Dessie Hughes has long been established as one of Ireland’s most skilled and consistent National Hunt trainers. Starting out as a very successful NH jockey more than 30 years ago, Dessie set up his own training yard in 1980 and quickly began accumulating wins.
Perhaps Dessie’s most notable victory to date was the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham – in fact, he won twice with ‘Hardy Eustace’ in the consecutive years of 2004 and 2005. Under Dessie’s training, Hardy Eustace won over £1 million in prize money before retiring in 2009.
Dessie has always believed that peak health is a must for peak performance, and that optimal digestive health is crucial. He tells us that his racehorses can face many challenges to digestive tract health on a daily basis, from the training and stabling to high cereal diets. But Dessie is also quick to point out that these conditions simply can’t be avoided in the racehorse.
In the autumn of 2012 Dessie was approached by Dr. Ken Hill, a renowned expert on equine performance nutrition. Dr. Hill introduced Dessie to SUCCEED® Digestive Conditioning Program®.
Dessie was interested in learning how SUCCEED could help offset the challenges of the feed and management needed for horses in hard work. Dessie agreed to trial SUCCEED on six of his horses. The group of horses included a few with histories of digestive issues, but also some without. Over the course of the trial, the horses would also be tested regularly with the SUCCEED® Equine Fecal Blood Test (FBT) to help monitor their digestive health.
After about six weeks, all horses on SUCCEED started to really stand out from those who weren’t on it,” Dessie says now, looking back on the trial. “The SUCCEED horses showed improvements in condition, appetite and in their general attitude to work. These horses seemed to be enjoying their work more than ever and just kept on improving.
FBT results reflected this too, with fewer and fewer positive test results that would indicate digestive tract inflammation.
“The next big race on the calendar after the trial was the Cheltenham Festival in March 2013,” Dessie says. And the results? “They astonished us all.” All horses on SUCCEED during the initial trial finished in the money over the course of the 2013 festival. The highlight was undoubtedly Our Conor winning the JCB Triumph Hurdles easily, by 15 lengths.
“Rare Bob, another of our SUCCEED trial horses, was our only entry in the Grand National at Aintree just a few weeks later. That horse ran a fantastic race, finishing fifth out of huge field of 40 starters.”
I’ve no doubts at all about the role that SUCCEED has played in improving our horses overall health and way of going. I have now put more than 40 of my horses in training on SUCCEED. Our vets can’t believe the difference too. They were aware that SUCCEED improved digestive health, but they didn’t realise it could boost performance too.
Dessie tells us that SUCCEED has become a mainstay of his feeding routine. “I just wouldn’t be without it.”
Photo Credit: Caroline Norris