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Day 5: Off to the races!, Barrel races that is.

We are currently in the town of Itu, Brazil experiencing the wonderful things that they have been doing with different horse breeds, one of them being the quarter horse. To get this experience we went and stopped at the Haras Raphaela ranch to talk to them about the things that work for them regarding the care and breeding of these horses as well as the barrel racing aspect in which their horses compete in. The ranch is about 160 acres and only about 100 of that is used for horse needs. The manager of the barn informed us that they use a large quantity of mares in the embryo transfer side of things, because by using another horse to raise the young it leaves the top level competitors for barrel racing to continue doing just that. He went on to speak to us about the different things they do for the horses like having an acupuncturist to come around once a month to see if any of the horses need it, as well as at least 3 vets coming and going constantly, with even an agronomist coming once a month to ensure that the quality of pasture stays at its peak condition.  After having toured the grounds and seeing the spectacular facilities we even got the opportunity to watch trainers from different areas around Brazil work horses on barrels and see the technique and thought they put into their training. Overall we had the time of our lives and can't wait to see what is next in store!





May 27/28 - Arrival at the Resort

Dr. Gobaso showed us the school yard and teaching facilities after our morning breakfast. When comparing the buildings to our own, there are several pros and cons to each to take into account. What I believe to be essentially important to their school system is the rustic architectural structure of the buildings, and the food at their cafetaria that is grown right there on the farms. What I like about our classes over theirs is how clean and organized our buildings are because it appears that our educational system is more structured, even with its flaws. On a side note, we all had a great laugh feeding the carp in the pond in front of the school. Afterwards, we took a bus ride to the research barns where we had the privilege of witnessing banana fields, nelore cross cattle, etc. It was great to see that many Brazilian farmers also favor using Alis and Massey tractors to my ammusement. The Brazilian students gave us a quick guided tour of the facilities after we got off the bus, and presented their research findings. It was quite difficult trying to get over the language barrier when asking them questions over their findings, but the overall experience proved to be beneficial in learning their interests. We than rode the bus to a river full of restaurants where we had a fish buffet. The scenery was something I could get use to as the shops and riverbed looked like a scene from the movies. The food was very much like an American buffet, in the sense that there was a couple great dishes with the rest being filler or questionable at best. Following the buffet we said our good byes and took an airplane ride to Gioania. The bus ride to the resort from the airport was long with one sketchy stop along the way, but it was well worth the wait. The resort had many amenities such as two meals a day, swim up bars, and zip lining. Pictures and words alone are not enough to describe the enormity and excitement of this place. The resort was in a gated community of sorts and gave a sense of safety, until you walked in town a couple blocks. Personally, I liked this about the resort because you could escape during the night life to witness tents of the food vendors. Lastly, the waterpark that was included was overall impressive, but it was not as good as the Wisconsin Dells. The water park here had several slides, but it felt like it was going for more of a relax on the beach feel. What shined the most was the hot springs at night with rocks beneth our feet. We all spent most of the night here, and will likely do so tomorrow. 

Jared G.


Horse Racing Industry In Iowa Is Stronger Than Ever Before

The horse industry in Iowa is growing faster than ever before. From activities surrounding horse breeding, showing, racing, housing, training, riding and care, it employs more than 2,100 people and accounts for millions in revenue each year. The economic impact from horse breeding and owning is doing much to support our state’s ag-centric economy, and we need you to play an important part in making this message heard.

Iowa Equine Needs Assessment Survey

Dear Equine Owner,   

Equine Science LogoThe Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Equine Program is conducting a statewide Equine Needs Assessment Survey to identify the educational needs of the local equine community. You will be asked to check topics you would like to learn more about. Additional questions will focus on program formats and resources you are most interested in.

ISU Equine faculty and staff will use the  survey results to develop effective, science-based, equine education programs and resources aimed at improving the management and enjoyment of equine.

This survey is completely voluntary and anonymous and should take about 15 minutes.  You may skip questions you are not comfortable answering and withdraw from participating at any time.  Your responses will not be linked directly to you by name as all data will be combined.  All responses will be used in summary form only.  Thank you for your participation.

