Horsing around is serious business for animal science students

April 22, 2021

Animal science 415 - equine systems managementThe Iowa State animal science course Equine Systems Management (AN S 415), teaches students how to develop financial and production goals for decision-making in the horse industry. This course offers students a unique opportunity to hear from industry experts, gain business planning experience and interact with local therapy horses.

AN S 415 is the capstone equine course following anatomy, nutrition and reproduction courses. Students hear from a variety of speakers covering topics from the draft horse industry to financial and insurance tips.

These speakers prepare students for one of their main assignments – creating a business plan. The students complete a 40-page business plan tailored to their specific interests. Past students have reported this project is challenging but many find the skills gained through this project to be instrumental in their careers.

One former animal science student, Paige Gilster, founded Blu-Sky Stables while she was attending Iowa State. Gilster expanded her business plan for Blu-Sky Stables in AN S 415. That business model she developed is what was used when she raised a horse that was set to race in the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

“AN S 415 helped me in a lot of ways. First, it helped me define what would make my business unique,” Gilster said. Her focus is to find sub-par broodmares and make them first class through her selective breeding requirements.

For example, she purchased the mare Southern Classic for $500 in 2015 and then sold her for $42,000 in 2021. She explained that, “A turn of profit that large is uncommon, but that is how Blu-Sky Stables is unique to the Thoroughbred breeding industry.”

Gilster also said the financial portion of AN S 415 helped her better understand her business growth rate and cost analysis. Another aspect Gilster emphasized is that going through this process helped her understand how the details of a business plan make the larger goals come to life. Following the course, she had a better understanding of key business practices such as marketing and setting deadlines to work towards her business goals.

“My favorite part of AN S 415 was how our instructor, Jill Paxton, structured the course. There were exams and a set curriculum but she allowed the students to gain further knowledge in areas we were most interested in. I highly suggest this course to anyone interested in starting their own business or pursuing any career in the equine industry.” Having solid business knowledge and hands-on experience was something Gilster said helped her prove herself in the industry.

Another former student, Larissa Pietrzak, is now an equine veterinary technician in Phoenix, Arizona. She also runs a photography business she started while attending Iowa State.

Pietrzak was able to expand her business after taking AN S 415 where she learned how to market her business. She said, “My favorite part of the class was building my business plan because I saw an immediate benefit to my photography business. I also enjoyed being a teaching assistant for the class and helping other students learn about business management in the equine industry.” Check out Larissa’s photography work here.

Students in AN S 415 also have the opportunity to gain additional hands-on equine experience outside of the classroom and earn extra credit by volunteering for One Heart Equestrian Therapy, Inc.

One Heart is an organization near Ames, Iowa that partners with physical therapy professionals to implement treatment programs for both adults and children with disabilities. To read more about One Heart and learn about the students’ volunteer work, check out Animal science students partner with One Heart Equestrian Therapy.

If you are interested in the animal science department and equine opportunities, please contact student services specialist, Justin Chapman, at jjchap@iastate.edu.