Sophie Burling with the 'Excellence Award' she received from Northland Regional Council member Joe Carr. Sophie Burling with the 'Excellence Award' she received from Northland Regional Council member Joe Carr. CREDIT: Amelia Dobson

Horse feed mineral research wins NRC award

Tuesday 13 September 2011, 9:48PM
By Northland Regional Council


A 16-year-old Kerikeri High School student’s study into iodine levels in horse feeds and supplements has earned her this year’s Northland Regional Council ‘Excellence Award’ at the Top Energy Far North Science and Technology Fair.

Student Sophie Burling’s project “Investigation into the concentration of iodine in common horse feed products and hence recommended feeding quantities” was one of 124 science fair entries involving about 200 students from nine Far North schools.

The science fair – which began in 1978 - was held over three days recently at The Centre in Kerikeri and is organised by Far North science teachers.

The Northland Regional Council prize contributes $1000 towards the cost of the winner’s university studies and must be used within three years.

Sarah, a Year 13 (seventh form) student from Kerikeri, plans to use her award next year to initially study biological sciences at either Massey University or the University of Auckland, before moving on to further specialised study in equine genetics.

Her research investigated levels of the important trace mineral iodine in common horse feeds and supplements such as wheat chaff, dried kelp, a grain-based feed and a mineral mix. She chose her research topic after noticing common physical signs of iodine imbalance in horses at friends and acquaintances’ horse studs.

Sophie has represented New Zealand three times in showjumping, the first in Columbia, South America, at the age of 12.

She is currently developing her own team of several horses as part of working towards her goal of competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sophie says there is a very small window for correct levels of iodine with the same physical symptoms showing up for too much or too little of the important trace mineral.

People might, for example, see a horse with a goitre and immediately up iodine supplementation thinking the horse was lacking in the mineral. However, the opposite could apply.

Sophie says the only true way to test iodine levels is to blood test.