Iowa Equine Needs Assessment Survey

Peggy Miller-Auwerda
Iowa Equine Extension and Outreach Specialist


Horses are Part of Agritourism

Agritourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch (Wikipedia). The U.S. horse industry contributes $39 billion in direct economic impact, according to the American Horse Council. The U.S. horse population is estimated at 9.2 million (AHC, 2005).

Gypsy Vanner Breed

The colorful and extraordinary breed of the Gypsy Vanner horse dates back to the eccentric Gypsy travelers in England.  These sturdy caravan horses were not only flashy horses but were also part of the art form that the Gypsy travelers displayed.  From their stout strong stature, flowing manes and tails to the feathers on their legs, these horses were looked upon as a symbol of power and strength among the Gypsy culture. Today, they continue to hold awe and wonder amongst breeders and onlookers as a symbol of power and strength.

Gypsy Horse
Gypsy Horse Breed

Until the late 20th century the Gypsy Vanner was not a recognized breed.  Many of the foundational bloodlines were typically kept secret by family members so there is little knowledge about the true bloodlines of the breed. However, what is known, is that such powerful bloodlines and numerous qualities of the Shires, Clydesdales, Dales Pony, and the Friesian were used to create this exquisite horse.  From these foundational breeds, comes stamina, good-natured temperament, and certainly majestic beauty.

The Gypsy Vanner Horse is a hearty draft style horse that is generally 13 to 16 hands in height. The head of a Gypsy Vanner is pleasant with an intelligent eye. The topline is said to be “level” with its natural aligned curvature from wither to tail head. There is proportional curvature to the croup to enhance the powerful abilities of the hindquarters. The muscling is balanced throughout the body and the legs are straight and correctly aligned. The athletic ground covering trot of the Gypsy Vanner is a “trademark” of the horse’s powerful fancy image. The Gypsy Vanner’s conformation allows them to trot willingly and freely under a load and at liberty.  While there is no set color standard for this breed, most are considered piebald (having irregular patches of two colors, typically black and white) or skewbald (having irregular patches of white and another color (properly not black). The most noted visual trait of the Gypsy Vanner Horse is the abundance of hair and “feathers’ that should be straight and silky.  The manes and tails of this breed are full and flowing giving them an elegant and majestic appearance.

The Gypsy’s are a very versatile breed known for their soundness and sanity.  Although originally bred to pull the lavish wagons of the ancient Gypsy’s, their gentle nature lent itself to the teaching of young Gypsy children the skill of riding. With the outstanding disposition of kindness, generous efforts, and faithful nature, the Gypsy horse is easily trainable for almost any discipline.  You can find them pulling carts and carriages, ridden in the dressage ring, over fences, as western pleasure horses, down the trail, and even fulfilling therapy duties. 

In 1996 the first Gypsy Vanner Horses came to North America and the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society was established as a registry for the breed. At that time the breed did not have a name, and the name Gypsy Vanner Horse was chosen because the breed was a Gypsy’s “vanner horse”, bred to pull the colorful caravan. 

Falling in love with this breed is very easy to do as the founders of the Hairy Horse Company in 2019 quickly discovered.  When Jennifer Dymond purchased Uncle Si, it didn’t take long for them to know this was a special breed.  Upon seeing this gentle, docile, kind-eyed, and beautiful horse, Jennifer Dymond and friends were hooked and the Hairy Horse Company was founded.  Located in Bedford IA, the Hairy Horse Company offers an array of sizes and colors and has now expanded their majestic herd to one stud-horse, geldings, mares, and fillies.  

Gypsy Horse Breed
Gypsy Horses on Pasture

Courtesy of Jennifer Dymond, Hairy Horse Co and Carla Clark, Iowa Horse Council Breed Coordinator


Heat Therapy and Electrotherapy in Equine

Heat therapy is used to address low circulation, muscle spasms and nerve pressure. Arthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage that can lead to bones rubbing together and causing a tremendous amount of pain. Figure one shows the common areas where arthritis occurs in equine. Heating the localized area begins the repair process and prepares the muscle tissues for movement. Heat allows for increased circulation and according to (Worster, 2011), heating the tissues at least 5 oF allows for the relaxation of the collagen molecules.

