A southern Alberta ranch family’s search more than 20 years ago for a better mineral mix for their own horses led to the development of Hoffman Horse Products, which are now known by horse owners across North America.
Lorne and Marian Hoffman have had horses all their lives on their ranch near Stavely, about 90 minutes south of Calgary. They raised Quarter Horses for cattle work on their ranch, and showed horses in western pleasure, halter classes and other disciplines. At one time they were breeding more than 130 mares annually and had several top stallions, including AQHA Champion and AQHA World Champion Sire Skip Zan Parr. His picture is on all the Hoffman’s Horse Products bags, says Kirstin Smith, granddaughter of the Hoffmans and marketing representative at Country Junction Feeds in Wetaskiwin, just southeast of Edmonton.
“When my grandparents were breeding mares and raising foals, they were having problems with heat cycles and foals with growth problems like poor knees and enlarged fetlock joints,” says Smith. “They felt these issues were at least in part nutritional. For many years they tried a variety of feeds and minerals to try to resolve the problems, but without success.”
The Hoffmans were looking for something to help correct these ailments which was also cost-effective and palatable. They became acquainted with nutritionist Bernie Grumpelt, then at ADM Animal Nutrition, who now works for Country Junction Feeds.
“Grandma and Grandpa sat down with him and figured out what they needed for their horses,” says Smith. “The mineral mix he put together worked very well; they used it with a few test subjects. Some of their mares that were not cycling well.”
The mineral mix Grumpelt developed really helped. Having the right balance of trace minerals is important for successful reproduction.
Products were in demand
“Then in 1997 Grandpa made the decision to sell their stallions,“ says Smith. “They’d been using the mineral mix for a few years, and whenever mare owners came to pick up their mares, Grandpa and Grandma always gave them a bag of mineral for their mares.” After they sold their stallions and quit breeding mares, many mare owners kept asking about the mineral.
“Eventually Grandma had a meeting with UFA (United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative) and asked if they would carry the mineral product,” says Smith. “That’s how Hoffman’s Horse Mineral was developed and came onto the market in 1998.” The products are manufactured at Country Junction Feeds.
Many people kept asking Marian Hoffman for feed and other nutritional advice besides the vitamin-mineral supplement. The Hoffmans worked with Grumpelt and Country Junction Feeds to eventually introduce Hoffman’s Horse Ration and Hoffman’s Equine Performance Mineral in 2006. “These were very popular,” says Smith. In 2016 Country Junction Feeds bought the product rights when the Hoffmans retired.
The product line was expanded to 11 different equine products. In the spring of 2018, four more were added — feed programs to fit every horse from the hard-working athlete to the broodmare or pleasure horse. “We have a special feed for every situation,” says Smith. The feed rations are sold coast to coast in Canada, and Hoffman’s mineral is also sold in the U.S.
Smith joined Country Junction Feeds three years ago. She was about to graduate in 2016 from University at Lethbridge with a degree in management when her family sold the company to Country Junction Feeds. She had already been helping her mother and grandmother with marketing at trade shows, and was interested in a sales and marketing career. Joining Country Junction Feeds was a natural fit.
Still using horses
The family still has horses. “My parents, in partnership with my dad’s brother and family, calve out 500 cows and we do most of the cattle work with our horses,” says Smith. “We usually have at least six horses with two that I call my own. I have always been proud of our company; all our sales reps and the people behind it are horse people as well.”
She points out it is not just a job, but something everyone involved is passionate about. “When we develop a feed or supplement, we try it first with our own horses, and make any necessary changes based on how it works,” Smith says. “This is something I really enjoy, and we are always willing to try these feeds with our own horses. We put our money where our mouth is — or our horses’ mouths.” Products are tested and proven in practical feed situations before they are brought to the market.
Smith says she usually doesn’t tell customers she’s part of the Hoffman family. “I want people to know I truly believe in the products rather than have them think I love it because it’s my family,” she says. “I strongly believe in the value of the feeds and supplements that can benefit horse health and performance.
“The products are designed to benefit horses used for a range of purposes, but especially ranch horses. Many of them work long days in conditions and terrain that are not always ideal. If you are going out to rope a cow, it’s often hard work for the horse in a big pasture in tough conditions. The horse needs to be properly fed for the work.”