included being a steward of the environment. Dr. Frank purchased a coffee bagging machine, modified it for Life Data products, and packaged products in vacuum-sealed and nitrogen-flushed bags. This not only preserved the nutrients but also created a lower impact on the environment compared to the natural resources required to produce plastic buckets along with disposal concerns in the landfills. He also built a solar energy field that produces sufficient electricity for the entire facility, including manufacturing, for net zero energy requirements.

“Life Data Labs does not introduce products that are not based on research and field tested,” says Dr. Scott Gravlee. Blood samples from a group of affected horses are analyzed in the laboratory and are compared to blood samples of horses not experiencing the same issues, such as insulin resistance. If the blood sample results indicate that nutrition may help, a formulation is developed. There is then up to two years of field testing before the company is prepared to market and sell the product.

Life Data documents where the ingredients are sourced and retains the ability to recall any products through a tracking system. Fortunately, there has never been a need to recall any of their products, but a system is in place should that ever occur.

Addressing Metabolic Concerns in Horses

Regardless of discipline, “horses are metabolically the same… even between pasture horses and working horses,” says Dr. Gravlee. They may have different caloric needs, but the metabolic issues they face due to poor nutrition, the quality of their grass, over-supplementation, and other health issues are all similar.

A significant issue with horses now is over-supplementation, says Dr. Gravlee, and there is a “metabolic cost to feeding too many supplements.”

Life Data’s specialty products can address many metabolic problems horses commonly experience. Their latest line of supplements and nutrition products are years in the making. Laboratory blood sample testing and nutrient formulation are followed by field testing while making some adjustments as needed. The in-house lab at Life Data focuses on mineral testing of whole blood with ICP-MS equipment. Life Data has developed three specialty products from this research: Life Data Lamina Formula for laminitis, Life Data Adrenal Formula for horses with Cushing’s, and Insulin R Formula to support horses with insulin resistance.

Per Dr. Gravlee, “Approximately 10% of horses in the United States have been diagnosed with insulin resistance.” Most horses are obese for a period before insulin resistance builds. Early warning signs can consist of abnormal weight gain or weight loss, increased or excessive water consumption, loss of stamina and muscle tone, tendency to develop laminitis or colic, abdominal bloating, and increased blood triglyceride levels, he notes. Horses with insulin resistance are more likely to colic, face laminitis, and be diagnosed with equine metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistant horses are often apathetic, lazy, and not alert.

To create Insulin R Formula, Life Data Labs compared mineral blood testing of a data set of horses with insulin resistance to horses that were not affected. A supplement was formulated to bring down the high test values and supplement the low values. Signs that administering the Insulin R Formula is helping begin when horse owners notice a more active, alert horse that starts to lose weight. The nutrients in the product aid in boosting the metabolism. It is important to note that Insulin R does not replace any medications that are prescribed by an individual horse’s veterinarian, such as thyroid hormone supplementation.

The Insulin R Formula will aid in maintaining a healthy weight, balancing metabolism, and providing overall health support to combat issues that result from insulin resistance. Nutritional support for the connective tissues of the ligaments, skin, and hair coat should be provided by giving Farrier’s Formula Double Strength or Farrier’s Formula DS Plus Joint along with Life Data Insulin R Formula.

The process of developing the Life Data Adrenal Formula was similar. It is designed for horses diagnosed with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), otherwise known as Cushing’s Disease. PPID occurs when the middle lobe of the pituitary gland increases in size leading to excessive ACTH production. Dr. Gravlee explained that the pituitary gland “produces excessive levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to over-produce several hormones, including cortisol. The resulting hormone imbalances cause the symptoms associated with PPID. Horses diagnosed with PPID are immunocompromised, and more likely to have hoof abscesses, dental issues, and repeated bouts of laminitis.” There are also coat issues associated with PPID, such as not shedding a winter coat, coarse hair, or an unusual amount of hair growth.

Both PPID and Insulin Resistant horses will need the advice of their veterinarian for treatment and appropriate feeding practices.

Dr. Gravlee says that about 10-15% of adult horses have been affected by laminitis. Laminitis can often be caused by metabolic issues (EMS, insulin resistance, or PPID), grain overload, sepsis from colic, sepsis from a uterine infection, or concussion (Road Founder). Horses with laminitis will position their forelimbs “out in front of the chest and the hind limbs are positioned under the abdomen to alleviate the amount of weight on the affected limbs,” he adds.

Life Data Lab’s Lamina Formula is designed to provide nutrients that support horses with acute or chronic laminitis by promoting improvement in the blood flow within the capillaries of the inner hoof wall and reducing inflammation.

A case of laminitis in healthy and dense hooves is likely to be less severe than if the hooves have existing poor structure. The nutrition provided by a quality hoof supplement can help reduce the severity of a future bout of laminitis. The research behind Life Data’s well-known Farrier’s Formula and the Lamina Formula ensures that your horse’s hooves are receiving the highest quality ingredients and nutrients. Fed together, horses prone to laminitis will have stronger hooves, better blood flow in the hoof wall, and likely fewer future bouts of laminitis. The nutrients in both supplements work in tandem to give your horse healthy hooves.

It is important, however, to note that feeding both joint and hoof supplements together can result in too much sulfur in a horse’s diet leading to a deterioration of hoof quality. Excessive sulfur in a horse’s diet can “block the proper absorption of copper,” notes Dr. Gravlee, which, “along with Vitamin C, is necessary for the formation of collagen to build the healthy connective tissue essential for strong hooves and joints.”

Metabolic Support and a Lasting Legacy

It can take months to years, but metabolic issues can be addressed with the right nutrients. The product line from Life Data Labs, Inc. can help address issues that are rooted in metabolic problems.

Given that his father was very particular about how their products were produced, Dr. Gravlee says Life Data Labs, Inc. continues to produce supplements and nutritional products that are proven to be effective, ensuring that his father’s vision continues. Life Data continues to formulate supplements with quality ingredients that are derived from evidence-based research. The trusted name and legacy truly matter to everyone at Life Data Labs, Inc.

To learn more about Life Data Labs, Inc., visit www.lifedatalabs.com