Horse Operations Contingency Farm Plans

The University of Minnesota Extension Livestock Team has released a set of customizable forms that can be used to create an operations contingency plan for their farm. The contingency forms are meant to provide livestock owners a starting point to outline essential livestock care if they and/or their managers become sick with COVID-19 or another emergency occurs. In these situations, care would likely need to be administered by a non-household member. The contingency plan is meant to cover short-term (e.g. 30 days), essential care only and is not meant to serve as a comprehensive care plan. The intended use of these forms is for emergency planning purposes.

Operations contingency plan templates for both privately owned horse farms and boarding or training horse farms are available on the Extension Horse Website. Forms (fillable PDFs) must be first downloaded and saved to a computer, and then can be completed and printed. Templates are also available for dairy, beef, swine, poultry, honeybee, and small ruminant operations on the  Extension website.   

Information provided by

Krishona Martinson, PhD
Professor | Equine Extension Specialist | Extension Livestock Program Leader


Water Quality for Horses

Water, the essential nutrient for life should be freely available for horses. The amount of water consumed by a horse is the best measure of water adequacy. The average daily intake of an idle horse weighing 1,100 lbs. under thermoneutral conditions is between 6 and 9 gallons. Heavy workloads and high heat and humidity may double to triple the requirement to 12 to 18 gallons per day. Lactation also increases water intake to a minimum of 8 gallons per day. Diet will affect water consumption. Grazing of lush, green pastures in the spring tend to decrease water consumption. Horses fed all hay diets drink more water then horses fed mixed hay and grain diets. In the winter, water below 45oF will reduce the horse’s voluntary intake and can lead to colic and/or impaction.

Horses drinking water
Figure 1. Horses Drinking Water. This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Interestingly the horse only spends 5–6 min/day drinking water over several visits to the water source. The bucket is the most common method of watering domestic horses. Heated buckets or adding warm water to the bucket help with water intake in the winter. Intake of water using automatic water systems is influenced by water receptacle and mechanism for dispensing water. Horses prefer float valve over pressure valve systems and prefer large bowls to small bowls.

Quality of water is important for a healthy horse. Water quality panel tests include nitrate/nitrite, total dissolved solids (TDS), sulfates, and coliform bacteria. The best indicator of water quality is total dissolved solids (TDS). The TDS sums the concentration of all substances dissolved in the water. The safe upper limit of TDS for horses is 6,500 ppm (parts per million or mg/L). Water below 1,500 ppm TDS is considered fresh water. Water greater than 5,000 ppm TDS is considered to be saline. Most human drinking water is less than 500 ppm TDS. The water can also be assessed by odor, color and temperature. Odor is affected by the amount of sulfates, manure or rotting vegetation. An increase of any of these can affect palatability and voluntary intake.

Coliform bacteria include total coliforms and fecal coliforms. These bacteria are considered indicators of the presence of animal wastes. Fecal coliforms are present in large numbers in intestinal contents of warm-blooded animals. Once outside the body they die fairly easily. Water containing fecal coliform bacteria should not be consumed without adequate treatment. Chlorinated water kills most bacteria. If the water is high in bacterial growth it may also be high in nitrates. Both may be due to surface contamination from runoff (fertilizers and manure).

Horses are more resistant to nitrate toxicity compared to ruminants. However, ingestion of large amounts of nitrates possibly due to contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal problems.  Water containing less than 400 mg/L of nitrate is generally safe, while a level over 1500 mg/L may be toxic. Nitrate can be converted to nitrite in the horse’s cecum. In horses, nitrite is 10 to 15 times more toxic, and concentrations exceeding 30 mg/L may be hazardous to a horse’s health. Generally, the only time a horse gets exposed to nitrite is ingestion of high-nitrite hay that was baled wet and the microorganisms changed the nitrate to nitrite. Thus, never feed moldy or wet hay to horses.

The Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will test the quality of water if you suspect a problem. The Water Quality Panel measures nitrate/nitrite, total dissolved solids, sulfates, and coliform bacteria.

  1. Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. 2013. Saunders Elsevier.
  2. Nutrient Requirements of the Horse. 6th Revised Edition. 2007 National Research Council. The National Academies Press. Washington, DC.