It is not often that you meet a person who has lived their whole life — and continues to do so — full of passion for what they do and how they do it; a person who makes their dreams come true. Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD, a veterinary nutritionist at Mad Barn, is most definitely one of those people.

Kellon knew as early as age six that she wanted to be an equine veterinarian after her first encounter with a police horse… who bit her (one might say she was bitten by the “horse” bug!).

After over five decades of following her passion, Dr. Kellon is one of the most trusted and respected experts in the field of equine health.

Dr. Kellon has amassed an extensive list of publications including both field-based and theoretical research, as well as lessons through her books, blog posts, journals, and teaching courses found at DrKellon.com.

Her work is changing the way we look at equine nutrition, supplementation, the treatment of disease, and our understanding of metabolic conditions in horses.

Early Career

Dr Eleanor Kellon VMD Equine Veterinary Nutritionist | Mad Barn CanadaFrom the early start of Kellon’s career, she knew nutrition played a critical role in horse health, but it was not part of the veterinary pedagogy at the time.

It was later, when Kellon was doing clinical research during her internship and residency at the New Bolton Center Large Animal Hospital (University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine), that proved to be a pivotal point in Kellon’s thinking about horse health.

Around this same time, she was working as the resident farm veterinarian at Water Gap Farm, a standardbred training and rehabilitation center, where she serendipitously met her husband.

Kellon and her husband bred and raced Standardbred horses and it was through this experience that Kellon made important connections:

I’ve always been interested in nutrition, but when you’re breeding racehorses, you really see the profound impact nutrition has on their performance. You can only do so much with a bottle of Bute [Phenylbutazone] and penicillin. It was then that I knew that proper nutrition was key to a healthy horse.

And Kellon’s career and life trajectory changed forever.

Research Contributions

It was her key findings in field work that propelled Kellon deeper into the world of equine research. This passion was fueled by a keen interest in applying physiology and biochemistry to horse performance, inspired by the late Tom Ivers and the Horsescience Group.

Kellon later joined the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance Outreach Group (ECIR) and became contributing editor to the Horse Journal, where she played a role in major breakthroughs in horse health.

This marked the beginning of a paradigm shift in understanding metabolic issues in horses, a period during which the term ‘Equine Metabolic Syndrome’ (EMS) emerged as a key concept in the equine lexicon.

That’s an interesting story,” notes Kellon. “Horse Journal received a question from a magazine reader who suggested supplementing horses that have large cresty necks and laminitis with magnesium and I was very curious as to why.”

“We set up a field trial, did extensive research, and combined with many studies in human metabolic issues that revealed magnesium as a key nutrient, I made the connection. Magnesium is an essential macro-mineral that plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of a horse. We found magnesium supplementation did indeed reduce the size of fatty neck crests and improve hoof comfort in laminitic horses and ponies.”

“A search of the veterinary literature revealed two prior articles implicating elevated insulin in equine laminitis. My article on the response to magnesium was the first to suggest EMS, previously called Syndrome X, was indeed like the human insulin-resistant condition.

Equine Nutrition

Dr Eleanor Kellon - Nutrition for Horses | Mad Barn CanadaAmong many of Kellon’s research contributions, her innovative research into the connection between non-Cushing’s metabolic issues in horses and nutrition stands out. Working with thousands of horses on the ECIR group, Kellon elucidated that certain breeds of horses are genetically predisposed to metabolic issues, such as insulin resistance.

But with the right nutritional program, including forage, salt, and supplements, one can mitigate the onset and severity of the disease.

As a start, metabolically challenged horses need hydrolysable carbohydrates limited to under 10 percent and should receive 1.5 to 2 percent of body weight of forage per day. It’s about controlling carbohydrate (simple sugar and starch) intake because they are, in basic terms, insulin resistant.

Concurrent to this, Kellon performed experiments with feed strategies for performance horses, including timed feeding of carbohydrates. “With performance horses, you ‘feed the work’ and stay on top of salt losses. Insufficient salt is the number one cause of poor performance.

Additionally, Kellon’s notable work includes supplementation to support horses with myopathies, allergies, and degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD).

One of the most pressing messages that Dr. Kellon wants to impart — and that her years of field and clinical research have clearly shown — is the “need for a robust understanding of good equine nutrition and the value of exercise.

Her expertise is in the nuanced understanding of how to manage horses with different metabolic conditions (EMS, Cushing’s), the aging horse, and the performance horse, all through a personalized approach to nutrition and lifestyle. Knowing your horse’s needs is key to the right nutritional profile and optimizing their health and wellness.

Medicine has always been the solution to disease; diet has not been a consideration in the overall health of the horse. This must change.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Knowledge is Power

A persistent challenge within the equine world, however, is that horse owners often overlook the importance of these two factors. Kellon strongly believes that knowledge is power, and it is her mission to disseminate and educate on the importance of nutrition within the equine sphere:

Medicine has always been the solution to disease; diet has not been a consideration in the overall health of the horse. This must change. It’s not that hard to keep a horse alive, but surviving is not thriving. People need to let go of being rigid in their way of feeding and exam