Hartpury University student lands Stateside internship in world-leading equine research hub


A soon-to-be graduate from Hartpury University has secured an exciting year-long internship with Kentucky Equine Research in the United States, where she’ll gain valuable experience of equine nutrition and exercise physiology research projects.

Having recently completed the MSc Applied Equine Science, Iona Robinson will spend the first four months at the research farm in Versailles, Kentucky. The site maintains thoroughbred horses to carry out detailed research investigations into nutrient metabolism both at rest and during exercise. This will be followed by eight months at the performance centre in Ocala (Florida), where equine nutrition and exercise physiology research trials are carried out in a typical race training environment. 

Throughout the internship, Iona will access world-class research equipment and be involved in research trials, from the initial concept phase through to final data analysis and publication. With experience, she may be offered the opportunity to lead her own research trials as well as managing the research horses and facility. 

Speaking about the opportunity, Iona said: “I’m really looking forward to carrying out world-class research and seeing how results are applied to improve industry practices. I’m also looking forward to immersing myself in US culture and visiting the historic Keeneland Racecourse and the largest equestrian complex in the United States - the World Equestrian Centre.”

Iona has ridden since the age of eight and has showjumped to Newcomers level. Having completed A-levels in Biology, Environmental Science and Physical Education, Iona went on to graduate with first class honours from Hartpury University’s BSc (Hons) Equine Science degree. Having been awarded ‘Top Equine Science Student of the Year’, she then remained at Hartpury for her postgraduate studies.

“Hartpury’s industry contacts have allowed me to collaborate with Baileys Horse Feeds for both my undergraduate and master’s dissertation projects,” said Iona.

“Having online meetings with the company, organised by Hartpury, gave me a head start in seeing how research projects are designed and how they hope the results can be used to educate horse owners.”

Iona was quick to praise the work of Hartpury’s Innovation Careers and Enterprise (ICE) Centre throughout the internship’s application process:

“The ICE team was incredible, assisting me with my CV and cover letter. I also received additional support from my dissertation supervisor and former academic tutor Hieke, who reviewed my application and carried out a practice interview to ensure I was as prepared as possible.”  

After the internship, Iona currently plans to return to the UK to work for an equine feed and nutrition company, eventually becoming an equine nutritionist and potentially pursuing a PhD.

Dr Hieke Brown, Senior Lecturer at Hartpury University said:The Kentucky Equine Research internship is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue a career in research in the field of equine nutrition and exercise physiology. It’s a world-leading research institute which has been developing knowledge in these areas for the last three decades and I’m very excited for Iona to have the opportunity to gain valuable experience there.

“She has really developed during her BSc (Hons) Equine Science degree and MSc Applied Equine Science, both here at Hartpury. She has taken on the challenge to work on industry research projects for both her BSc (Hons) dissertation and her master’s dissertation. Iona even presented her undergraduate dissertation results earlier this year as a research poster at the European Equine Health and Nutrition Conference in Ghent, receiving positive feedback from industry delegates.”

Research is an integral part of Hartpury University life and a core element of both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Students and staff presented research outputs from all subject areas at the Hartpury Research Conference 2023.

Research carried out by Hartpury University, submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 process, was recognised as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, placing Hartpury amongst a prestigious group of well-established institutions.

Internships and valuable industry experiences such as these no doubt contribute to the high  employability rates enjoyed by former students of Hartpury University. In the latest data released by HESA’s Graduate Outcomes Survey 2023, 97% of Hartpury graduates are in employment, further study or other purposeful activity, placing the Gloucestershire institution first in the South West and in the top 10% of UK universities for graduate employability. Hartpury also ranks 1st in the South West and 6th in the UK for Teaching Quality, according to The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2023.

Share this article