Debbie Roberts Loucks

In the 1960s it was good to grow up on a farm, focused on caring for horses and cattle instead of wars and rebellion. While a revolution in the cities was going on, an environment of nurturing and hard work was being fostered where I grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley. A quiet village named Solvang catered to tourism while the surrounding county was mostly known for growing flowers for seed and farming.

Our veterinarian at the time was Jim Burns of Santa Maria and his work took him to the Santa Ynez Valley and our Flag Is Up Farms where we had a small emergency equine clinic including a surgical room. In 1972, when Dr. Burns moved to Northern California, Dr. Van Snow took over and implemented a more extensive -- and expensive -- surgery room and large x-ray unit. 

“We bought a Draeger surgery table that was state of the art at the time, and shortly after, Dr. Doug Herthel announced that he was going to build an incredibly sophisticated equine hospital called Alamo Pintado about eight miles from Flag Is Up Farms. Soon after, somebody got a good deal on the sale of our surgery table. But now we had the state of the art Alamo Pintado Hospital,” recalled, my dad, Monty Roberts.

It didn’t take long for the local, burgeoning equine industry to appreciate that just down the road were facilities more modern than the prominent University of California at Davis. UC Davis was the destination throughout the state of California for expensive, talented horses that needed medical care.

While a student at UC Davis, Herthel and a team of students focused on colic, the Achilles heel of horses. Colic surgery was almost never successful back then. This team helped increase the outcome of this surgery to the 90 percent success rate that it is today. Later, another breakthrough happened in the world of veterinary medicine when Dr. Herthel began to utilize adult stem cell therapy in horses. The testimonies of praise for the results made Alamo Pintado world renowned.

A unique aspect of the Alamo Pintado Hospital story is the familial talent that broadened the reach of this effective formula for equine health. Dr. Herthel partnered with son Mark in 1996 to found Platinum Performance, providing supplements for horse, dogs, cats and people, too. With a culture of commitment to veterinarians and the highest respect for their role in guiding the health and performance of the horse, Mark and Doug set a new standard and approach to nutrition for health.

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Doug’s wife since college, Sue, has always been an integral part of the business while son Troy rounds out the family participation as an equine veterinarian and board certified surgeon at Alamo Pintado Equine Hospital. It’s been a privilege to watch so many fine young students from around the world who have come to intern at Alamo Pintado. Highly competitive intern spots are chosen from the most prestigious veterinary schools to live on the property for a yearlong program.

Alamo Pintado and Dr. Doug Herthel are known as pioneers in the advancement of veterinary medicine which seems likely to continue to inspire new ideas to make life better for horses and their owners. Fortunately for all of us, Dr. Herthel found a fertile and supportive area to build his practice in the Santa Ynez Valley. His love for horses and his scientific curiosity have set research on a great path for the future.

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Debbie Roberts Loucks grew up on Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang. She is the daughter of Monty and Pat Roberts. You can follow her on her popular podcast Horsemanship Radio.